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The morning after Obama was elected, I walked out my front door and expected the world to be different. It seemed surreal to me that nothing had changed, even though in my mind, something amazing and world-changing had happened the night before. Despite the fact that something major had happened, people still went to work and went to the store and got gas in their cars. There was still litter on the side of the road and a squashed squirrel in the intersection. Even though it was a pretty day, the world was not a brighter place. The world was the same, even though something had changed inside of me. I had seen the power of hope; I had rejoiced with perfect strangers; I was ready for the new world which didn't exist.

It reminded me of the days before I lived in St. Louis when I would come to visit Mike. He and I would have a fantastic time of it for a weekend, maybe four days, and everything about those days would seem to have a different color, a different sound, a different feel. Even making dinner or walking around the grocery store seemed to have a different motif underneath. I would get on the plane and go back to school or back to work at the end of it all, and I would cry because I'd had a glimpse of what my life could be and now I was going back to what it was. And the next morning I'd wake up and expect the world to be different, to be changed, to retain that color and sound only to realize that it wasn't the world that was different: it was me.

So last Wednesday when I realized I was expecting the world to look different, perhaps a bit gloomier, and getting the same results, I had to remind myself that politics is not life. My street, my corner, my commute all stay the same no matter who is in office. (Well, unless certain municipalities decide to vote down certain municipal maintenance measures... but that's another story.) One of the benefits of living in a stable republic is the peaceful transition of power that doesn't cause much upset to the basic goings-on of most of the people I know. We still go on and keep going to work and going to the store and putting gas in our cars no matter who was or wasn't elected. Our country, right or wrong, is still here, and we make the best lives we can for ourselves because or in spite of it.

But I know I'm not the only one who feels change inside after an election, the joy regarding my candidate's win, the grim "we'll get 'em next time" of a defeat, or the utter disappointment in my countrymen and women when something passes or doesn't pass that feels crucial to me. If it weren't for the change we believe in, why would we vote? If we didn't think it mattered, why would we go stand in lines in elementary schools and senior centers on cold Tuesdays in November when we could be sneaking that extra few minutes of sleep? If we didn't think the change that we feel inside could apply to the actual world, we would let the world happen to us rather than taking charge in our own small space.

Last Tuesday, we all won and we all lost. I can't imagine anyone was completely happy with how the results came out, but I can't see an America where that could ever happen. But enough happened that made me happy with the process (Missouri's vote yes on stronger regulations on puppy mills; Christine O'Donnell's resounding defeat in Delaware) to chase away the gloominess I thought the world would reflect on Wednesday. It wasn't all my way, but nothing ever is. And, as I keep reminding myself, the world is not politics, and we must be the change we want to see in the world.

"What the responsible citizen really uses is his imagination, not believing anybody literally, but voting for the man or party that corresponds most closely, or at least remotely, to his vision of the society he wants to live in. The fundamental job of the imagination in everyday life, then, is to produce, out of the society we have to live in, a vision of the society we want to live in." -- Northrup Frye, The Educated Imagination


( 1 melody — strike a chord )
Nov. 8th, 2010 07:21 pm (UTC)
I think what's the most amazing to me is how drastic the political spread is of my friends and relatives. I have those who were furious that Prop 8 in California didn't pass. I have those who rejoice that Republicans gained so many seats. And I have a lot who, like me, aren't really happy with the way politics - at least campaigning - has become so bitter and childish.

But you are right - the world doesn't fundamentally change, as far as day-to-day life, when power changes hands. And that is something we should all be thankful for.
( 1 melody — strike a chord )

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