Convulsions, Sobs, and Laughter

An article in the Washington Post On Faith section in response to their question: What does the election of Barack Obama as president say about America? What does it say to the world?
The phrase in my title comes from an ABC News reporter gazing out over the throng in Times Square last night, trying to describe their mood. There was communal joy over the election of Barack Obama but also a physical sense of release amounting to a national convulsion. For me, this sudden moment of liberation was caught in random overheard comments rather than grand declarations.

From a black woman in one of the crowds who was asked to reflect on the fact that America was born as a slave-owning country: "That stain is washed away now."

From Bernard-Henri Levi, French intellectual and America-watcher: "Junk politics and immorality have come to an end."

There were silent comments, as eloquent as the spoken ones: a black mother and daughter, knees crumpling, as they watched a Jumbotron image showing all 44 American presidents, everyone white except for the man in the middle, our President-elect.

The most sober comment came from Obama himself, when he pointed out that his win wasn't the change the country is seeking but only the chance for change. Happily, he's wrong in several regards. We will see immediate change globally. The rest of the world breathed a sigh of relief at the end of the neocons' attempt to create an American military empire.

In the end, the most moving comment came from Sen. John McCain in his concession speech. Like all the candidates who have stood for the Republican cause since the Reagan revolution, McCain couldn't resist the temptation to employ "junk politics and immorality" in his campaign. But he went out honorably by saying that America "isn't a country that hides from history." That hasn't been true for the past eight years. Let's hope it's gloriously true from now on.

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