Thursday, November 6, 2008

The day after the day after

Am still enjoying the rosy glow from Tuesday, not to mention we found out today that Jeff Merkley will be Oregon's newest senator, and that means we'll have two Democrats representing us. What a change from 20 years ago when I arrived here. Then we had two Republicans, Mark Hatfield and Bob Packwood. Hatfield I could live with, although I disagreed with his positions on abortion and his cozy relationship with the timber industry. He was generally a man of honestly-held principles and I could respect that, even if I didn't share them. Also, a rarity for an anti-choicer, he believed in sex education and access to contraception as the best means to prevent unwanted pregnancies. As for Bob Packwood, I don't need to say anything, do I? (If you aren't sure what that means, leave me a comment and I'll explain more fully).

I still wish Steve Novick had been the Democratic choice for senator, rather than Merkley, but I'm confident he'll be back on the political scene soon. He's too much of a firebrand to languish in obscurity (read: private life) for long.

Of course the passage of Prop. 8 in California and the other same-sex marriage bans is disappointing, but I'm not surprised; I am taking the long view. The fact that gay marriage is even being discussed and debated and voted on makes it an inescapable topic of public discourse, and it will never be shunted off to the margins again. That is important to remember. It will take the less-progressive majority of the American people time to get used to even thinking about the idea of same-sex marriage, but at least they are now required to think about it. Gay marriage is on the national radar now and it is only a matter of time before our courts recognize the legal impossibility of denying basic civil rights to a specific group of citizens. How much time it will take I couldn't say, and I only hope that no gay marriage cases appear before the Supreme Court before President-elect Obama has a chance to appoint some more humane and progressive judges, but I am confident that I will see the legalization of same-sex marriage in my lifetime. We just elected our first bi-racial president; anything is possible.

I am feeling such a mixture of things: relief that it's all over, relief at the results, but I am concerned that all the energy and inspiration Obama summoned from people around the country will simply dissipate. On NPR this morning they aired a vox populi segment, interviewing people about the election, and several people said things like, "We'll be okay now that Obama is President." One person even said, "I'm hoping he'll do some magic." Oy. This kind of stuff gives me a pain in an unmentionable place.

Wake up, people! Obama is not the Alpha and Omega and his election will not magically solve all the serious problems we face. I have little hope of seeing any material change in my life circumstances any time soon as a result of this election. Obama won't be able to immediately make good on all the promises he made because there's no money to pay for them. We are facing a long period of belt-tightening. Time to buck up, stop investing Obama with supernatural powers and continue doing what we can as individuals to effect positive change. That's what "Si, se puede" is really all about.

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