Thursday, 6 November 2008

Obama makes history

Back in January I wrote "Looks like we've got a pretty good chance of a Democrat in the White House next election (to paraphrase Chris Rock, Dubya did such a bad job that there's no way a white guy can get elected)." Well following the Republication Convention when McCain got a bump in the polls, that statement was starting to look a bit shaky. You can imagine my relief then when Barack Obama won the election.

At the start of the primaries I was a Hillary fan - as a woman I was loving the idea of a fellow female in the White House - but I remember picking up a magazine (not sure which one - Forbes? The Economist?) and reading a piece by her opponent, Barack Obama. Not that it was any help to him - I couldn't vote, I couldn't even donate money to his campaign - but he won me over right there and then. Part of the article talked about the way America approached other countries and cultures: as they believe their democracy is the greatest in the world, they can sometimes find it hard to see the value in different ways of life. Just the idea of someone who could speak to the Arab people, for example, with respect for their beliefs whether or not it was a belief he shared, seemed such a breath of fresh air after the past eight years of the Bush doctrine.

My friend JT kindly invited me and friend Tracey round to his to watch the election kick off. As you can tell by our hats, we were completely bi-partisan. Nearly every commentator (except a few of the Republicans, natch) were talking as though an Obama win was a foregone conclusion, which promoted an atmosphere more of expectation than nail-baiting tension.

JT and I had spent a night the previous week watching the last few episodes of the final season of The West Wing. Remember the scenes of Josh Lyman and Matt Santos having to watch the TV like everyone else to find out which candidate each state was being called for, I couldn't help imagining what Obama was feeling as he and his team saw the results coming in.

Once Ohio was called for Obama it was pretty much all over bar the shouting. By that time I was at home in my PJs, sat on the sofa under a duvet eating tortilla chips and trying not to fall asleep. You'd think the Yanks would be more understanding and try and get their results in a little earlier so their transatlantic neighbours could get some sleep.

In Arizona, McCain's HQ announced that he would address his supporters at 5am - the election hadn't been called for Obama yet, but there was pretty much no chance of McCain winning with Ohio out the window, so everyone knew it was going to be a concession speech. And with Virginia and Florida being called for the Democrats, it was official - America's 44th president was going to be Barack Hussein Obama.

I watched crowds going crazy in Grant Park, Chicago, and Times Square, New York. I wished I was there. I shed a tear. So did Jesse Jackson; no doubt he was thinking of his old friend Martin Luther King.

And so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

Obama took to the stage and everyone just went crazy. At times it seemed as though his speech would soar to the same kind of heights as King's had in '63, but he reined it in. No point in spinning everyone into a frenzy of even greater expectations when, as he said, "The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even in one term".

For those of us that were sad to be observers rather than participants, he seemed to be speaking to us when he said:

"To all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces, to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of the world, our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand.",0,2684817.story

When I finally made it to bed at well gone five am, I was a very happy bunny. Still, his inauguration seems a long way away. Roll on 20th January 2009!


Una said...

Aww! Look at you all in your hats!

Anonymous said...

Hi Ruth,

I know that it's the wrong thread, but I just had to tell you that I just finished reading the German version of "Twisted wing" (which has a dreadful German title!) - and I loved it!! I read it in 8 hours non-stop, didn't even answer the phone during that time!:) Really great work, and I'm certainly looking forward to lots of new novels to come!
Best regards from Germany, Andreas

Ruth Newman said...

Andreas, that's so kind of you! Thank you, you've really brightened up my day.

Isn't Twisted Wing called "Mannisch" in German? And am I right in thinking that means "Manic"?

Anyway, thanks again for getting in touch!


Anonymous said...

Yep, it's called "Manisch" in German, but I think Twisted Wing is much more fitting - I don't know why they didn't translate that into German!

Anyway, fabulous book which I recommended to some friends already. It's maybe of interest to you that the book is shelved very prominently here, and all the stores have loads of copies.

Looking forward to your next novel,