Tuesday, January 20, 2009

the price and the promise of citizenship

I did not trek to D.C. this week for what turned out to be the most historic event that city may ever witness, but watching the inauguration from Mr. Jefferson's University was a pretty good second option. It's fairly difficult to elucidate how any of us feel at this moment, but one thing I know is this: in almost 40 years on this planet, up until a year ago I was convinced that my generation had blown it, that the great challenges and responses of Americans who had Come Before Us would be examples which we could look up to, but would never live up to. I think perhaps that more than anything I feel a sense of relief that, given the opportunity and the challenge, we have in this election been able to surpass our fears and our prejudice to do what we need, for the sake of all of us.

There's a long road ahead, but the record shows that with strong leadership, anything is possible. I was asked yesterday if I felt proud that I had "contributed" to the victory (I spent a few days canvassing, a small effort at most) and that's when it hit me: I'm excited about this leadership because it inspires me to action. It inspires we, the people, to do the work that no single person can, or can be expected, to do. It is what makes this a great country and despite all our flaws, all our bitter history, focuses us, in the President's words, "on what you can build, not what you destroy".

And then of course, there is what needs to be said. Despite growing up wrapped in the shroud of white privilege, nothing has scared me more in my life than seeing both the immediate and long-term effects of racism. Reflecting on his society's treatment of black men and women, Jefferson feared that "a just, vengeful God could not sleep forever"; I've often feared for our future because of the way we handled race relations in this country, and I think we've made a major step here by selecting leadership based on ability, vision, and education, putting anything aside that doesn't matter - in the interest of, well, a healthy self interest.

When I woke up this morning, without warning or prompt Reagan's campaign catchphrase popped into my head: "It's morning again in America", and I really believe it is. I'll close by adding that with this promising new leadership I'm really glad I won't have to tell people I'm Canadian when I travel abroad. That was just painful. Things are looking up.