I spent election night at the Barack Obama rally in Chicago. It was an incredible experience. Though I was with a “ticketed” friend, I still ended up far away from the “on-air” action, but I was still in the crowd, joining in the collective experience.
Some highlights from the evening:
- I got into the “tickets” line a couple blocks from the rally site at around 7:30. (Obama was projected as the winner at 10:00.) About 10 minutes later, I looked behind me and the new end of the line was nowhere in sight. About 45 minutes later, we were told that the line was stretching back to Shedd Aquarium, nearly a full mile away. While we waited, we were treated to spectacles like this (so much for positivity):
- As I was waiting in line, I got 3204209 texts informing me that Kay Hagan had won in North Carolina All you North Carolinians made me so proud! Good to see that anti-atheist bigotry doesn’t always work. It won’t be long before you hear from atheist organizations regarding the whole controversy…
- Tickets and ID were required to enter Grant Park, we were told. But security hardly looked at them. I passed through no metal detectors. I could’ve gotten in with very sketchy ID… This may have all just been because I was so far away so security wasn’t as tight.
- I managed to get into the crowd area about two minutes before 10:00… as I made my way into the crowd, the polls closed on the West Coast and CNN called the election for Obama. The place went crazy. It was beautiful. This is more or less what I was seeing (around the 1:25 mark):
- When the eruption died down and we were waiting for Obama’s speech, the microphone came alive and we heard the soundcheck guy saying something like, “1… 2… final check… 3… 4… final check for the next President of the United States Barack Obama” and the crowd went wild again.
- Behind me was a tall guy in his late twenties. He was in tears. You don’t see that very often. Next to me was a black man who just stared at the CNN screen in disbelief. I didn’t know him. But at some point that night, we were hugging.
- Before Obama took the stage, a minister delivered an invocation mentioning God and Jesus Christ. It’s Obama’s faith, but he wasn’t on stage. It seemed strange to hear a Christian-specific prayer when Obama’s message was all about inclusion.
- During John McCain’s concession, the largest reaction from the audience came when Sarah Palin’s name was mentioned (and even then, it was more laughter than boos from where I was standing). When Obama mentioned John McCain’s name, there were mostly all cheers.
- Somehow, with around 250,000 people at the rally, the afterparty was very calm. There were smiles, tears of joy, high-fives. No chaos. No flipping of cars. All across Michigan Avenue and nearby, where the streets were blocked off, people were hugging strangers, selling Obama merchandise, and just wandering around not sure of what to do with themselves:
Looks like Chicago just won major points in its bid to host the 2016 Olympics.
- As I was heading back to my car after the event, about 1.5 miles from the rally site, I happened to walk behind an older black couple. I overheard the man saying this to his wife: “Can you believe it… tomorrow morning, they will wake up as President and First Lady… ain’t that the shit?”
Obama won’t live up to every expectation, but I have confidence he’ll learn from his mistakes and surround himself with people more intelligent than himself in key areas.
For that, I’m thankful.
Other highlights from the night:
Pete Stark (D-CA), the only openly non-theistic Congressperson, won his bid for re-election.
Since he only “came out” in 2007, I believe this marks the first time that an openly non-theistic person has won a race for Congress.
“This year, we saw an incumbent U.S. Senator not only defeated but roundly criticized after trying to paint her opponent as godless; and now we see an openly godless member of the House handily re-elected,” said Herb Silverman, president of the Secular Coalition for America. “This looks to us like progress, and we praise Rep. Stark for his courage and leadership.”
For that, I’m thankful, too.
Not everything is wonderful, of course.
The paranoia of gay marriage worked its way through the Christian churches in California. And Arizona. And Florida.
Unmarried couples in Arkansas cannot serve as foster parents or adoptive parents.
Ted Stevens? Seriously? WTF is wrong with Alaska?
But as far as the presidency goes, we succeeded.
My feeling is that gay marriage is only temporarily halted. The Religious Right will lose this battle. Younger voters were and will be overwhelmingly in favor of equal rights for all of us even if conservative Christians are against it. And from what I hear, old people disappear after a while.