Monday, November 03, 2008

Morning in Chicago

I am attending the annual meeting of the American Academy of Religion, held at the Chicago Hilton Towers, a sprawling old hotel. I haven’t had much chance to stay in my room because I have been walking and walking the halls and exhibit areas making connections with people and trolling for ideas for journalists and publishers. When I am finally in my room at long day’s end, I don’t sleep well. Yet this is not that bad a situation.

I can look east out the windows of my ninth-floor room and reflect on and admire Lake Michigan and Chicago’s well-planned lakeshore, or I can look south and watch traffic industriously flow and lights turn green and red in coordinated sequence. Right now, the day before the 2008 presidential election, I also have a bird’s eye view, quite literally, of the big tent in Grant Park where presidential candidate Barack Obama, my senator, and 65,000 supporters are planning to party like it’s 2008 tomorrow night. It will be a celebration, or not, although the odds and polls favor the former. The big white tent complex looks like a scene from Camelot. Is it OK to say that, I asked a colleague in describing the tent, wondering if I could invoke the Kennedy-era mystique.

Is it OK to say that Wednesday will be a new morning in America? That’s a Reagan phrase, and would definitely not be associated with the Obama camp. But regardless of who wins, Wednesday will be a new morning. I think of it as literally, and metaphorically, true, prompted to this observation because I watched the sun rise this morning over the Obama party tent. It was a deep pink rectangle peeking out of a grey-blue bank of dawn clouds that sat at the horizon. The sun rose; well, of course, it does that every day. Every day is a new morning, a fact of life and nature always taken for granted and never taken for beautiful unless one takes the time to stop and look, Or one happens to be on the ninth-floor of a lakefront hotel. Or one happens to be finishing up the graveyard shift. Or one happens to be a student finishing an all-nighter. Most people don’t pay attention to a new morning, but it happens every day like clockwork.

I am looking forward to a new morning on Wednesday. These are not the greatest times for America. People are losing jobs, losing savings. The call for change resonates very powerfully in these circumstances. It could be also that people have been losing hope. I haven’t. I know I can’t afford to lose hope; I’m not sure anybody can. When something is really lost, you don’t even know it’s missing.

Since I was awake early, I got up and watched the sunrise. That seemed like an excellent time, and place, to pray: I hope it is a very new morning on Wednesday. God, please let my candidate win, I prayed. God doesn’t vote, but I will, doing my itsy-bitsy part to bring about the outcome I pray for. I was going to say do my part in bringing about God’s will, but I’m not sure I can say that either without being misunderstood. All I really mean is my vote counts in the larger scheme of many millions of votes, and it’s supposed to be a heck of a vote turnout. There are large forces at work.

I look forward to voting and I look forward to a new day on Wednesday. I will take neither of those for granted and continue hoping.

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