When Michelle Obama said it during the campaign, it was considered a gaffe and people seized upon it. I, however, say it with conviction:
Today, for the first time in my life, I'm proud to be an American.
That I didn't previously care shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone. While at one point I was an idealist and wanted a life in the whirlwind of politics in Washington D.C. (that dream died after my first trip there and seeing how things really worked), I've never hidden the fact that I really only cared about getting US citizenship so I could have a passport unencumbered by visa requirements in most countries. Sure, the right to vote is pretty cool, but look what that got us in the past...
If anything, I'm the anti-patriot. I love the US Constitution, but I find that most people who wave a flag or sing the hymns are the first to want to trample upon the document. And that was before these last 7 years of post-9/11 jingoism, so you can imagine how I've felt more recently! ...If not, it goes something like this: Fuck your ugly, asymmetric flag, and learn to pronounce "nuclear" while you're at it! California should secede, and maybe bring some of the cool coastal cities with it, just to keep my tax dollars from supporting dumb fucks like you. Hell, I'm moving to France where they have a whole Socialist party and even some Communists just to spite you.
But I digress. Today isn't about vitriolic ranting. It's about celebrating.
And I'm celebrating the rebirth of the optimism that disappeared along with my youth. The optimism that sometimes the system - while definitely very flawed - can work. Optimism that the American people can take a bold step toward something new. Optimism that, one day, America can be the exemplary beacon of liberty and opportunity that it truly has not been since WWII.
Of course, it's easy to be optimistic about something when it's already happened. In just one November day, America proved to the world that the system worked, that it wasn't afraid to take a huge leap, and that it is still an inspiration for the rest of the world. Without a single life lost, battle fought, or vote allegedly stolen, America inspired people all over the world to repeat Barack Obama's mantra, "Yes we can."
Overnight, the world has once again bought into the American dream - the real one and not the fallacy that Reaganites and Neocons have pervertedly peddled, or more often than not, forced down the world's collective throat. People from Africa to Europe to southeast Asia believe the American dream that anyone who studies hard enough, works hard enough, and tries hard enough may well achieve what they set out to do.
Granted, I'm not an Obamaniac - or whatever you want to call his rabid supporters. I haven't drank the proverbial Kool-Aid. When I cast my vote for him, it was as much against the continuation of Reaganomics and the Bush Doctrine. It was against flag-waving and valuing ignorance over intellect. Against the Dubya-fication of politics. Against the beatification of egomaniacs who got shot down and captured in a losing war.
I find Obama to be flawed, and disagreed with many of his stances from the very outset, and found even more to dislike throughout the campaign.
But it's undeniable that he is charismatic. A natural leader. What many have now in a clichéed manner called a "transformational figure." Someone who brings out - as seen all around the world, and right here in my very mirror - the best in people. (Palin rally-goers notwithstanding.) With his eloquence, even-keeled manner, and ability to engage without antagonizing, he has brought back a term that hardly applies to any politician anymore: Statesman.
The fact that he's the son of an immigrant father, from a broken home, who's moved around from Kansas to Indonesia to Hawaii, who passed up the big bucks of law practice after putting himself through Harvard – even if he didn't make it to the presidency – show that he embodies the American dream. And in one election, he fully realized and went above and beyond that dream. For himself, and for African-Americans, immigrants, kids of divorcees, and just about everyone in the world who's been displaced over no choice of their own or told they don't have a chance.
The news has shown kids rejoicing, saying that when they grow up, they want to become leaders. Here in my new adopted home of France, black politicians are inspired. Africans and Afro-Caribbeans make up 10% of the population but have only one minister in the government; now they can hold President Nicolas Sarkozy accountable to his campaign promises of a more inclusive government. In my native country of Iran, a normally cynical youth population is (cautiously) optimistic about their own upcoming election, encouraged not only by the impeachment of the current nutbag president's close ally, but also by the possibility of a new dialogue with Americans.
If you're an American and didn't vote for Obama - whether you're afraid of paying taxes, don't want to pull out the troops from Iraq before the century's over, or are afraid of secret Muslims - know that even before he's taken the oath of office, you've benefited from his election. In one day, America's standing in the world is back on the upswing. For one day, no one's burning the stars and stripes. And for one day - and I hope for much longer - I'm proud of America.*
*On the other hand, for the first time ever, I'm ashamed to be a Californian. Fuck the 52% of you who voted for Proposition 8. Fuck Utah and the Church of Latter Day Saints. And mother fuck Howard Ahmanson and his daddy issues.