I woke up early this morning, beating the alarm clock, for a very simple, excited reason.
Today is the day that the United States will elect Barack Obama as its next president.
The sun has just barely come up, but I know this with my entire being. I don’t know this because of the polls, which are surely in his favor. I don’t know this because almost every single pundit in the country is predicting an Obama victory.
I know this because I’ve known it since 2004, when I watched Obama’s indescribably brilliant speech from the Democratic National Convention. Like most people who saw the speech, I was floored. And I knew.
Shortly thereafter, the New Yorker ran a posthumous tribute to Richard Avedon. It consisted of an unfinished portfolio by the photographer called “Democracy,” and one of the portraits was of Barack Obama. I ripped it out of the magazine and put it on the refrigerator.
“Who’s that?” my wife asked.
“That’s Barack Obama,” I said—I pronounced his name “barrack” instead of “bar-rock”—”and he’s staying on our refrigerator until he becomes our president.”
For someone who genuinely loves America, the Bush administration has been utter psychological torture. It’s made me so angry, so constantly, that I moved to that rare and horrible place beyond anger. Cynicism is nothing more than the defense mechanism of the truly beleaguered, and apathy nothing more than its illusionist, forever cloaking the unbridled rage deep down inside.
I knew I wasn’t alone. I also knew that Obama had the same effect on others as he had on me; namely, that after watching his speech, I felt my anger slip away to be replaced with hope. After years of despair, I lifted my tired head and smiled to strangers on the street. I felt connected to my fellow man, and I knew that caring for the well-being of others and the direction of this country was not, as previously demonstrated, a cold, dead artifact of the 20th Century.
It’s been a long election cycle, but one in which my faith has never wavered—even as the Bohemian goes to press this very afternoon with a music column of mine that hinges entirely on an Obama victory. But I know.
And yes, it’ll feel strange when this day is over. When the confetti is swept up, and when the Champagne bottles are recycled, and when the real task of getting America back on track is at hand. For now, though, I’m going to ride my bike down to the polling place to cast my vote, sing a few verses of “The Land of Hope and Dreams,” and go to work.
The rest is history.