This is Real America
The worst part is, they’ve never been encouraged to enlighten themselves. It’s no longer a big deal to be stupid, in fact, it’s kind of charming. Celebrities have based their entire careers on being stupid, vapid, useless wastes of flesh, with every stupid thing they say or do immortalized in the media while the rest of us cringe in embarassment and wonder what the rest of the world must think. “Redneck culture” is celebrated, because that’s where “real America” is, in the trailer parks and shitty dive bars, while smart, educated people are sneered at for thinking they’re just a little bit better than everybody else. It doesn’t make a damn bit of sense, but that’s the way it is, and stupidity, especially when combined with fear, is terrifyingly powerful. So you’ll have to understand that up until Ohio was secured in Obama’s favor last night, I still thought it was possible that some terrible upset could occur, and America would once again allow itself to be an object of pity and derision. We’d have no one to blame but ourselves.
Even once the whole thing was called, just four hours after I had cast my own vote, with my daughter’s hands covering mine as we pulled the lever together, I couldn’t bring myself to gloat with pride. If anything, I think I probably looked a little like Admiral Ackbar when the Imperial fleet was destroyed at the end of Return of the Jedi: stunned, relieved and profoundly grateful.
Of course, the news of Obama’s victory is tinged with bittersweetness. It seems that while America is ready to say “Yes, we can!” to the notion of electing a black president, it also shouts a resounding “No, you can’t!” at gays who want to legally marry their partners. This is so beyond my scope of reason that I don’t even know how to address it. It’s to “protect the children” they say, apparently from the idea that love doesn’t recognize gender, and that everyone should be allowed to experience the joys and pains of married life. It’s to preserve the sanctity of marriage, because we straight people have been doing such a great job of that already. All I’ve heard is a lot of empty rhetoric, the same kind that kept Sarah Palin afloat for three idiot months, words that when strung together in a certain order sound like they mean something, but really don’t. In this case, sadly, fear and ignorance won. We can only hope for so much.
Because I am still above all cynical, and I tend to expect the worst from my fellow man, I would not be surprised if the election of the first black president of the United States will result in a surge of hate crime. There is no doubt in my mind that lines will be redrawn between blacks and whites and rich and poor. I await the next four years with great hope, but an almost equal amount of trepidation. God only knows what people are capable of when they feel they’ve been wronged, when they truly believe they’re about to have something important taken away from them. But right now, today, I can’t dwell on that too much. I’m still trying to parse the hugeness of this moment. I’m still enjoying this rare surge of pride that twice moved me to tears last night, and my gratitude for the reminder of what it means to live in America, my home, my land of opportunity.