This has been a very personal election cycle for me, in so many ways. Our household was directly impacted by the war in Iraq, having a veteran in the family. We have family members who’ve been affected dramatically by illnesses, both in terms of the financial drain on their households demanded by their health care, and by the lack of gene therapies to treat them. Our youngest cannot remember a time when we were not at war. We had expectations of candidates driven by these personal circumstances.

The election cycle affected how values are taught and expectations set in our household. For the first time in my life, I was able to truthfully tell both my son and daughter that they could be anything they chose to be — and I had role models to which I could point in the Speaker of the House, presidential and vice-presidential, senate and congressional candidates. For the first time my family could count among friends people who cared enough to run for state and local office, and with whom we’d discussed our personal issues and demands as voters and future voters.

But the impact is not on family alone; the impact is highly immediate. A baton was passed to the post-Boomers last night as Sen. Barack Obama was declared the presumptive president elect. It truly changes my personal expectations of myself when someone my age, 47 years old, wins the presidency. I am now of age, in other words; I am a member of the class of people who must now take a leadership role. It’s truly time to grow up and do the work that needs to be done.

The president-elect is someone who like me has lost family, leaving a void in their personal life that must be filled. We don’t deliberately seek out people to fill gaps that people leave behind when they depart this life, but when we lose a trusted elder who guided us through tough times and provided wisdom when we needed it, we seek to fill that need. But at this point in our lives we need to begin to find some of that wisdom within and not from without. We need to become comfortable with our own skin. We need to well and truly possess the gifts of wisdom that others have left us by using them. No more making phone calls for guidance on those deeply challenging matters of ethics; it’s time to be the one taking those calls.

I admit freely that I haven’t been as introspective about this as I should be, even with the loss of elder family members whose wisdom molded my life. The need for introspection came home this week when Obama’s grandmother passed away; he’s on his own now with the wisdom his elders left him. He’ll have to tap on that wisdom without their guidance. So will I. As a pastor giving a eulogy for an elder of our family pointed out this year, the "busias" are passing on — those scarf-wrapped elderwomen who sustained the church and its charitable institutions but are taken for granted by the younger members of the faith are now leaving us. It’s time for me to be among those newly-minted "busias."

And as a person of mixed racial heritage, the oyster has been opened, the pearl revealed: the next President is both as white and as non-white as I am. While African Americans may celebrate the election of their figurative son and the media will make much of the first black president-elect, I celebrate that we are now finally positioned to move beyond race, now that someone who is truly a representative of the melting pot this country is has finally been elected to the highest office in the land. Someone whose background and history is as variegated as mine, heir to dreams and ideals from both the heartland and far-flung shores, will encourage us to value the full spectrum of diversity we represent as Americans. I will no longer be the only mixed race person that many of my friends and some members of my family recognize; in this place where I stand, a foot in both white and non-white worlds, I’m no longer alone.

Lastly, I’ve recognized in this new leader something that mainlanders may not, owing to my Hawaiian heritage. I can see how being raised in Hawaii shaped this person even though I have not had the privilege myself of growing up kama aina. It’s Hawaiian culture that molded into him the older, traditional value of aloha and the more contemporary value of ohana. To most Americans these are only foreign-sounding words used in hokey tiki-bar Don Ho songs and a Disney cartoon about genetically-engineered alien life. But to Hawaiians they mean profound things. Aloha is more than a greeting or a sentiment of affection; it is a spirit, a sensibility, it is the realization in daily life of kindness, unity, agreeability, humility and patience. Ohana is also more than simply family; it is the recognition and embrace of relationships which bind us across our blood, each generation, across land. Seeing these values displayed by Obama, whether consciously or unconsciously on his part, sparks a deep recognition within me. These are values that we are missing regardless of our heritage, and those that I dearly hope we will teach now and in the years ahead, especially now that we are all ohana through this democratic process.

Hawaiians have a adage that says in effect, "If we all paddle the canoe in harmony together, we will easily reach the shore." Does it sound at all like something embedded in a speech that Obama might have given? It does to me, and I hope we will all be working in unison together going forward into the future. We’ve asked for this; now it’s our turn at the paddle.



Blogger since 2002, political activist since 2003, FDL community member since 2005, geek since birth.

Fan of science and technology, wannabe artist, decent cook, successful troublemaker and purveyor of challenging memetics whose genetics may be only nominally better.

Assistant Editor at Firedoglake and Editor at The Seminal.