By N.S. Palmer, Ph.D.
When Barack Obama was elected president of the United States, I was pleased, but I didn’t weep tears of joy like many of his other supporters. I knew that at present, the world is cheering for a symbol. The reality will be much more difficult to achieve.
No, I cried this morning. It wasn’t Obama that did it. It was looking at photos of how people around the world reacted to Obama’s victory. Tears. Cheers. Dancing in the streets. In Paris. Berlin. London. Athens. Beijing. New Delhi. Jakarta. In the old world and the new. In rich countries and poor. Everywhere that they’d heard about it, they wept with joy, overcome by the immensity of the moment.
It reminded me of something that I once believed, but had long ago put away as a childish delusion. It’s the belief that America is more than just a country. America is a moral ideal.
It transcends politics, nationality, culture, language, religion, and economics. It’s the belief that every person counts. That every life has infinite importance. That every person deserves fair treatment — and maybe even better than fair, the kind of treatment that “droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath.” It’s the belief that justice is more than merely a word. That law should protect the poor and powerless just as much as the rich and powerful. That peace should be the norm and war only a last resort.
Looking at those photos, I cried. I cried for what my country has always meant to me. It took people in other countries to remind me. They knew. They still believed. I was the one who had faltered.
And then I reached down deep into my heart. I opened the lock on the toybox where I had placed childish things. I reached in and I took out my America, shining and beautiful and glorious as it ever was. I put it in front of me, never again to be locked away.
The road ahead will be difficult. But at least we once again have a road, and a worthy destination: a place called “America.”
Copyright 2008 by N.S. Palmer. May be reproduced as long as credit and URL (https://ashesblog.wordpress.com) are included.