Last year I had no answer when Serb friends of mine asked which I thought more likely, a woman or a black man as America’s next president. I simply couldn’t believe that America’s politics as usual would make room for either one. Yet here we are, proud citizens of a country on the eve of our first black presidency.
Last night I gathered with friends to watch the results come in. Energy in the room grew with each state declared blue. And when Obama finally took the stage, many, including myself, were moved to tears. His words were touching: “our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared…”; and his poise, inspiring.
But after we applauded and hugged our way through his final “Yes we can,” I couldn’t shake the thought that surely all this is just too good to be true. For as America saw in the civil rights years, and as Serbia saw in March 2003, those who stand for change do so at tremendous personal risk.
And it turns out I wasn’t alone with this fear. On the drive home, my friends all agreed that the Plexiglas barriers in front of Obama’s podium reminded of the fate met by his most referenced predecessors, John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King. But while Americans seem to share this anxiety, it’s a largely unspoken issue in our media – with only fringe characters like Samuel L. Jackson voicing such concern.
But all for the better. For to live in fear goes against the heart of Obama’s message. While to refute it, in Obama’s words, is “to put [our] hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.”
Happy first day of an Obama America.