I really hope he wins.  I don’t know if there’s anyone who can stitch this fractured patchwork of a country back together, but if there is, it’s probably him.  Comes from the middle of the west, not the heartland but at least the lungs or liver, son of an immigrant and a single mother, multiracial, educated–Obama’s story sounds like the kind you’d hear on NPR during “This American Life”.  He talks to inspire, and that’s something I think we’re lacking these days.  I’m not sure I buy everything he promises–after living in two states with incarcerated former leaders, I don’t hold much faith in what politicians say–and I wish he’d stand up more for what’s right and worry less about what’s going to be popular.    But when every opinion poll seems to shift with a stiff breeze and the color of a necktie at a debate appears to be crucially correlated with voters’ perceptions, I guess I understand why he’s trying to play it safe.

Still, I really hope it doesn’t backfire.  I don’t know anymore what “the average American” wants, because living in a blue-state, blue-collar bastion and a city where “minorities” outnumber the silent majority, my views are probably more than a little skewed. I’d like to believe I live in a country where longtime Democrats like my grandmother won’t vote against Obama just because he’s black.  I’d like to believe most people possess enough awareness and a long enough attention span to remember what happened after 9/11,  after Enron, after Abu Ghraib, after the last election, after Katrina…But I’m not sure that these wishes are realistic, or just idealistic.

I remember what it was like last time.  Too young to vote, I helped register other students at my school and then burned with frustration as state after state fell to Bush.  The electoral map showed a continent divided, narrow bookends of blue bracketing a stubbornly red expanse, and nobody really talked about recounts anymore.  I wondered whether it would change, especially when scandals started popping up left and right and when Katrina and Jena laid bare the terrible results of centuries-old racism and poverty.  I wondered whether I’d be proud of my country again without reservation.  If Obama wins on Tuesday, I think I will be.  Because if folks across America, black and white, young and old, actually vote for him, that’s the real sign of hope: not that Obama himself is some Superman or messiah who can transform everything, but that we as a nation are willing to change.  We can lead ourselves to a better place if we can overcome our differences, or at least I hope so.

Please vote, but don’t stop at voting–there’s so much more to do outside the curtain of that booth.