Reflections on a new era

The election is over, and Barack Obama will be our next president. I am as amazed as anyone that this has happened. But what exactly has happened? This election was nothing like any other in my lifetime or before. I don’t think I quite fully realized it until the announcement came and I saw the excitement, joy and tears in the faces of the crowd in Chicago — and their almost uniform youth. Of course I knew it would be historic, a bi-racial president — monumental change! But I think much more than that has happened.

This was nothing like the liberal vs. conservative battles other elections have been. Barack Obama represents the newer generations — generations that never lived through World War II, the Civil Rights Movement, the culture wars of the ’60s, the Vietnam War or the Feminist Movement. He doesn’t represent the next liberal Democrat, but rather a new movement. He has already catalyzed a huge increase in the number of engaged people in our democracy. If he is true to his promise we will see a new form of governance — maybe not right away, but as Associated Press reporter Ron Fournier writes, “maybe, just maybe, something new has arrived: A post-partisan approach to governing, founded on the Obama Coalition, fueled by young and minority voters, powered by the 21st century technologies …”

By 2045, according to a recent government report, Anglo people will be in the minority in this country. We are becoming a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural nation. Barack Obama is no token; he is from a different mold, and he is ushering in a new era, albeit burdened by overcoming the devastation wrought by the old one. No wonder there was such awe and wonder on those faces in Chicago. Obama seems confident and ready, but I think if this new vision is to prevail, the continued engagement of all of us in our government will be crucial.

GLBT losses were huge this election: Arizona, Florida and California by popular vote made it constitutionally correct to violate the civil rights of GLBT person. In Arkansas, no unmarried person may now adopt or foster a child. This is a great sadness. I do not believe laws like these will prevail, but there is a long road ahead. And once again, I’m so grateful for the people of Massachusetts!

But meanwhile there is much to celebrate: A longtime UU and pillar of the community in Framingham who is African-American, Esther Hopkins, said, “I grew up in this country from the time when everything was segregated and there was really no hope then. Now I myself am in the position where there’s a black governor of my state and a black president of my country, and my son had the opportunity to vote freely for whom he wanted. I’m thrilled. I did not think I would live to see the day.” Neither did I.

As a member of our church wrote to me, “I feel as if I’ve been released from a long-term cocoon of cynicism, shame, and some depressed apathy regarding our nation and am joyfully caught up in the hope and fascination and possibilities for the future. I don’t yet know in what role, exactly, I might participate. But meanwhile I find myself praying frequently and fervently for Barack Obama’s life, health and success.”

What are your thoughts, feelings, hopes or fears about this election? If you’ll send them to me (note: remove NOSPAM from address) or post comments here, I’ll collect them for all to read.