November 04, 2008

Changing bus drivers in America

It's 8 AM on the East Coast, and I've just voted for Barack Obama. I've never felt so thrilled filling in an oval on a ballot form. I've never taken my right to vote for granted, but this time, I felt truly a part of the great democratic engine that will take us on a new and better journey. Our journey with George Bush has been an unmitigated disaster -- a series of wrong turns and crashes and breakdowns. A ride on a wayward bus driven by a fool with blinders on. (Or, were I using a different transportation metaphor, a train wreck.)

Today I cherished the act of voting because it gave me the power to help stop the bus, show the current driver the door, then welcome a new driver, one smart enough to stop driving in circles and to ask directions if he thinks we're on the wrong road.

Four years ago on election day, when the stakes weren't nearly as high as they are now, I still cherished my vote, and I posted this brief story to explain why:

A post before voting. I always get a little choked up when I vote because it lets me feel my freedom so directly. I've been to places where there is no freedom. Like Sofia, Bulgaria before the fall of communism. A woman on our tour went into the ZUM department store with her husband, confined by multiple sclerosis to a wheelchair. She started photographing the empty shelves in the store's grocery and produce sections. Armed guards rushed her and took her away for hours of interrogation, leaving her helpless husband alone in ZUM's basement. He spoke no Bulgarian, couldn't read or write in the Cyrillic alphabet, and was likely the only black man the passing shoppers had ever seen. He sat for hours right where he'd been left, until his wife returned. She'd been questioned, intimidated and accused of spying. Her film was confiscated. When she pushed her husband's wheelchair out into the street, a van pulled up alongside and a man jumped out and grabbed the woman, trying to rip her camera from her. The government police realized they hadn't finished the job. If the woman still had the camera, she could buy more film and continue chronicling the state's shortcomings. That was unacceptable.

There's a palpable feeling of marvelous, fresh, collective energy running through America today. No matter who wins, tomorrow we'll be on a new course. We and the whole world have been waiting years for this moment. Who knew getting a new bus driver could feel so good?