Wednesday, November 5, 2008

It's worth crying about

It's been difficult to come down to earth after last night's historic celebration in Grant Park. Tears have come to so many eyes, white and black. I still can hardly believe it. I've been hoping and praying that Obama would win for many months now, but it was largely in partisan terms. Although I never forgot that he was an African-American, I had come not to see him as such -- he was just Barack Obama. Then suddenly as he walked out on the stage in Grant Park, I suddenly saw the face of an African-American as President of the United States and I could scarcely believe it.

Images of the civil rights protests of the early 1960's came to mind, the killings and police brutality, the stories of friends and family about the segregation that continued in the South, and the racial tensions and divisions and de facto segregation in the North where I lived. I remember Martin Luther King Jr.; James Meredith being barred from the U. of Mississippi by Gov. Ross Barnett, Vivian Malone, James Hood from the U. of Alabama by Gov. George Wallace; the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham; the Bloody Sunday of the march on Selma -- these were the pictures I remember from my childhood as we watched the nightly news stories.

And Chicago - my adopted hometown. The bloody suppression of the protests at the Democratic Convention in 1968. Grant Park, where I so wanted to be among the crowds but obeyed my parents and stayed home. Two years later, every weekday one summer, walking across the entire length of the park to and from the Field Museum where I attended classes, thinking all the time about the turmoil and violence that had occurred there.

And all those years of Chicago politics - the best and the worst of times.

All ending on November 5, 2008, with another Mayor Richard Daley and his entire police force there to protect Obama and his supporters, and people in tears of jubilation the world over.

I cannot begin to explain how this has restored my faith, which has been so weak lately, how it filled a hole in my soul that somehow had been torn in 1968, one that I thought had been closed up long ago. It has given me hope and courage in a way nothing I can ever hear in church will ever do. It has made me believe, once again, that some things are worth fighting for.

It has made me cry, and I am glad for it.

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