Rev. Valerie's Reveries

This blog contains personal reflections from Unitarian Universalist minister Valerie Mapstone Ackerman.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Morning After the World Changed—for Real this Time


I cried myself to sleep last night. This is not a habit. Perhaps I’ve done it before, in the depths of grief over a personal loss, but never have I cried myself to sleep with tears of joy. Until last night.

Hope. Change. Faith in the power of the people. All of these mingled with utter disbelief that this could really happen. After two stolen presidential elections would I be a fool to believe that a black man-- let lone THIS black man-- could become President of the United States of America? I tried to keep my emotions soft and subtle throughout the election. And I am not known by anyone to harbor soft and subtle emotions. It’s just that the fragility of hoping for a better future for my country kept me cautious. Holding hope in my hand and grasping it too tight could smother it like a soft baby chick, its feathers tantalizingly tickling my skin. And yet, here we are glowing with the knowledge that we took our country back from the radical forces bent on robbing us of every last twinkle of hope.

The café where I sit is buzzing—not with words so much as pure joy. I am a stranger here, now, but once was a BWOC (Big Woman on Campus). I lived in Ann Arbor for 15 years and have visited regularly for ten more since moving away. I was a politician and activist and lecturer at the University—but that was a long time ago. So this new generation is walking, no--floating, through the café, grins showing teeth and contentment. Some of them are too young to fully realize what has happened-their joy is fresh and frolicky. Several of us weathered ones nod knowingly at each other as if to make this happiness seal the bonds born of efforts that failed too many times before. But I am basking in both kinds of joy; truly letting the collective glow bathe me this beautiful morning.

As soon as I thought she’d be waking, I sent a text message to my 11 year- old granddaughter to tell her the election results. She texted: “Oh Hi Grandma. What were the scores? At school Obama won 287 to 59.” She attends an “inner city” school in Schenectady, so she was a bit underwhelmed with the results of 51% to 48%. I texted: “Oprah cried at the rally in Chicago. So did I.” She texted, “Ha Ha Ha…that’s kind of funny.” What did I expect? My parents kept me up very late the night “man” landed on the moon so we could watch the live feed from Mission Control. I remember thinking it was cool but not all that novel, just mildly interesting. At 12 I had come to expect great scientific progress. So Keegan expects that men who look like her friends’ fathers and her family’s friends can indeed easily become President. This is the world I wanted for her-- a world where race simply doesn’t matter so much as does character and community and striving for a social context perfected by our greatest efforts merged with our greatest aspirations.

Yesterday I spent thirteen hours on my feet in front of a polling station in an economically depressed mixed neighborhood in Toledo, OH. My daughter Heather and I volunteered for the Election Protection coalition to inform voters of their rights to cast an unencumbered valid and counted ballot. Such a simple thing, one would hope, might not take Herculean efforts to accomplish. But this is an American electoral system built upon voter suppression. We had some small success climbing over a stupefyingly complex voter registration system that is the IMPROVED version Ohio adopted since the last presidential election was stolen from the people. We also failed miserably at times because the powers-that-be demanded that we stand so far away from the entrance that we practically had to chase voters to give them information. Sheer numbers trumped all of the cynical ploys to stop the people from having their way. Hurray for the human spirit of progress!

I am done with being subtle and soft in my emotions. Crusty from battles lost and so few won, I am inspired more than I ever thought I could be again. I feel that all of the dreams I have harbored then buried without appropriate mourning can come back to life now. Miracles are possible once again in MY America—of whom I am, for once, truly proud.