I am a teacher. Various in-service opportunities are offered at our school. One day, a co-worker in the administration area of our school offered a diversity in-service workshop on herself–her life as a lesbian. I can’t imagine what courage it took for her to stand up in front of 30 of her co-workers and tell about what it was like to grow up knowing she was different from her friends or anyone she knew…wondering what it meant that she dreamed about girls instead of boys…never even hearing the words “homosexual” or “lesbian” and not knowing others felt the same way she did. She shared her pain, her confusion, her feelings as a child and a teenage. I was so grateful to her for being willing to share this with all of us; certainly, if anyone who was in that audience that day now learns that a niece is a lesbian, or a son is gay, they will have a beginning of an understanding of what that might be like, thanks to this gift from our brave co-worker.
On Tuesday, January 20th, we were all brothers and sisters together as Barack Obama became our president. Everywhere, the tears of joy and liberation flowed–from the Washington Mall to the Mall of America, on faces of every color, from young eyes and old. When elderly African-Americans spoke on TV cameras of their memories of racial segregation and hatred, their voices choking with the overwhelming emotion of what this moment meant to them, I, a white middle-aged woman, cried with them. When the people of Kenya danced and celebrated, we danced with them in our American living rooms. We were all priveleged to share this moment, a powerful empathetic bond rarely experienced simultaneously by such a large mass of humanity.
I remember being at the Xcel Center in St. Paul in June 2008, when Barck Obama claimed the Democratic nomination for the presidency. We waited for hours, in lines that snaked around block after block of downtown St. Paul–and the camaraderie was joyous, fantastic. Then, my husband, myself and our 18-year-old son made it into the Xcel Center just as Obama took the stage, to wild cheering. What I remember most is looking around at the crowd we were sitting with way up in the rafters, surrounded by mostly black families, and so many of them crying with joy, justice finally coming for them. I felt so privileged to be able to share this profoundly emotional moment with them.
Barack Obama has ushered in the true new century, finally. We have hope now, that the 21st Century will be marked by the flowering of empathy and respect for all of our brothers and sisters around this planet.