I stayed up late last night, watching history unfold before my eyes. Now I am foggy with lack of sleep, and I am not at my best. But that doesn’t matter. What matters is that this country was at its best yesterday: People bowed low by despair and discouragement stood tall. They stood up and were counted. And this country turned a corner.
These are sobering times, make no mistake about it. But sometimes hard times draw out the best from us. Last night "the American Civil War ended," Thomas Friedman writes in the New York Times. "The struggle for equal rights is far from over, but we start afresh now from a whole new baseline."
When I was a little girl living near Philadelphia in the 1970s, history was in the air. Bicentennial fever ran high in Philly, so there were Franklin and Jefferson and Betsy Ross re-enactors everywhere, and fifers and drummers stepping to the Spirit of ’76. And that wasn’t the only history that lived for me. At school and at Quaker Meeting, we celebrated the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights movement. While I peered through the translucent black stones called Indian tears, my dad told me how our 19th-century Cherokee ancestors had been forcibly moved to Oklahoma, and he shared his own boyhood tales of dust storms and roadrunners and a flat, dry land. From my mother’s big Irish Catholic family I heard stories about everything from the Depression to World War II to Kennedy’s Camelot and the War on Poverty.
I was so small that I didn’t understand the timeline that separated these events. All these pieces of American history — all these struggles and triumphs — were jumbled together, the strains of "Yankee Doodle" overlapping with powwow drums and "We Shall Overcome" in my mind.
Today that joyous festival of music is ringing in my mind again. I am dazzled by how far we Americans have come, and I hear centuries of jubilant songs in my head.