I spent a good part of last Tuesday crying. It started early in the morning right after I got back from voting. I turned on The Today Show and watched my candidate and his family vote in Chicago. Then Meredith had to mention how sad it was that his grandmother couldn't last one more day to see the results. That comment alone along with the images of the Obamas at the polls was enough to make me cry like a baby. After several minutes I calmed down, looked myself in the mirror and said "get it together" and left for work.
At work I was able to keep busy and distracted from the news. I looked up now and then at the TV in my office and allowed myself to marvel at the footage coming in from all of the country of lines after lines of people waiting to elect a new president. As soon as some bit of emotion started rising up in me, I looked away and did my best to concentrate on my daily chores.
I got through the day and left work a bit early to meet up with my neighbor to watch the results come in. I met him at the grocery store where we got snacks for the evening. We rushed upstairs. I didn't want to jinx anything, but I felt good enough to run into my apartment to find a bottle of Dom Perignon that I had stored away for a special occasion. The results started coming in and I was getting nervous. They hadn't called any big states yet, so I tried keeping it in perspective. I dealt with CNN's holograms and more election calls that weren't going Obama's way. We ordered pizza, our other neighbor came over and we kept calm. "Did you just see that?", I said. Florida had just started to go in Obama's favor. Then Pennsylvania turned blue. Then Ohio. 11PM came and CNN called it. Our 44th President was officially Barack Obama. Unbelievable. We opened the Dom and celebrated.
Then it hit me. All this time I was hoping and praying for this win. Battling my parents and friends. Winning some arguments and losing others. It all led up to this moment. This victory. I was exhausted, but like Obama has always said this election was never just about him. It was about all of us. That was evident from the countless live feeds from Grant Park in Chicago, Election Plaza in New York and especially the footage coming from the streets outside the White House. America was celebrating. It was a brand new day. I promptly burst into tears. My neighbor hugged me and and I let it all go. I cried and cried. I had never felt so proud to be an American.
Not only is it a complete U-turn from the last eight years, this election is a huge step forward in race relations in this country. Many people never thought they would see an African American president in their lifetime. That dream was no longer deferred and that made me cry even harder. I am a white man. I could never know the kind of struggles African Americans have gone through and keep going through each day, but I think I can empathize a bit as a gay man. I've been lucky enough in my lifetime. I've never had problems getting a job, my family accepted me point blank and I only got beat up once. That's not a huge struggle by any means. I was explaining this a bit to a girl I met at my local watering hole on Friday night. We were talking about the election and I told her that I had been a blubbering mess since. She was of mixed race herself and she understood more than me. She just turned to me and said, "It's OK baby. You've been touched by hate a little bit yourself. You understand what it's like." I guess she was right. I had been touched I suppose. I think maybe all of us have been touched by hate over the last eight years.
Barack has a lot to live up to. There's a ton of weight on that man's shoulders, but I feel confident and hopeful that things will work out. I promise to try and keep a stiff upper lip at least until January 20. I might have a little trouble that day.