The past month and a half have been very busy. I learned a lot, helped a lot of people. Yet, I lost focus. I lost balance. I missed the voter registration in NYC so I didn’t get to vote, in an election that I wanted more than ever to vote in.
Over the past eight years I have been incredibly vocal about my disgust for how this country has been run. I’ve traveled to numerous countries during this time and first hand have experienced how the image of the US has been tarnished. I saw how misguided our leader’s world view was compared to what I actually saw with my own eyes. I have seen a so called “conservative” who believed in the free market to solve all our problems resort to one of the largest government subsidies of all time and at the same time have his party call the opposition “Socialist”. I have seen an economic crisis, two wars, and terrorism all in such a short period of time. There were more than ample issues for candidates to debate about. However, shortly after moving to NYC I realized that what was evolving was far beyond just “issues” in a campaign.
Working near the border of Harlem I get a tiny glimpse into the lives of people who come into our hospital. As I walk to work every day and around the city invariably I see the numerous street vendors most with some form of Obama gear. Pins, bumper stickers, Che-like images on T-shirts. In the blistering sun and cold ice-like rain they are there selling and promoting. People from all walks of life bought the stuff and wore it proudly Day after day after day. At construction sites I would hear blue-collar workers talking about Obama and why he was the guy to go for. At the hospital nearly everyone I saw were anxious to cast their vote for Obama. I saw young black teens on the subway, their bags sporting Obama pins. I saw reggie artists with Che-like obama shirts. Campaigners with Obama posters constantly patrolled the streets at all hours. As election day came there was a sense in the air that something was different. It was perhaps a superstitious sixth-sense feeling of something to come. Despite my infinite frustration at myself I knew this was a day I was going to remember.
I went to Rockafellar Square. Thousands of people lined up; a blue banner representing Obama towered over McCain. Obama had 207 votes. A white woman stood with a star poster welcoming Obama, the back of her head had an Obama mask on it. The clock struck midnight and just like a lightning bold the blue banner shot up as the West coast came back big for Obama. The large monitor had Obama on it and declared the next president. The crowed exploded. Years of anger, frustration, and loss of hope all came out in their chants. “BUSH YOU’RE FIRED! BUSH YOU’RE FIRED!”
That transitioned to “OBAMA! OBAMA!”
“USA! USA! USA!”
A black woman came in, her eyes in total shock imbracing the white woman with the Obama mask. “Thank you. I’m fifty years old. Thank you for everything!” In Harlem people danced in the streets. Tears of joy were shed. I couldn’t help but become tearful. It wasn’t about the economy, the war, or the environment. It wasn’t about Bush. It was about something that couldn’t be put into words. It was about those voters who voted for the first time. It was about the poor black kids in Harlem that wanted to believe in the impossible. It was a movement.
For me personally it was a wake-up call to find balance and take care of things that are important no matter how busy I am because it does matter. I had a renewed sense in a country I had been so cynical about. It was an American “reboot.” No matter how tempting it is to be cynical this election showed an alternative to the fear and cynicism we have become so accustomed to. And as far as the challenges we face and whether we can address them: yes we can, yes we did, and yes we will.