Pride and Dread
On this day after an election day featuring tremendous participation by an increasingly diverse American electorate, I feel great national pride and sincere dread at the decisive election of Barack Obama as the 44th president of the United States. So much has been said over such a long campaign, and even now as this presidential election, a remarkable break with history, settles in to the nation’s and the world’s consciousness.
It is a truly great moment that makes it possible for any child in America to say: I want to be president, without a parent’s private sneer. If racism is not dead it is thrust to the darkest and least effective corners of our society. Also dying should be the era of excuses. When a young mixed race man whose father left the family to return to another country when the boy was 10; whose mother had to move to another country to find work; who was raised by grandparents in the distant state of Hawaii; when that young man can be elected to the highest office of the land, every excuse for lack of performance and effort by Americans of any circumstance suddenly sounds empty. Hope, yes. No excuses, certainly.
I dread the very real possibility that Obama will govern in line with his history and his campaign rhetoric, which will result in a something very close to socialism and will weaken our military and intelligence capabilities in a very dangerous world. With strong liberals controlling Congress and the White House, and soon to impact the Courts, I do fear there will be great damage to the church, to businesses, to cultural standards, and to many of our cherished freedoms.
But today I’m moved by the historic irony of this moment, expressed with eloquence (as usual) by Michael Gerson:
This presidency in particular should be a source of pride even for those who do not share its priorities. An African American will take the oath of office blocks from where slaves were once housed in pens and sold for profit. He will sleep in a house built in part by slave labor, near the room where Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation with firm hand. He will host dinners where Teddy Roosevelt in 1901 entertained the first African American to be a formal dinner guest in the White House; command a military that was not officially integrated until 1948. Every event, every act, will complete a cycle of history. It will be the most dramatic possible demonstration that the promise of America — so long deferred — is not a lie.
I suspect I will have many substantive criticisms of the new administration, beginning soon enough. Today I have only one message for Barack Obama, who will be our president, my president: Hail to the chief.
I will pray this day for President-elect Obama and his family, and for the courageous hero, Sen. McCain (who showed his usual grace and class–as did President Bush this morning–in conceding), and for the Palin’s. There will be many days ahead for honest disagreements on the solutions to large problems that face our nation and our world.
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