Last night my old roommate IM’d me with: “Dude! We just elected a black president! You missed out!” I replied that I was still a citizen of the United States of America, and I had voted for him two weeks ago, and that the things he had promised her as a candidate were privileges that I already enjoyed, like socialized medicine.
If I had been thinking clearly, I would have added more to the list: gay marriage, reproductive rights that aren’t squabbled over each election, banking policies that didn’t create record foreclosures this year, and and domestic energy production (which is destroying the environment but which America seems to want nonetheless). In terms of leadership, Canada’s already had a female prime minister, and our current governor-general is a black woman in an interracial marriage. (Apparently, the Queen saw this all coming.)
Obama won. The world feels different. But what has changed is not reality, but the perception of reality. Now we know what can be done. We have stretched the limits of possibility. However, troubling issues remain: the Patriot Act and FISA are still on the books; Guantanamo remains open; Proposition 8 and similar measures all across the US have revoked or banned the basic human rights of an entire swath of the population.
There is work yet to be done.
But among the good news (and there is plenty of it), what I might be looking forward to most is the way that American politics wash ashore in Canada. In four years, Obama will be running as an incumbent. And in four years, with any luck, Canada will have realized the desire (the heartfelt longing, the need) for a leader of similar calibre and similar hopes.
Oui, nous le pouvons.