In the aftermath of Election Day, 2012, much was written about the birth of "the new America." As Howard Fineman wrote,
President Barack Obama did not just win reelection tonight. His victory signaled the irreversible triumph of a new, 21st-century America: multiracial, multi-ethnic, global in outlook and moving beyond centuries of racial, sexual, marital and religious tradition."But his victory is something more," Fineman continued, "a sense that we are all in this together as a society, no matter who we are or how we live our lives."
Four years ago, I wrote this poem in response to attending the 2009 inauguration:
We Were There, TogetherWe were there,pressed together as once wepacked the holds of separate ships,the stolen or the fleeing;Nowsqueezing closerto make room in the subway carunwilling to leave even one behind.We were there,waiting together as once weshuffled in the desperate lines,hungry for food or for work,driven from our lands,picket lines and protest lines;Nowturning smiling faces to thosein front and behind,"Where are you all from?" -from Florida, from Washington, from Maine.We were there,all our differences together where once wewere divided by the devil's gameof measuring humanity in fractions,by the terrible chasm between owner and ownedand the loss of soul in the gap;Nowgloriously gathered,multicolored, multicultured,multifaith multitudes,a hand-lettered poster proclaiming,"The Re-United States."We were there,rising together,emerging into the sun from the long, dark passage,summoned by the shared need to be present for this January daylinking hands and lifting hearts,the swelling tide of feelingspilling tears over the lip of our eyes,so many assembled that the generated heatshimmered in the air above us.This is what we have won:ourselves and each other,to fiercely hold these truths,to keep our eyes and our hearts open,to see ourselves in each otherin our schools, our streets and our prisonsand so, together,there is work to be doneso much goodwork to be done.
(Sketches created from a recent school visit, Oceanview School, Portland, Maine)
The fact of our glorious variety is not new. What is new is our growing ability to see each other, and to define ourselves by the strength of that brilliant diversity, and to understand the depth of our connection.
The New America is a vision that includes all of us.