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A personal note on the 2008 General Election

 

In recent years, America had become a word hard for me to write or even say. The Statue of Liberty, that ambiguous angel of our national character, wore her rapacious face. Her torch, the torch of conquest. Her tablet, an assertion of freedom to plunder. She projected brute force and connivance for selfish ends. Such traits facilitated the building of a mighty United States. Power does command respect—of a sort—but not love. My love was reserved for America.

America is what beamed from Lady Liberty’s other countenance, a face strong with welcome, care and equal justice. It made us the world’s shining beacon on the hill. It freed the slave, enfranchised women, lifted the worker and brought down Jim Crow. It twice came to the defense of Europe. Only rarely has this vision of Liberty galvanized the nation, but on those occasions a mighty nation became great.

I watched America, like Avalon, fading into the mists of history. Conventional wisdom dismissed it as idealistic nonsense, an unpatriotic distraction from the business at hand. Grow up and get with the program or get lost. I feared that we’d let the masters of the universe go too far this time. That we’d failed the blood and tears of our better ancestors and that Liberty’s face had hardened for once and all. What we called America would one day return, somewhere and under another name, but not here.

Then came the election of Barack Obama.

Through the volunteer work of ordinary people in their thousands and the votes of millions who dared to believe, America reappeared. The enormity of the achievement poured down countless cheeks, including mine. The work ahead, reestablishing citizen ownership of governance, will be another struggle. That’s for tomorrow. This week is for heartfelt communion with all those who, throughout our history, have fought to realize America. In our own small way, we’ve joined their number.

Oddly, the memories of nagging doubts and awkward work assignments are precious to me now. I’ll keep them alongside the recollections of fellow volunteers and sleep-deprived field organizers who persevered through trials far worse than mine. I’m grateful to them, to a brilliant campaign organization, and to Barack for bringing us to this day. Yes We Did.

More than that, I’m thankful that my fingers are once again able to type the word America. Now if I can just do something about the tears and runny nose that happen each time I do. . .

—Michael Hopping
copyright © 2008 all rights reserved

 

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