At 11:01 p.m. on November 4, 2008, people broke out into celebration. Stopping their cars on expressways. Amassing in front of the White House. Shouting out of suburban windows.
Some people quietly turned off their television sets and went to bed. With fear in their hearts. With worry in their stomachs.
I was one of those celebrating in the street. My candidate, Barack Obama, had been elected President of the United States. But I know how those other people felt. The people who voted for the other guy. I've been there before. Two elections in a row.
We've all been there at some point.
And even as we embrace President Elect Obama and revel in his "landslide" victory, let us remember that, while he did the popular vote by a decent margin, a little less than half of America voted the other way.
We are still a country divided.
During the campaign, Vice President Elect Joe Biden was heckled by McCain protesters. He urged those in the crowd to keep an open mind and heart where the protesters were concerned. We've got to reach out to them, he said. And indeed we do.
We have much to do in this country. Our economy is in shambles. Our planet in peril. Our educational system has been gutted. Terrorism and war and poverty and injustice rocks the globe. We have much to do and we cannot go it alone.
On election day, I listened to callers on NPR planning election-watching parties. Most callers acknowledged that they would be watching with like-minded friends and family. And why not? It is mighty uncomfortable to watch with those with whom you vehemently disagree. No politics or religion is often the rule at family gatherings for good reason.
Perhaps that is why Proposition 8 - the ban on gay marriage passed - in California. Those voting to ban gay marriage likely don't know any one gay. They likely don't know my brother-in-law, his husband and their beautiful daughter. They don't know that he and his partner have been together for a decade. That he devotes his life to teaching Spanish and English to middle schoolers. That he eats too much chocolate. And that his favorite place to visit is Disneyland. If they did, they might have voted differently - just like this gentleman.
It is not just those on the political right that need to open their eyes, expand their social circles. We on the left are just as guilty.
I assumed all Evangelical Christians were the same - and not in a good way - until I met some intrepid eco-Evangelical bloggers here in cyber-space. My assumptions were wrong. My judgments, small-minded. Turns out, they are people too. Very nice ones, I might add, who care about the environment, about poverty, about justice, about their families.
If we don't get to know one another, how can we expect to change things? If we don't talk to people who believe differently, how we can work together? How can we deal with climate change, the energy crises? How can we rebuild the economy or our food system?
The road home is a long one. I plan to grab a few non-like-minded friends for company. There will be plenty of time to talk and, on the way, we might find we're not so divided after all.