The Hope for Change

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For eight long years, I have felt silenced from voicing my political viewpoint. People who did so experienced terrible repercussions. Arrest. Detainment. Spying. I freely admit that I am not the type of person who will speak out no matter what. I learned that lesson after being fired for essentially voicing dissent in an extremely conservative work environment. Being crippled by the loss of a paycheck was enough incentive to me to shut up for a few years. That makes me admire even more what people in Nazi Germany went through to give a voice to the unheard masses. If you haven’t seen it, the movie Sophie Scholl: The Final Days is worth watching. Like all movies about that era in history, it is a bit of a downer. But it will make you think about what you would be willing to stand up for. And under what circumstances, and facing which consequences.

Today is Inauguration Day for Barack Obama, and I finally feel like I can speak freely again. I have observed other people stepping back into embracing their First Amendment rights again. Today at my office, the IT guy dared to mention what was happening today politically in our country. He said to me, “If he manages to accomplish even one thing on his agenda, the world will be a better place.” He had no idea what my political views were. We’ve all been so careful for so long about not talking about it, not causing rifts, not inciting conflict, that we have lost sight of the knowledge that those of us who feel that we can only improve at this point are not alone.

I didn’t get to see much of the festivities because I was working, but since I’ve been home tonight I’ve been watching our public TV station’s coverage of the inaugural events. I will admit to you that I am so embittered by years of corrupt and ridiculous politicians that I still retain a fraction of skepticism about Obama, simply because he has chosen dirty politics as his path in life. I have never really bought into the whole “Change” marketing scheme. I think that was an excellent way to win. I have no idea what he will actually do now that he has won. But a woman I saw interviewed at the Inauguration today drove something home from me that I had been missing about hope and change.

As a non-racist white person, I don’t think it’s that big of a deal that we’ve elected a black president for the first time ever. What difference does that make to me? Not much, I don’t think. Eugenia Peke, who went to the Inauguration in Washington from Texas, told someone at UNC-TV this: “I have a son. And now I know he can be anything. And he knows he can be anything he wants to be. He doesn’t just have to be a rapper or play professional sports. He can be anything he wants to be.” While Obama’s election did not make this so, because it has been so for a long while, his election has hit home the idea to a huge segment of our population that we can be something that no one thinks we can be. Until I heard this woman’s teary interview, I really had no idea how much this event has meant to the black community. I mean, I’m white. I don’t pretend to understand anything that affects the black community, really. And when you get right down to it, what holds most of us back in life is our perception of what we can or cannot accomplish. If he has changed that for people, he was worth electing. In my opinion.

I feel like a cloud has lifted. I feel like a positive force is occupying the most important office in our country for the first time in decades. After months and months of resistance and skepticism, I feel hopeful today. And I think that positivity and hopefulness is exactly what we need right now to make some really important changes in our country. I hope Obama is up to the challenge, and I hope he doesn’t succumb to dirty politics now that he has been sworn in to the elite club. When I look at him, I see depth, sincerity, drive, and intelligence. I see a kind spirit. I’m grateful that we’ve reached this point as a nation, and I hope our country accomplishes some great things under his leadership. I have reason to hope that might happen now.

*You can purchase the photo above here.

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