When I was small I used to watch the news every night. At seven I was probably more educated about congress and presidential politics than I am now.
In the first election I was old enough to chat about – likely Bush Sr. in ’88 – I remember my mother telling me about Ferraro. “In 1984,” she said, “there was a woman on the ticket for the first time ever – Ferraro.” (My mother never uttered her first name that I can recall.) “She would have been Vice President for the Democrats, but they lost to Regan.”
I don’t remember her sounding too upset; I guess everyone liked Regan at least a little bit. But, I do remember the message that followed, whether it was said out loud, maybe in a voting booth, or just implied during our next re-watch of Free To Be You and Me.
It’s important that a woman can be considered for our second highest office. You’re going to grow up to be a white man, and in a way you’re lucky because you can aspire to do anything – even be president. At some point in your life you’re going to have the chance to vote for a woman, or for someone who is black or Asian, or for some other kind of person who usually isn’t given the same opportunities you might have. And, if you vote for them you might have to vote against someone who is more like you, but it’s important for you to support them. Not only because you agree with them, but because of what their election could mean for America.
In a way her message, however she actually conveyed it, changed my whole life. It was the birth of my feminism and the kernel that would become my fierce dedication to civil rights for everyone, no matter how different from me they are. And, it made me become aware that America means something very special and very specific – it means freedom to be and freedom to choose.
For that reason, even in the moments I have been the most critical of America, her message has always inspired me to fight for my country instead of against my country. That distinction has nothing to do with party lines and colored states on a map – it’s about freedom and choice. It’s about the quality of compassion.
Yesterday we elected the first black president of the United States of America. Not just black, but multi-racial. Just like America. Just like the family I have created for myself with Elise.
Tonight I’m already looking forward to America’s future elections. I’m looking forward to presidents who are female, Muslim, gay, Asian, or atheist.
Yesterday we could have elected the first woman vice president. And, though she lost, she may inspire stories told to another generation of little girls and boys who will grow up to love their country not for what it is, but for what it can be.
Tonight I spent some time with my two best friends – a woman who has made her way in a white man’s industry despite discrimination against her and everyone else, and another woman who saw four states tell her she doesn’t share the same rights as her peers because of who she is and who she has chosen to spend the rest of her life with.
Yesterday I cried from when I made that last post until about thirty minutes after the acceptance speech ended. I cried, and it felt good, because I was witnessing the birth of the America my mother promised me I would have a chance to live in. It has arrived blessedly early in my charmed existence.
Tonight I am weary and drained, but still ready to fight for my country, in my way. To fight to make people understand the rights we have and the process we are due. To fight for our freedom to be and to choose.
Today my mother sent me an email that shared its subject with this post’s title. It read:
We just made history!!!!!!!