For better or worse I attempt to be analytical, focusing my attention on empirical events.  Yet when Obama was announced our new president a flood of emotions swept me.  Yeah, we must take all political sound bites with a grain of salt, but if I’m not gravely mistaken the glass has just shattered on this country’s “hope” thermometer.  Obama certainly represents new hope for all minorities, but the hope does not stop there.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’ve just spent four years of my life analyzing our social systems, and part of that analysis uncovered problems that I do not believe can be fixed with the existing structure of corporations, politicians and special interest groups.  The middle class will have to accept the responsibility of working outside of the existing system to bring necessary change.  I will touch on those in my next entry.  But, by golly, this log entry will be about hope.  There is an allegory I want to share about our new hope at home, and an anecdote regarding our new hope abroad.

Obama’s win is all the more impressive when you consider that many folks would have voted for McCain purely to vote against Obama.  This would be the case for conservative and Republican ideologues, of course, but ideologues of all stripes typically vote negatively due to a combination of vanity, cynicism and apprehension.  The first biracial candidate also causes apprehension among many of the elderly, the blue collar and simply the bigoted.  Now that our first biracial candidate has won I am reminded of a backpacker’s apprehensions during a rainstorm.

Backpackers don’t want to get their feet wet.  When a rainstorm first arrives you can witness backpackers apprehensively hopping and sidestepping along the trail for the sake of keeping their feet dry.  However, once the feet become wet backpackers then relax and simply take the best route of walking down the middle of the trail.  Our democracy has now got our feet wet with a minority candidate and I think some paranoid apprehensions will start to abate.  We can role up our sleeves and work together as a democracy to tackle some of the tough problems ahead.

The anecdote involves my visit to Berlin in the summer of 2007.  A good friend took Cindy and I on a tour that included passing by various embassies.  The Iraq embassy had a single guard, who was befriending a cat as we passed.  The Portuguese embassy did not have any guard.  The Russian embassy was lightly guarded.  The British embassy, in contrast, had some barricades in place.  But the British embassy was perfectly cavalier compared to the U. S. embassy, the one embassy where I was sternly admonished, as I was merely passing by, not to take any pictures.  Barricades, soldiers, fences, you name it.  My host said to me:  “This is the Bush legacy.”

Without Obama having to do anything himself, merely electing him president has just bought us a tremendous amount of diplomatic capital abroad.  We may not be able to take down those barricades immediately, but the world is about to grant us a grace period where the right kind of diplomacy could accomplish some amazing things.  Let us hope that our new president can use this to our advantage.

Obama said the right things during his acceptance speech.  We have turned into a paternal democracy and Obama addressed this by emphasizing how citizens have to serve, to sacrifice, to help fix all the problems ahead.  Along these lines a few journalists last night indicated they thought there would be a new willingness to serve in Washington, to be part of the changes ahead.  That would be encouraging.

Yet like virtually every other political speech this did not offer specifics for how citizens must serve or sacrifice.  There are some problems out there that neither Obama nor any other politician can fix on their own, and there will be interference with the problems Obama can tackle.  My next entry will cover this, but for now let us simply hope.  After a long absence, the ability to hope again feels real good.