There was a note blu-tacked to the bathroom door this morning. It read ‘Obama won! He is now president elect of the United States!’ The Ultimate Frisbee Freak had stayed up til God knows what hour this morning to watch the coverage and relay this happy news to the rest of his family who have to get up early. This, I have to tell you, is a young man who struggles to remember which party forms the UK government and what the real name of the Tories is. Like so many of his generation, he doesn’t do politics. Just like so many people in the States who have never registered to vote before and yet did just that so that they could vote for Obama didn’t do politics. Just like young Jewish people who watched comedian Sarah Silverman’s Great Schlep video and took her seriously enough to mobilise not only themselves but their grandparents don’t generally do politics.
This was an important election.
I don’t think it was the fact that Barack Obama is of mixed race and therefore that history was about to be made by the first black president that made my son stay up. It wasn’t just that which made me well up and cheer at the news.
I think the emotions evoked by Barack Obama’s victory were the same as those I felt when I watched TV coverage of the first free elections in South Africa – people queuing hours to cast a vote they’d never had before - and Nelson Mandela became the first properly elected president of his country. What we saw then was a good man being chosen to run a newly liberated country and I think that what we are seeing today is a good man preparing to move his family into the White House. I think that’s what motivated the Ultimate Frisbee Freak’s vigil – he wouldn’t have stayed up to watch an African American with, for example, Sarah Palin’s views get elected.
I profoundly hope Barack Obama is the good man he appears to be because the world is in such a mess that the most powerful nation on earth has never been in greater need of a good man as its leader.
Good luck, Barack Obama, from a family that celebrated your victory with a note on their bathroom door.