Tuesday, November 4, 2008


Evening is approaching on the West Coast, and the polls are now closing. Presumably, within 24 hours America will know whether or not its new president will be Republican John McCain or Democrat Barack Obama.

Many others have analyzed media coverage over the course of this marathon campaign, so we won’t do that here. But it occurred to me today as I listened to Dr. Avis Jones-Deweever, of the Information Center for African American Women, that no matter what the outcome of this election, its importance will be studied for generations.

“This is certainly something that I never thought that I would see in my lifetime. And now that it’s here, I’m certainly happy that I’m here to see it,” said Dr. Jones-Deweever.

“This is a nation that still is in very much a state of paralysis when it comes to talking openly and honestly about the challenges that we still face with regard to race in American. So he, (Obama) was very wise to not emphasize the issue, frankly.”

As a journalist who has spent much time in Los Angeles, California, I can honestly I have never felt as Canadian or foreign as I do when I’ve been in the United States and seen the inherent conflict which characterizes that country’s racial politics. I’m not so naive as think racism doesn’t exist in Canada, of course it does. But there is a particular history in that country that has shaped America's socio-economic and popular culture.

Having seen that reality up close and personal, it’s hard not to think that America is now a step closer to becoming the nation that Dr. Martin Luther King envisioned when he so famously said, “I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.

I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slave owners will be able to sit down together at the table of brotherhood.

I have a dream that one day even the state of Mississippi, a state sweltering with the heat of injustice, sweltering with the heat of oppression, will be transformed into an oasis of freedom and justice.

I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Regardless of the election outcome, America and its people have been changed. The word hope has become part of its discourse and a great man’s dream is but a breath away from becoming reality. It does indeed seem that both men are being judged for the content of their characters.

Against that backdrop, I asked a few of my American friends to share their thoughts and responses to the following question: "What does this election mean to you as an American?"

Here’s what some said:

“Regardless of the result, this is an election which has reflected the highest hopes and worst prejudices of the American spirit. Whether you are sensitive to race issues, gender stereotypes, ageism stuff, class issues, there's been enough to inspire and disappoint in equal measure as Barack Obama and John McCain have sought to make history in their own ways.

"There is little doubt we're at an important crossroads, and my hope is that the election result is decisive enough that we can feel that Americans have made some basic decisions of how to meet a challenging future.

"As an African American, it is heartening to see a black man get this far in a presidential election, but I fear an ugly loss may degrade the country's already precarious racial dynamics. Perhaps as important as the question of who will win, is the issue of how the loser loses. Because this campaign has been so passionate and symbolizes so much for those on both sides, any ambiguity in defeat will reverberate through the culture for years to come.”
Eric Deggans,
TV/Media Critic
St. Petersburg (FLA.) Times

“It’s exciting to know that whoever wins history will be made and a barrier that existed, either for minorities or women, will be shattered. After covering 20 years of elections in this country none has ever approached this level of popular interest or intense discourse.

"I think it portends well for the future that such a variety of people competed for such critical positions and that the battle, while unpleasant at times, ultimately will take us in a new direction at a very dangerous time. America was built on hope and tonight I feel very hopeful about what’s ahead.”
Christopher Dinan,
Senior Broadcast Producer
CBS Evening News with Katie Couric
New York, NY.

"This election has been a lot about distraction; keeping people from noticing the topics at hand. On both sides. And it's sad that this is what politics has turned in to. And John McCain, who used to be one of the few Republicans to actually take the high road in political races, decided to forego his ethics and instead took the road of "any means necessary" to win. Which has ruined his character and his campaign.

"Especially since he chose Sarah Palin as his running mate, the only reason for that I can see is to steal the women's vote from Hillary Clinton supporters. So basically, this election, for me, tells me whether or not the American people can see past the bullshit and make good choices. "
J.T. Howard,
Freelance Writer
Portland, OR

"I went to the polls this morning at a local elementary school in a largely African American and Latino neighborhood in Los Angeles...

"The conversations swirling around me mentioned nothing about Obama, McCain, specific propositions on the ballot, nor political philosophies. Instead, senior citizens reminisced about the time when metal pins versus paper stickers were awarded to those who had voted. Then they shared a laugh when it was observed that even the government was feeling the economic pinch.

"Young women flipped open cell phones and called friends and relatives to report, "Yeah girl, I'm in line to vote. Where you at?" Another chastised a friend for doing his laundry instead of being in line. A woman stared into the sky and opined about the possibility of rain, then noted that she'd still be standing in line whether it rained or snowed in L.A.I felt proud.

"I felt a part of a larger thing. Something beyond my words - my voice. A thing larger than just me. Something that had moved me and these disparate people from a myriad different background to stand in line feeling as if this act, was the most important thing we could be doing. They talked about being part of history and a few of us had tears in our eyes.

"I'm not the most patriotic person, but for that 45 minutes I stood in line waiting to vote in the 2008 Presidential Elections, I felt a part of a national community. I felt more like an American than I ever have."
Everlyn A. Hunter,
Los Angeles, California

America will soon have a new president, elected after a historic campaign. May we all dare to dream that we have within us the capacity to challenge ourselves, build bridges and improve life for the sisterhood and brotherhood of human kind.

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