The extreme results of the 2010 elections were based in a call for change. Here’s the kicker, people: we’ve been changing. As a nation we have been progressing; to the place where we historically elected President Obama; someone so new and different from those who had previously held that position. And Obama who brought more change: he actually did some of what he campaigned on.
Let’s be honest about something: no one actually likes change. We tend to like things in our lives to stay just how they are. If we think change is needed, we want everyone else to change.
But change inevitably comes; and the times we live in seem to have brought more than our fair share of it. The structures of our families, our work lives, the economy, and how we relate to each other have all changed within a single generation. And when the change has been as intense as we have lately witnessed, we tend to look to our leaders to gauge how to react. And the fact is that our leaders, too, have changed.
Before the 2008 election, voters, who previously tended to be older and whiter than those in 2008, were used to candidates and leaders who looked, sounded, felt, like their fathers; familiar, and paternal. So even if they didn’t trust Washington, they may have felt they could probably trust the individual politicians to take care of things, the way their fathers did.
When President Obama came along it seemed like our leaders started to look and act more like the next generation, more like the voters’ (grown up) kids than their fathers. Leaders are increasingly people of all colors, different socio-economic classes, and from ethnicities that used to be relegated to the shadows. And they talk about things that have never been done before, like putting the cost of our wars actually into the budget.
For some voters this was invigorating. But many of the voters were not sure they could trust the nation’s decisions to these unfamiliar people, people for whom they do not have that paternalistic feeling. They decided this was not the change they meant, and wanted to take “Their America” back. Back, I presume, to the traditions and values they always knew America to stand for, but were afraid would not hold true if these unfamiliar people continued to gain power.
Only, it’s not “Their America.” And while our American values will never falter, we have progressed in what those fundamental American values mean. The fundamental American values I learned are that America is a nation based on inclusion, that all people are created equal. I believe that we are the strongest nation in the world and always shall be. We have always prided ourselves on being the most entrepreneurial and innovative country, always looking ahead with hope for better days for ourselves as individuals and as a society.
President Obama does represent change. Even if it has been imperfect, he has brought us progress on issues that most of us can agree on in one form or another, and that we have been working on for years – equal pay, access to health care, environmental issues. But President Obama is not the sole cause of change in our world, we are. While being angry with him will not help with fear of change, taking personal responsibility and staying true to our values will. But staying true to these values means we have to work together to move forward, always to better days; and not ‘take’ anything back.