Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Unyielding Hope: Reflections on a Long Election Season and Why I Even Bother to Vote

Sitting in Jordan more than 30 years after my birth in a small city in the heart of the American South, today marks a unique moment in history - America's and mine. I'm going to be openly honest and say that I did not really expect, in my lifetime, to see an African-American President. Let's call it hold-overs from the continuing racial divide in the South. I also did not expect to be casting my vote from a place so far removed from my home in Alabama. Who would have foreseen that I would live in Jordan, I certainly didn't. And, although my candidate carried the victory in the end, he didn't win in my home state. My vote for him would seem to be meaningless. And so, this morning, I'm left with reflections on this campaign, on this season, on this moment in history. I hope you'll let me share them with you.

Unyielding Hope
Obama garnered my vote over 3 years ago, before he was a candidate for President, before he was a household name, before I'd even seen him. I heard an interview with him on one of the many excellent NPR programs. I went home and told El 3atal that very day that he was exactly what the Democratic party needs, someone who sees hope in the future. Unyielding hope, as he called it today in his speech. He's selling hope, a rare commodity in a US still recovering from 8 years of peddling fear and one that is sorely needed. Now, however, he has the greater challenge of actually delivering on this promise of a hopeful future.

I saw this unyielding hope in action late last week as I went to the Embassy to pick up some paperwork. There were probably 20 people, all Arab-American (in other words raised here) in the Embassy to cast a ballot. What an experience, to see those who may not have had the opportunity to vote before going out to the embassy and making their unique American voice heard. I saw hope in all of their faces, regardless of their candidate choice. I saw reflected hope that the outcome of this election will change the world.

In the spirit of this, here are my hopes for the change that is coming to America:
  • I hope that we will refocus on being Americans rather than red-state or blue-staters, Democrats or Republicans, wealthy or middle-class or poor.
  • I hope that Obama will reach out, not only across the aisle, but around the world to forge new connections and build bridges instead of breeding hostility and war.
  • I hope that my new home, my adopted nation will be able to trust that America is a leader once again in the good sense of the word.
  • I hope that I can, once again, be proud of my country and even my government, that it will make the right choices for the world.
  • I hope that smart people on all sides of the issues will come together to present their arguments - and that Obama will listen and consider each carefully.
  • I hope that the US government will come to the realization that Palestinians are a great and abused people who need justice and will act with understanding, sensitivity, and balance in resolving the situation.
  • I hope that Obama will make careful, considered decisions rather than hasty, poorly thought-out ones.
  • I hope that all Americans with the right to vote, regardless of location, will see that voting is not only a right, but also a duty and register so that next time they are ready.

In short, I have very high hopes. I am optimistic about the future (and after 2 job losses with 2 accompanying decreases in salary during the George W. Bush era that's saying something). Now, I hope that Obama will capitalize on this historic opportunity.

Demonstrated Leadership
I have never been more impressed with John McCain than I am today. His speech was the speech of a leader. He congratulated his opponent and showed respect. He spoke with dignity and and honesty. And, he accepted the failure as his own. How often do we see politicians who want to place blame with everyone else, the campaign manager, the strategists, anyone but themselves? And yet, McCain clearly said to his supporters that it was his failure. That's leadership.

On the other side of that coin, Obama clearly indicated that his supporters were the reason for his victory. He was also gracious, acknowledge the worthiness of his opponent and the fact that the country is better of for his continued service. He continues to be a class act.

The bottom line for me is that these two men showed both sides of the coin, accepting the responsibility for loss and sharing the credit for victory. Kudos to both.

One Vote Makes a Difference
My good friend Kinzi and I sat on opposite ends of this election. She was for one candidate and I was for another. Each of us voted absentee and each of our states voted for the other guy. Now to some, this seems futile. And, yet, each one of us is given a voice, a vote, a chance to be heard. If we stand idly by and let others make the decision for us, we've lost no matter who wins. It goes back to that hallmark of American philosophies - one man CAN make a difference (and the ant can move that rubber tree plant). I vote not because my state will go my way (it rarely does) nor because it's fashionable (and boy has it seemed fashionable this year). I vote because this is my right to complain. If I didn't vote, then what gives me the right to be upset with the choices made by the leader? Not voting is saying I don't care if I'm heard. If I don't care to be heard on election day, then why should I be heard any other day? I vote because it is the right thing to do. There's a reason it's called a civic duty. It more than just a right, it's a responsibility.

On this day of change, a new era is coming. What will be written remains to be seen. All I know is that I am a part of the story. And the story I'm writing is a hopeful one. My hope for each of you (me dear three readers) is that your story is equally hopeful and optimistic.

Happy hoping!


At 9:34 AM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ah, MommaBean, so well done, I am going to have to post a response (we GOTTA get you on itoot next time)so that my five new readers can see how friends and hallmarks of American philosophies WORK even at the ends of the spectrum.

YOU are the one who gave me hope that America could be a hope-exporter again, and look how full of HOPE this post it! I'm so glad you moved to Jordan. :)

At 10:03 AM , Blogger abu 'n um tulip said...

Enjoyable post, mommabean. I agree with all your hopes, although I also disagreed with the man you supported and I also went against my state.
Your summaries of the McCain concession speech and Obama victory speech reminds me of the oft-cited letters Eisenhower wrote before D-Day (hope it's true). He blamed himself in case of defeat and gave credit to the soldiers in case of victory.
Regarding "one vote makes a difference" I think our votes would make more of a difference if we had more choices; I'd like to see us move beyond the two-party system.
I haven't seen any final results, but I'm hoping the under-35 vote was high. No more young people disenfranchising themselves.
Keep up the hope.

Abu Tulip

At 10:28 AM , Blogger UmmFarouq said...

Lovely post. Thanks for compartmentalizing all I wanted to write this a.m. but was too overwhelmed, not to mention busy jumping around the room, to sit and do just that.

At 12:04 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Kinz, thanks, but my Mom said no tooting in the house, teehee.

Abu Tulip, Welcome to my blog. Moving beyond a two party system is a very fine idea. Personally there's never been a party for me (given that I'm fiscally conservative and socially uninterested).

Umm Farouq, My pleasure dear. Too bad you didn't invite me over for the dancing... I mean I was in meetings, but still... Teehee.

At 1:10 PM , Blogger Ahmad Hamdan said...

Great post Mommabean... I believe that America is getting back to her place, a hope exporter (I know it because what happened yesterday gave me back hope in the US, and I talked about it in my new blog)... I hope that Arabs, and more specificaly Jordanians will get some lessons from this great lesson of life.

Thank you...

At 9:58 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Ahmad, I am certainly hoping you're right. They exported hope to me once again. I'm a naturally positive and hopeful person, but 8 years of beat down definitely took its toll. Here's to a new era of hopefulness.

At 11:40 PM , Anonymous Anonymous said...

So true MommaBean! The only story worth living is a hopeful and optimistic one. Sure delivering on that hope is a massive challenge, but possible thru unrelenting faith and unstoppable hard work by everyone. It's also about keeping the conversation alive no matter what so as to contaminate apathy with that hope :)

At 12:41 AM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Welcome Nadine, and thanks for sharing your thoughts.

At 1:04 PM , Blogger Ali Dahmash said...

mommabean, I agree as will with your hopes and I can add a few here:
1. Arab leaders would start approaching Obama and developing some good relations with him.
2. Arab pro peace organizaoins start approaching Obama
3. Arabs begin to be proactive rahter than reactive!

AIPAC and many Israelis have approached him many mmany months ago, what are we waiting for?

At 3:20 PM , Blogger MommaBean said...

Al, Absolutely true.


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