posted by Barter Books @ 3:55pm, Saturday 8 November 2008.
It was thrilling, the American election.
Stuart and I stayed up all night watching the BBC news waiting for the outcome, with me (me, an American) catching myself throughout thinking I want to be home, which was kind of funny, because there I was, already home.
Thrilling to see all those enormous long lines of people snaking around whole city blocks, young and old, black and white, patiently waiting for hours to cast their votes. (I’ve never seen lines like that before, not anywhere, and certainly not here in Britain or in the United States.)
Thrilling to hear how many of those people, young and old, black and white, said that their real vote wasn’t about race but about country, their country.
Thrilling to sit up watching the election results come in, sit there fist in mouth until Obama achieved the magic number of votes, at which point we (me, my husband, our cat) sprung up and cheered. (That's also when I spilled my third cup of coffee all over the place, coffee I had been drinking out of my specially-chosen sacred mug, see below.)
Thrilling to watch Obama and his family, followed by their supporting cast, Joe Biden and his family, come out on the stage to the roar of a crowd which one could be forgiven for thinking must have been heard around the world. (In fact, given the news coverage the next day - all these exultant scenes in Paris, Berlin, Delhi, Manila - it was.)
Thrilling to think that at that moment an old sad chapter in American history might have finally have been effectively closed, that with any luck generations to come would take racial equality as much for granted as women now take the right to vote.
Thrilling to hear a speech of such eloquence and power from a politician who isn't afraid to talk up, not down. (Listen to this, if you haven't already heard it enough: “If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible, who still wonders if the dream of our Founders is alive in our time, who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.”)
Thrilling, too, for this expat not to have to skulk around England any more apologizing for Bush, for Iraq, for Guantanamo Bay, for living - “I’m sorry”, “I’m sorry”. “I’m sorry”.
Thrilling to get all the exultant emails, texts, phone calls from friends everywhere, the UK, the USA, "Give me 5!" (As strong as the need to connect is in bad times - 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Lockerbie – it’s even stronger in the best of them. Just take a look at all those people squeezed in together shoulder-to-shoulder in Grant Park - all of them cheering, singing, laughing, crying - would they have been anywhere else in the world?)
Thrilling the number of customers in the bookshop (many of them I didn't even know) who came up to me, “Congratulations!”
Look, whatever happens (and we all know the problems are enormous), it is thrilling in the here and now just to feel hopeful.
Thrilling to have an Obama to root for.
Thrilling to feel so proud of America, and of being American, again.