On Tuesday, 65.4 million Americans said "Yes, we can" and voted for "Change we can believe in."
Now what? Do we wait and watch anxiously to see what kind of cabinet President-elect Obama assembles? Do we continue chasing a filibuster-proof Senate majority, checking daily on the unresolved contests in Georgia, Minnesota and Alaska? Do we spend our time amusing ourselves thinking of how best the Democrats can exact revenge on Joe Lieberman? Do we search the Internet for the latest evidence of further Republican implosions amid the McCain Pain and the Palin Wailin'?
As attractive as all of the above sound, that old party pooper Mahatma Gandhi keeps hovering over my shoulder like a pesky goodie-two-shoes angel, telling me:
"Be the change you want to see in the world."
As a young, first-time presidential voter in 1980, I wanted to feel welcome in that "shining city on a hill," even if I voted for the third party candidate.
In 1988, I wanted to believe in a "thousand points of light," but could see no light through the mud slung upon America in the distasteful "Willie Horton" episode that would set a new standard for negative campaigning in the two decades ahead.
In January 1993, finally seeing someone I voted for sworn in as President of the United States, I wanted that feeling to last forever. It didn't.
When Newt and the boys staged their Republican Revolution in 1994, I could accept the notion that an ebb and flow was better than extended one-party rule, but I found myself wanting to see a good deal less bravado from the changing of the guard in Washington.
At the end of the bitter, divisive and finally numbing legal drama that was the 2000 election, I wanted a President who came into office on a minority of the popular vote to show an appropriate amount of humility and a prominent display of that bipartisan approach he touted as governor of Texas.
In 2004, I just wanted Karl Rove and the Swiftboat Veterans to crawl back under their respective rocks and leave us all alone.
In short, it seems I've wanted a lot in my life as an of-age voter. Which, Gandhi suggests, means I have much work to do myself. I have a lot of my own expectations to live up to. And, it seems my chance is here.
Perhaps with Gandhi in mind, Barack Obama has the perfect quote on his Web site:
"I'm asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring real change to Washington... I'm asking you to believe in yours."
Another party pooper, that Barack Obama. And now, I'm left to realize that getting the kind of unity and inclusion I've longed for in American politics means giving it first myself. There is no freebie this time around, with the promise that next time I'll behave myself. It's how I behave now that determines if there will be a next time.
So, let's all hug a Republican today.
Hey. Nobody ever said change was easy.
Maurice Carter is a resident of Covington. He may be reached at email@example.com.