20-somethings and Obama 

The day the excuses died

I sat with a green tea at Earth House Collective, anxiously twiddling my thumbs and making small talk, as small children ran wild and adorable, and free-thinking adults sat in the cool aesthetic of the mile-high ceilings, quietly hopeful. I, on the other hand, was exhausted and embittered behind a cheery demeanor. My entire adult life has been nauseating; I narrowly missed the voting age in 2000, and my entire experience with politics — as long as I’ve been old enough to be aware of what’s around me — has been a blitzkrieg of assaults on my intelligence and perception of truth.

I was never sold on the optimistic polls, or even the cross-eyed admission of Karl Rove that the election was over, barring a McMiracle. My young heart has been broken too many times by the American electorate’s susceptibility to fear and manipulation for me to hope with too much heart.

And then Pennsylvania was called for Barack Obama, and America became what I was taught it was. Then Ohio … California … Oregon … Election. Two hundred and thirty-two years after its conception, the Declaration of Independence was legitimized as more than an idea, a pretense. It is now a doctrine, a way of life — in substance and practice, not just rhetoric.

Obama’s election means that my generation no longer has an excuse. Because he is a real person from a real place, no one can talk about what they would have done, if they were born a Bush or a Kennedy. As much as Obama means there is hope, it means there is work to be done, and accountability.

Forty-five years ago John Lewis was drenched with fire-hose water, being nabbed by attack dogs and having the hell beat out of him for wanting to be given a fair shake at a decent living, escaping the life of a sharecropper. Now he will watch an African-American become the most powerful person in the world. As I try to fully appreciate the scope of what transpired Tuesday night, with a lump in my throat and — finally — a faithful pride in my country that I have not felt since high school, I think beyond the protection of my health care benefits, the tax cut I’ll receive the end of the Iraqi war and the redemption of American respect among the international community. Rather, Tuesday night is really about people — people who made it OK to believe again in the power of organized people working for change, in equal rights and in the tantamount relevance of fighting for your home, and love.

My grandfather passed recently, and with Obama’s words on the passing of his own grandmother, I found what this campaign is really about — has been about for the last two years: quiet heroes, who are never in the papers, who never win awards or cash, and will be as miscellaneous to history as the misdeeds of human kind, but fight anyway, to every day “do the right thing,” as best they can — for their faith, their family, to give them home, and warmth.


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Andrew Roberts

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