Hey, what's ground-breaking history without some obnoxious chick in the background yelling about horse cock?
After that, we shuffled through three different security checkpoints in waves of frantic (and generally polite) Obama supporters. Then through the metal detectors, into a sea of milling and standing people who were all buzzing with excitement over the expected results of the election. CNN was playing on the Jumbotron, Wolf Blitzer recounting results as polls started to close and numbers started trickling in. Projection after projection, broken up by discussion of the Democratic Revolution, or the Generational Shift in Politics, or other equally relevant features of the landscape in American Government. James Carville, oh, how I've missed ye! (He might be on CNN every night, for all I know....I don't have cable.)
I was pleased to see that when CNN cut to commercial, the Jumbotron went to a screensaver and music blared over the loudspeakers. I would've ranted at significant length if they'd run ads at this kind of rally. Phew!
A beachball popped up from somewhere and was batted around the park. When CNN showed the waiting crowd at the park, we all looked out for the cameras, and screamed like lunatics. Time passed; CNN called a few states for McCain - no surprises, and the huge crowd booed anyway.
Then, Wolf Blitzer announced that the polls were about to close in California. Obama, per CNN projections, was at 225 (I think), and the guy behind me says that we'd still need Florida even if California went blue. I turn to him and, using my advanced arithmetic skills, let him know that if Cali goes to Obama, it's over. A countdown clock flashes up on the Jumbotron, as CNN counts down to the last polls closing. The crowd chants along with the numbers.... five.... four... three.... two.... one.
The screen has some kind of explosion graphic, and giant letters scream "CNN PROJECTION: OBAMA WINS!" or something like that. I don't remember it precisely because my brain short-circuited and I was screaming - not yelling, not shouting, screaming at the top of my not inconsiderable lungs. I didn't stop for several minutes.
There were several minutes of excitement - CNN showed Oprah, various crowd reactions, and the iconic shot of Jesse Jackson. It reminded me of his presidential run in 1988, and how I had (at ten years old) much preferred him to Dukakis. I can only imagine how amazing that moment was for him, and I hope he recognizes how much his efforts have contributed to Obama's success now, and I hope he feels vindicated and appreciated and loved. 'Cause I love me some Jesse Jackson.
Then, they showed McCain's concession speech. I was by turns disgusted and encouraged. I saw glimpses in that speech of the man I used to respect, of the John McCain I considered an honorable enemy. I don't know that he'll ever get back my respect, but I hope he really can abandon the divisive rhetoric of the campaign and really get behind President Obama in making this country, and this world, a better place.
Shortly thereafter, they cut CNN and played a pre-recorded segment about the campaign, and how it was all about the people in the trenches and on the ground. The phrase "community organizer" flitted through my head several times. It was a lovely video....and then we got to listen to music for awhile, and stand around wondering what the lineup of speakers would be.
A roadie (do they call them that in politics?) came out and did the last of five or six soundchecks. He said, "Final soundcheck for the next president of the United States," and the crowd lost its collective shit. I cried for the first of many times.
A little while later, there was a prayer from a Reverend of some stripe. It was actually pretty open for a prayer, but one of these days, I'd like to see a truly inclusive blessing at a big political function; something that allows people of all faiths (and no faith) to support the sentiment of a benediction, without having to pay homage to Jesus.
A lovely woman came out and butchered the Star Spangled Banner. I know I'm biased, not only as a singer, but as someone who has sung this particular song for various events, messing up the national anthem happens - sometimes you forget a word, sometimes you mix up a line, it just happens. But. At the fucking victory rally for the next goddamned President of the nation for which the song is the anthem, maybe you sneak a crib sheet onto the fucking podeum so you can get the words right, hey?
And then......then....there he was. Michelle was there, and the girls, and it was the new first fucking family, and it was amazing. After a few minutes of unrepentant cheering, he spoke. I called my sister in Michigan, and put her on speaker so she could listen with me. We were both crying, and I was yelling every now and then, juggling the phone and my camera back and forth. The whole field (felt like the whole world) yelled "Yes we can!" right on cue as he recounted some history, reminding us just how far we've come as a nation...and reminding us obliquely how far we have yet to go.
As the ridiculous crowd left the park when he was done, people were crying and shouting and dancing and singing and carrying signs and celebrating. One dude was high-fiving everyone he met walking along Michigan Avenue. Near the Art Institute, someone had set up a boombox and people were dancing in a huge clump under the watchful eyes of sixty gajillion Chicago cops. Folks were hawking photos and buttons and shirts and towels (hoopy!) every ten steps. I walked slowly, enjoying the undeniable energy of excitement and hope and connection. People were smiling and laughing and dancing and cavorting and connecting, and it was glorious to behold.
At Lake Street, I turned and headed for the Red Line, where I waited for something like six trains before my claustrophobic ass found one non-crowded enough to get on. I rode next to a young white dude with blazing red hair, who was basically harassing a couple black college kids (who were totally handling him beautifully), somehow presuming some kind of connection based on the fact that he'd voted for Obama. When he eventually got off the train, the college kids had one of the most interesting discussions about race and identity politics and privelege that I've ever heard, and I wondered how much of that was because there were no white people talking.
A posse of cops greeted me on the el platform when I got off the train, and another blocked the street below. I'm not sure what to make of that, but I made it home finally.
I'm sure I'm leaving stuff out, but this is what I remember now. I wish I'd had more than a day to get used to the new camera....but I got some relatively decent shots, which you can see here.
I'm hopeful today, and hopeful that that feeling will last. I've been playing "Somewhere Different Now" by Girlyman today, and these lyrics are sticking with me:
Now I don't mind saying, I believe in the waiting
In the visions of grandeur, and the random encounter
I'm not on fire, not burned out
Just somewhere different now