*I wrote this piece earlier this evening but am just now finding time to post it.*
As I write these words, election returns are coming in fast and furious, and it looks like Barack Obama will be our next president. No matter which candidate you support, there's no denying that this election has been a groundbreaker. I started to say that it marks a turning point in our history, but it's really the fruit of many turning points in our history, the result of battles large and small fought in the streets, in schools, in courtrooms, and even in families, all of which add up to 40+ years of social change. Without the civil rights and women's movements, we could not have had an election season that featured two women and an African American as serious candidates for the two highest offices in the land. I know we have a long way to go to reach full racial and gender equality, but this election clearly shows how very far we've come. That is something to celebrate on this historic election night, no matter which candidate wins.
My parents were older than average (39 and 45) when I was born 41 years ago. Both of them grew up in an era when an election like this one was unthinkable. My mother was and remains open-minded, but my father was an unreconstructed Southerner deeply prejudiced in just about every way a person can be prejudiced--and a diehard Democrat. To him, the Republicans were the party of the wealthy. I don't think he ever forgave them for Herbert Hoover, whom he blamed for his and his family's suffering during the Great Depression. Dad died 22 years ago, but I wish he had lived to see this election. I would have enjoyed watching him figure out how to vote for an African American, because I'm pretty sure his political beliefs were stronger than his racism. (And no, I don't think there's anything funny about racism, and I never could abide my father's beliefs. But that doesn't mean I wouldn't have found his internal struggle entertaining had he lived to cast a vote this year.)
I'm looking at my son, who is watching the election returns with me. I'm delighted that, to him, it will be perfectly normal for African Americans and women to run for president. When I explained to him why this election is so significant, he was confused: He doesn't understand why anyone would have a problem with a president who wasn't a white male. I've never understood that either.
As I was thinking about how to end this post, CBS News announced Obama's victory. That seems like a good ending to me--and hopefully the beginning of a new era in our nation's history. God Bless America.