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  • I didn’t eat all day on election day. I barely remembered what food was. My roommate lectured me that there was no point in getting so anxious about something I couldn’t control, and the rational part of me knew she was right, but she has never met my family. Politics is big in my household. BIG, big. Although my father works with computers, he majored in political science while he was in college. My three younger sisters and I grew up going to campaign meetings and on canvassing trips through unfamiliar neighborhoods. We are all graceful hotheads, although we each express it in our own way. If we had been born several centuries earlier, we probably would have worn armor and gone riding about the countryside, fighting dragons and oppression and cruelty. We are Christians, but not the kind who flounce around shunning and damning everything which displeases them. In this election, our hearts were standing tall behind Obama, which should surprise a grand total of no one.

    But I digress. This election was important to me as a Christian, as a woman, as a college student, as a person whose orientation makes up the ‘B’ in LGBT, as an American, and as a human being in general. Therefore, although it accomplished nothing, I spent the morning and afternoon of November 6th in a state of highly controlled panic. On the outside I was breezing calmly through my Tuesday routine. I went to my classes and then to the meeting of the Literary Magazine club, where we found ourselves inundated with submissions. On the inside, I was kind of freaking out. I remember little snippets of things throughout the day; the phrase ‘pyrocumulous clouds’ in the second stanza of a poem, a chalkboard full of cursive which someone had erased, leaving translucent green stains behind like the ghosts of the words. At 6:00 p.m. Pacific time, I walked over to the computer lab where the political science department had set up a live feed of the election results.

    The room was packed, so my friend Meghan and I had to sit on the floor. She had brought along her knitting, and I was folding tiny origami irises and dropping them into a clear glass vase I’d brought along. The twisting movements of our fingers helped to ease some of the nervous tension. We watched as Wisconsin went to Obama, then Iowa; then North Carolina went to Romney, then Indiana….

    Because of the way the Electoral College was set up, all eyes were on the votes being ticked off in Ohio. Every news anchor on the TV was talking in front of a backdrop of numbers and charts, repeating “Ohio, Ohio, Ohio.” I was born in Ohio. I remember walking down the green-bordered road in my old neighborhood. I remember playing in the dry ditch in front of my home, and catching fireflies as they winked through the steady night air in my backyard. I remember the buckeye that my neighbor painted over with an eager-looking face and gave to me as a child. When the news anchor made a full turn to face the camera and announced, “This is it folks, we are calling Ohio for Obama,” it was like every heart in the room burst through the ceiling. There was screaming, so much screaming as the words materialized on the screen: Barack Hussein Obama, 44th President of the United States, elected for a second term in office.

    Never before has the nation been so good to one cautiously hopeful, progress-believing, somewhat poetic, proudly bisexual college student. As I watched the returns on the screen, it just wasn’t possible to feel everything at once. Same-sex marriage passed in all three states where it was on the ballot, the FIRST TIME in US history that voters have approved marriage equality at the polls. Victory for Tammy Baldwin in Wisconsin, the first openly gay US Senator. Elizabeth Warren in Massachusetts. Claire Mccaskill in Missouri. In my home state of Oregon, Suzanne Bonamici and Tina Kotek. The Democrats held the Senate. My father was at home, cheering in front of our TV while my mother smiled from the kitchen. Two of my younger sisters were running around our house, still wearing their shoes. They didn’t fully understand what the election meant, but it was like New Years for them, like the Fourth of July; a time to stay up till midnight and feel the tingling buzz of excitement race through the air. My third younger sister was in her own college apartment half an hour away from mine, watching the numbers roll in with her rugby teammates. When Barack Obama won in 2008, we were all at home together, bunched up in front of the TV on a couch that wasn’t long enough to fit all of us. This time, we phoned each other back and forth in throes of elation to share the news the others already knew.

    When Mitt Romney finally walked onstage in Boston to give his somber concession speech, I stopped smiling for the first time in hours. When he declared, “I so wish- I so wish I had been able to fulfill your hopes to lead the country in a different direction, but the nation chose another leader,” my heart went out to him for the first time in the entire campaign. As fiery as I am, there is still a gentler, more impractical side of me that wants everyone to feel good, to be rewarded for trying. However, given that Romney’s election would have dealt a severe blow to the equal rights of all sorts of communities, and given that he still has millions of dollars to console him, my heart only went out so far before it was shot back into the sky like the cork off a fizzing bottle of champagne when the Obama family arrived onstage in Chicago for the acceptance speech. That I will allow to speak for itself.

    I have seen amazing things. Over the course of one night, I have seen a nation move not one, but many steps forward in the drive to honor the human goodness of all people; black and white, male and female, religious and non, sick and healthy, gay, straight, and anywhere in between, immigrant, transgender, disabled, poor and middle-class and well-off. Barack Obama represents many important firsts in America. The first African-American president, he is also the first to openly support LGBT equality. For someone like me, that this is happening while I’m alive, that I was born in time to see it and take part in it is so amazing. What does it look like when the things of old start to fade away, stone-faced rules and barricades that no one has ever rolled back before because they simply couldn’t imagine what was on the other side? It doesn’t look as frightening as we’ve come to imagine the face of the unknown. It looks like a room full of happy kids dancing and heaving shredded printer paper into the air. It looks like the memory of a green-bordered home with an open door. It looks like a clear glass vase filled with flowers of every color. It looks like the face of a man in whose eyes we are reflected. All of us; those who love him and those who hate him. The foremost duty of a president.

    Tomorrow things will be serious again. Tomorrow the work of the newly elected officials and laws will begin. Tomorrow the pundits will start flapping their lips; tomorrow the barrage of Donald Trump-esque tantrums will no doubt take social media by storm. Tomorrow there will be moaning from the pulpits to the prisons that America is going to hell because love is spreading like a virus. Tomorrow the hate will be back, gnawing at the edges of our lives. But not tonight. Tonight is for elation. Tonight is for my father’s dreams, my dreams. Tonight is for immense gratitude. Tonight is a million yellow balloons whirling up into the air like a crowd of fireflies, each one a soul, each soul a star, an impossible brightness in the sky.
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