It is amazing, this worldwide wholesale pre-occupation with the outcome of the elections, Americans feeling justifiably proud that they dared to redefine the democracy brand, as evidenced in the waves of jubilant celebrations reverberating around the planet. Almost a decade had been spent tarnishing an image that was already steadily losing favor around the world, and the sensation of Barack Obama was the last call to restore even a tinge of integrity to brand America.
The nation wept copious tears of joy the night of November 4, some on behalf all of those who had suffered the pain of racial injustice, while others found in Obama’s victory absolution from the sins of their fathers. Then again, a few may also have shed bitter tears at the demise of their hopes for another four GOP years in the Oval Office. Fat chance. America needed to hope and smile again, and only CHANGE gave that promise. The weeping endured way into the night, until real joy rose on the wings of dawn.
It could have been my imagination, but the next morning there were a lot more pleasant faces around, more excuse me’s, please and thank you’s. Neighbors who hadn’t greeted me for eons were waving and actually smiling when they jogged by, regardless of their color. Civility was back on the agenda again.
One big indicator of the impact of Obama’s victory was played out right before my eyes on the job the next day. As a behavior therapist, my schedule on November 5 had me doing some in-school shadowing of a young case-study subject. I was to sit and observe his interaction for the duration of the art module, and I was fascinated to learn that the five year olds had engaged in mock-elections two days before, having been given a bulletin presenting the candidates to take home and discuss with their parents. They were then required to bring their bulletins back, the name of their chosen candidate duly circled, and placed in the ballot box.
The annual fees at this kindergarten academy maxed out at around 20K per child, so the little darlings had to be assured of a well-rounded education, politics included. Seriously though, many US public schools held mock-elections to increase awareness of this civic duty among the young, and also to spark healthy discussion. A capital idea, and one it would do well for some other unnamed nations to adopt, especially those where you could lose your head if you are affiliated to the wrong party.
So there I was in the art class, making notes on the participatory levels of Andy, my charge (who I have renamed), when I was unavoidably drawn to a lively conversation among three kindergartners, regarding the mock elections. Their art teacher had suggested they draw some scenes from the elections. I drew closer to hear Zachary, Jean-Luc and Scott (all re-named) engaged in a serious political discussion:
(Zachary is coloring the face of one of his figures, using a beige crayon. The other two look on.)
Zack: Hey, this is like skin color, right?
Jean: yes…but not everybody has that skin color
Zack: I know some people are like me and you —
Scot: And some also like our new president!
Jean: Did you vote for him?
Scot: Who, the black guy?
Jean: Yes, Barack O-ba-ma!
Scot: Of course I did, not Mccain, I voted for Obama, did you vote for Obama?
Jean: Yes I did, I think our whole class did
Zack: Yes they did!
I was only aware then, that Ms. Glenn the art teacher was listening when I looked around to see how far away she was. We both smiled and shook our heads. Obama had won their little election hands down the day before, she said, and the wisdom of many of the five year olds came straight from their parents, averaged mid-thirties, affluent, educated. The kids didn’t see the need for any excitement, for as far as they were concerned, “the black guy” was smarter and wasn’t as grumpy as the other one. As for Scott, he was five going on twenty-five, Ms. Glenn explained. So I shouldn’t be worried for Andy, my case-study; he had good role models to emulate.
Before the art class was over, it occurred to me that the shift in public opinion may have been imperceptible for a period, but it was now evident that America has experienced a revolution without a single shot being fired. When the nation is through with patting itself on the back, the energy from this movement could be harnessed to achieve much for the Union and the world.
For Anya, there is real joy in working with special-needs children.