The New World
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Just after the election, I read a quote from a woman in France who said, "I think America is re-becoming a new world." All week long that phrase rang musically in the ear of the Urban Man as he went looking for the new world right here in L.A.
Tuesday night, after the returns, I rushed down to the Century Plaza — long a Republican bastion, but just then occupied by thousands of Dems. Because it was a new world, I parked my car by simply driving it up onto the sidewalk; and once in line with the giddy crowd, I dropped all pretense of journalistic distance and joined in the chants. As we surged past our only remaining opposition — cheerful firefighters in yellow waterproofs — it seemed like we were finally entering a much-delayed future, not just the front door of the Century Plaza, but at long last, the century itself.
Down in the ballroom, the young of all races wore torn jeans and waved American flags, a sight which should make the most Republican heart sing…I mean, even if the very hip were proud of their country for the first time in their lives, it was an inarguable advance for patriotism.
Huge screens replayed the man's speeches. Big posters displayed that stylized image of his serious face. And lo, I got a chill to realize that it was the first time in my life that I was not repelled by political iconography, that I welcomed the big posters without irony. It was a shock, but a shock I briefly celebrated.
Like everything Obama, the event was extremely well organized, from security to drink tickets to a smooth transfer of power among DJ's and break-dancers. Is this the future, I wondered: hip yet organized, capitalist yet cooperative? Is that too vague for a new order?
Once out on the dance floor, I went looking for metaphor. Like many, I wanted to shimmy off my old skin and grow a new one for the new world. But the music wasn't really the shimmying kind. Plus I was wearing my good leather jacket and didn't want to lose it in the fray. That's when I thought I saw the New World lifted up laughing onto someone's shoulders. She was waving one of those yard signs that looked like an American flag emblazoned with the word "Hope." But when I tried to push my way closer, she was suddenly lost in the crowd, and the Urban Man felt a moment of…uncertainty.
Sure enough, A few hours later, President Medvedev of Russia announced that he would defy America and base Iskander missiles on the border with Poland.
U.S. troops, responding to a Taliban attack, accidentally bombed a wedding party in southern Afghanistan.
Wednesday morning, the market fell into another grim tailspin.
On the radio, conservative hosts were back at their job of sowing rancor and distrust.
Me, I also had to return to my day job: A colleague from India had come for a chat with our L.A. team, and though we optimistically discussed the election results, I did not embrace him or shout.
Still, as we crowded in a car and drove to lunch, I pressed my face to the window, and thought I could see the new world peeking through. In a schoolyard, three black girls raced with apparently uncontrolled happiness. At a crosswalk, a white man walked with inexplicable joy.
Once we were seated at the Overland Café and began to discuss global outsourcing, I noticed that the woman taking our order was brimming over. She was, like all Americans, of beautifully mixed and indeterminate race. She asked loudly, "How's your day?" and I shouted back, "Absolutely terrific, how's yours?" At this, she seemed ready to laugh and cry…and yes, as my colleagues studied the menu, she and I exchanged that look — you know, that post-election 2008 look I'm still seeing a week later, the look that says, "Whatever good or bad happens next, you and I both know we're living in a new world."
Copyright © 2008 Marc Porter Zasada. All rights reserved.
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