YDATL Blog NOTE: The opinions expressed by our individual bloggers are their own, and not necessarily those of Young Democrats of Atlanta.
Friday, July 21, 2006
The Proof Through the Night
For some reason, I can’t make it through the national anthem without crying. Okay, I can’t make it through the French national anthem either (it’s that damn scene from Casablanca that gets me!), and come to think of it, I cry during the Olympic anthem too. Hmmm…I’m just kind of weepy all around. But the Star Spangled Banner gets me in the same place every time:
“And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air, Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.”
Now, I know lots of people who are not inspired by this account of the bombardment of Fort McHenry during the War of 1812. It’s too obscure or too bellicose or just too damn hard to sing. They have a point; America the Beautiful is much more peaceful. But for me (and I know this is a little cheesy, but I was raised on Frank Capra, so there’s nothing I can do about it), I always think about that sense of doubt and fear that we can have being American. Is this experiment in Democracy hopeless? Have we sold ourselves to corporate interests? Will the promise of the phrase “All men are created equal” ever be realized? Wouldn’t we be better off moving to Canada, New Zealand, or Costa Rica? Those are our questions in the dark, when the future remains uncertain.
But then we see flashes of light. These are moments of clarity when we realize that the possibility for a better America has not been destroyed. There is hope, there is opportunity, and there is potential. The promise of America is surviving the onslaught.
I know a lot of us came away with mixed feelings after Tuesday’s primary. There was a lot of good news. But many of us finished the night in that dark space of disappointment. Supporters of Cathy, TJ, Shyam and others had had so much hope and faith. They had worked so hard. Others were disappointed more in the actions of the candidates than in the results. I hate that feeling of bewilderment and helplessness. I’ve been there. I’m sure I’ll be there again.
But actually my Election Day memory that I’m holding onto happened early in the day, before all the celebrations and the tears. It was one of those brief flashes of light that will help keep me going until November. When I drove up to my polling place in Reynolds Town at 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday, there was Jan Hackney, House District 48 Candidate standing on the corner with a sign for Allen Thornell. I swear that woman is everywhere. Her good heart and her commitment are such an inspiration to me. It’s not that she was any different from others who spent Tuesday holding signs, making calls, and driving people to the polls. As she greeted me that morning, Jan was the example of all the people who cared enough about their community to take whatever action was helpful, however small, however thankless. Who wouldn’t want this woman in public office?
As YDAtl gears up to work on her campaign in earnest, I think of another poem – this one not set to music and sung at major sporting events:
Sometimes things don't go, after all, from bad to worse. Some years, muscadel faces down frost; green thrives; the crops don't fail. Sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well.
A people sometimes will step back from war, elect an honest man, decide they care enough, that they can't leave some stranger poor. Some men become what they were born for.
Sometimes our best intentions do not go amiss; sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow that seemed hard frozen; may it happen for you.
The poet, Sheenagh Pugh, wrote that many people misinterpreted her words as easy, sunny optimism. She didn’t mean them that way. She meant that “sometimes” doesn’t happen very often. And that when it does, it takes individual effort. Unfortunately, it takes a willingness to accept the many times when the outcome is not what we had hoped for.
In the Star Spangled Banner it’s not easy being out in the night. Those lights are rockets and bombs. It’s scary. But we keep our eyes on where the flag should be and keep looking for a sign that we’ll make it through the night. May it happen for all of us.