Many of you have read about my conversations with my mother regarding Barack Obama and the state of our country here and here. In particular I have spoken about how it pains me to hear my mother, a Thai woman once married to a white American man, talk about her doubts about Barack Obama because of the color of his skin. While it pains me to hear her words, I applaud her for her honesty. We can’t get beyond where we are now without honestly reflecting on our prejudices.
In the days before the election, I thought that I was gaining ground with her. I thought that I may be able to convince her to vote for Barack Obama to “give it a try” as I said. If she wasn’t satisfied she could vote for someone else in 2012. She admitted to me that she could not vote for John McCain given the last 8 years of Republican rule, and so I naively thought that the step to vote for Obama would not be that big of one. I thought to myself that if I couldn’t get my mother, an intelligent woman greatly disillusioned with the Republicans, to vote for Obama, what hope did I have that anyone would vote for him? In the end, she didn’t vote for President at all.
After four days of knocking on doors for the Obama campaign in Colorado, I was in the ballroom of the Sheraton hotel on election night along with thousands of people as we all heard the election declared for Obama. At that moment, I still had hope that my mother had voted for Obama and I briefly contemplated giving her a call in my happiness. The noise in the room prevented me from doing so.
The next day I flew back to Seattle and I called my mother as soon as I got back. I was elated after my hard week of working for the campaign. When I got her on the phone, her voice was bitter. “You may think that this person will solve all your problems, but you are wrong. And it doesn’t matter that everyone likes him in the rest of the world. The world loved Kennedy, but in America he was not well liked.” The conversation was not what I expected.
This past week, these wounds have been reopened. I spoke to my dad who was bemoaning the stimulus package talking about how this was debt I would be paying for the rest of my life. Don’t I know it, I thought. But I told him that he and every Republican lacked any credibility whatsoever in this argument. The Republicans were responsible for needlessly increasing the debt which he somehow never cared about before, and they themselves were responsible for the removal of the regulations that would have prevented a collapse in the financial industry that resulted in the need for a bailout in the first place. My mom has been making comments about how Democrats love to spend. That’s what they are all about, she says.
It struck me this morning as I woke up, that even they cannot ruin this day for me. I am sure they must be completely flabbergasted at the spectacle that is this inauguration. This inauguration is surely unprecedented in its national importance not just in my life but in theirs. The crowds, how can they be this big, they may be thinking. I suppose when your confidence and respect for your country has been systematically chipped away at for the last eight years, you will be elated at the possibility of restoring its image. And this is the thing that the Republicans seem not to understand. People want Obama to succeed. People want to hope that there is something better around the corner. Any obstruction the Republicans create will be taken badly. It’s a difficult position that they are in though I can’t feel sorry for them considering it is one of their own creation.
It’s a changing of the guards. We are weary of bitterness and division. We want to hope. We want to have something to believe in. We want Obama to succeed. I don’t know what the next four years will bring. Despite my hope, I am a realist and I know that there is the potential for Obama to fail in my estimation. I worry about my job and my life and what this recession will bring. Nonetheless I hope for the best, and I have faith in the man who will lead our country in the next four years.