Monday, November 3, 2008

Holding my breath

Our nation is just one day away from the most historic election in our history. It appears that we are about to elect someone who represents everything that the next generation believes in – a more equitable and caring society – and, no, I do not mean socialism. Tomorrow we will find out if America is truly ready to choose a better destiny. Will we stand up and say ‘we can do better’ and provide opportunity for all citizens, not just the wealthy? It appears that the answer is yes. According to the polls, we will wake up on Wednesday with Barack Obama as President-elect of the United States.

And yet, I am holding my breath.

It’s skepticism: a realization that those Republicans who have held power during the last decade or so, have done so by dishonest means such as voter suppression or ‘fixed’ voter software programs on the Diebold machines. It’s a fear that they will somehow steal the election once again; that Obama doesn’t really have a chance. He will have to win by a larger margin than what is being predicted in order to overcome the disenfranchisement of thousands of voters. I fear that the better tomorrow, the tomorrow that Obama promises – a country where all citizens are given access to healthcare, where all students can afford to go to college, where energy independence and cleaning up the environment is not only talked about, but acted on, and where the middle class is given the support they have needed for so long – will be snatched away.

It’s the fear that things will not change – cannot change. Perhaps I am holding my breath because, for those of us who are not wealthy, things have been so difficult for such a long time. It’s the knowledge that the GOP does not care about all citizens, but only those with money – the more money you have, the more they care about you. The rest of us are unimportant except for our taxes that help finance wars and shore up banks. It’s because I know that I pay more taxes, percentage-wise, than my very wealthy friends and family members who have tax shelters and lots of other “deductions.” It’s the fear that an unfair tax system that gives huge breaks to the wealthy and places a heavy burden on the middle class can never be changed.

Maybe it’s the awful pictures of death and abandonment of those too poor to own cars and drive away from Katrina. Maybe it is the recent stories of people losing their homes because they were duped by mortgage brokers who told them they could afford the bigger house, or others who have lost everything because someone in the family got very sick and insurance didn’t pay for much of it, or those who have lost loved ones in an unnecessary war. It is the pain of these failures, and more, that shows just how important tomorrow’s election really is. Maybe this is why I am holding my breath.

But it’s more than that. There is something even more ominous that has me scared. To remain silent would mean to pretend that this is not on the minds of millions of Americans everywhere. In the past there were people like Bobby Kennedy, and his brother, John, who stood for a more caring and equal society, who stood for change, and had their opportunity taken away from them prematurely. There were others, too, like Gandhi and Abraham Lincoln, who tried to create a better society, who believed that we are all responsible for our brothers, but paid the price with their lives. I cannot shake this fear that even if Obama wins the election, that something will happen to him. Because he represents change for this country, and a loss of power to the right wing, I am terrified Obama’s chance of leading America to a better place will be taken from him – that several of the haters will get together and take his life, and, in doing so, crush the newly hopeful spirit of this country.

Like John F. Kennedy, Obama will ask our nation to do great things because he believes we can. Given the chance, he will cause many to roll up their sleeves and go to work on rebuilding our infrastructure, designing new ways to meet our energy needs, and creating a more equitable society. Given the chance, he will stand up for the poor and help the middle class get back on its feet. Given the chance, he will stand up for equal rights for all, not because he is a Democrat, but because he is an American, and as Americans we should want nothing less. Given the chance, he will lead us to being a better people. Given the chance, Obama can lead our nation into one of the greatest chapters in its history.

I am holding my breath because Obama’s opportunity to be the leader we so desperately need may be snatched from him and from us.

May God protect him.