It has taken me a long time to write this post, presumably because I am still in a state of shock. I wake up in the middle of the night awe struck and in a daze, rushing to find the on button of my TV using only the rays of the early morning to guide me. But thus far I have not been interrupted from this restlessness, and I imagine this is what the slaves thought of when they were freed. What the South Africans endured when Mandela’s voice echoed across villages. What do we do? Where do we go? Is it safe?
Those are the things I find myself questioning. Is this what democracy sounds like? It is a deafening sound of silence, and nods, and appreciative waves. The hugging of strangers, and glowing of faces. The quick thank yous and rushed sorries. Is this what democracy smells like? The stench of old firecrackers and almost burned burgers from a night of celebration. I had forgot those days until now.
I thought of this day before the election, of how I would react when the stations announced their projections as though they had been written in stone. When the polls would be revisited and reanalyzed by sociologist, psychologists, and political scientists alike. Where would I fit in to those figures? But I had already thought of defeat. Of how I would recuperate behind the four walls of my room and gasp at the ignorance of our society and return with a new and redefined plan of exodus. I am personally at a loss and yet I see clearer then I have ever seen in my life… I know that this is a new America.
I admit that I have had my reservations about being an American. I am a strong believer in unity and tolerance and I often found myself criticizing America’s stance on international issues as one of divisiveness and greed. I also realize that countries are often times the reflections of ones governing. The enforcement of stability and guidance can only happen in ones country if the government exudes such policies and beliefs.
I am scared of the uncertainty, but I am not afraid. I know that we are at the first mountain top looking out at a vast array of many mountain tops to come. I know that many have been lost on this climb and many will be lost during our journey to the next, but with it we will become stronger, more experienced, and determined. My reverie will perhaps be replaced with urgency and dedication to see this through. Where I too will find a calling that encompasses more than what I vote for but rather what I do. Is that what democracy looks like? The reflection of ones soul?
To be fair this has not been an easy road for Obama. America is still fueled with discrimination and injustice and I hope that we do not forget this in the aftermath of this election. I have spent a great deal of time reflecting on the future of this new America. I realize that for me this has been a personal journey because as an immigrant I think Obama represents an America where the idea of race and ethnicity is something of the past. I also know that it is his race that required him to exemplify perfection. I know that these were the demands placed on him in order for us to accept him.
This is the ultimate flaw of old America- the double standards regarding race. This is the affirmative action that opponents regard as an easy route for minorities. Yet it has been more of a dirt road for Obama, much like those of Kisumu- with cars and matatus driving recklessly both ways, pot holes randomly aligned in the path, and sugar cane fields stretching out in the distance. Between the poverty and bribery and lost street kids there is unity even there where some await their meal a day from NGOs and church goers. With the bed stricken in hospitals and restless children gleaming from their mother’s backs they too are watching and assuring us of the new America.
These were the thoughts that stirred my emotions, the concept that I can no longer doubt nor deny that it is true “America is a place where all things are possible”, that “the dream of our founders is alive in our time”. I received my answer that day, November 4, 2008.