Dead Dragon

     To the website editor’s grumpy complaint about a technical problem, the programmer answered, “I thought Jesus Christ being elected would put everyone in a better mood.”
     Our sardonic programmer makes a point, that Barack Obama is fallible, in a nation and a world with a whole lot of problems. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that this is the most important and emotional election I will witness in my lifetime.
     At my salsa class the other night, I asked a young Latina if she had voted for Obama. “Yes!” she said. “I cried.”
     She said people were cheering in houses all around hers when the election was called at 8 o’clock.
     I heard that again and again, about households exploding in cheers.
     Two girls from work were on their way to an election party, thinking they had plenty of time. They were walking toward the party and started to hear cheering from houses all around them, and started to run, realizing they were missing the celebration, and the champagne.
     Their mother, from Mexico, had never voted in a U.S. election. Not only did she vote this time, asking her son to instruct her on how to work the voting machine, but in the run-up to the vote, she put an Obama sign on her front lawn.
     Their entire family voted, including a young brother who had just registered, who was first turned back from the polls, and then returned at his family’s insistence to cast a provisional ballot.
     After Pennsylvania and Ohio came in, our Brooklyn correspondent Adam Klasfeld decided to ride his bicycle to a friend’s house. “I passed many spontaneous celebrations from Williamsburg, BK to the Lower East Side,” he wrote. “I felt like I was riding through a parade, and there were cheers back and forth.
     I follow politics closely and have felt strongly about many elections and issues in the past. But I have never heard entire neighborhoods cheering the results. I have never heard honking in the streets over an election result. I have never seen anything resembling the popular emotional surge that came with last Tuesday’s result.
     I too could not help crying when it came in.
     Because it seemed like it was never going to happen, that our nation would never advance past the politics of the Midwest and the South and their dominance of the national agenda, that the United States would never take its place as a modern, liberal democratic, Western nation, would never free itself from the chains of the Christian right.
     My own reaction surprised me, and I think it was because I had given up on the idea that the nation would ever move away from its center-right convictions. But there was a smoldering anger in that deadening that I had not realized.
     I told the girl in my salsa class about that reaction.
     “Yeah,” said Raquel, “It’s been eight years.”
     But it has been so much longer. The right-wing has been in charge, more or less, since the Reagan revolution of 1980. It’s been a quarter century.
     When I was leaving work on election day, the bars in Pasadena were showing either CNN or MSNBC, and one was piping sound onto the sidewalk.
     As I walked by one, I heard the CNN announcer declaring the Pennsylvania result. “He’s got it,” I said to myself and rushed home to turn on CNN and watch the states roll in.
     As the night wore on and the nation’s map filled in, the red regions had shrunk back into the deep south and, as one of the conservative commentators said on CNN, “a few Rocky Mountain states.”
     I swear it looked like a red contagion that has been beaten back, surrounded by blue antibodies on all sides.
     Revolutions come and go, you might say. A bit like swings in the economy.
     But I think the Christian right has had its day, and the day is done. And there won’t be another.
     For four reasons. One is that they made such a mess of governing. Two, of longer lasting significance, the skin color of the nation is changing. Three, religion is slowly losing ground in the face of an onslaught from the media and modern culture. Four, the Internet has changed the method of organizing campaigns and reached many who had stood outside.
     “I call it the United States of America,” wrote a friend who works for the government. “And, I am so much happier about living here today than I was a couple of weeks ago. People keep coming up and telling me the same thing.”
     A political map shown all over the news last night illustrated the counties that swung harder to the right than in the last election. These are the folks that the Republicans, in their current form, reached.
     The map could be topographical. It is Appalachia, the hill counties. Those voters tend, said the accompanying survey, to be poor, white and uneducated.
     The far right has throughout history played to fear and ignorance. I think that was part of the almost uncontrollable elation that came with this election, that that dragon has been slain. For now and for a long time to come.
     At Courthouse News, Veteran’s Day is a paid holiday, out of respect to many of our fathers who are veterans and to those who continue to put themselves at risk for the nation. In thinking of my dad who fought in Europe in World War II, a foot soldier with a rifle on the final push into Germany, I just wish he, and my mom, could have seen this day

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