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Go and Find

Well.

I triple-checked the non-profit guidelines section of the IRS website, so it is without fear that I am endangering anyone here that I say: OH MY GOSH, WE WON WE WON WE WON*.

That’s a pretty nice feeling. And an unbelievable fit with this week’s parsha of Lech L’cha. Going to a new and unexplored land is a great metaphor for what this new administration will feel like. (And it’s a nifty vox populi, vox dei moment, too.) This may be more true for some of us than others: I was sixteen years old when George W. Bush was elected. His is not the only Presidency I can remember, but is the backdrop to my young adulthood and my political consciousness, so you can see that this would be not only a big deal to my cohort—as to everyone—but a real sense of beginning something new and utterly, utterly unknown. I’m not even sure how to have a non-oppositional relationship to the leader of my nation. But I’m ready to set off and find out, you know?

Sure, it’s a little hubristic to even implicitly connect Obama to Moses—especially since we apparently think he’s Jesus or something—but we’re still flying high on election victory, and it takes my mind off the thousands and thousands of files being shredded at the White House as I type. And I think of Abraham and the wells, and the way this patient man dealt with those out to make his life difficult, and I think…we could do worse for a comparison.

The Talking Heads That Be have spent almost a week now repeating over and over that this was not a victory for the left, not a victory for progressivism, just a victory for this certain man that may or may not be traceable to the bottom falling out of our economy. To this I say…whatever. We won, and while some of us may be savoring this strange and powerful elation, there’s much to come. While I’m looking forward to knowing that all my friends and family have healthcare they can afford, and to knowing that a long and bloody war will come to an end and that those fighting it will have the support they deserve, I think I am, somewhat dorkily, looking forward to the President’s expectations of me. I’m ready to be asked to serve, and I am way not alone in that.

Voluntarism—the idea that participation in certain spheres is entirely one’s choice—is a dicey thing. We must respect people’s personal freedoms, of course, but doing away with all expectations is rarely salubrious. I’m knee deep in an overview of American Jewish history right now, and the main theme may well be “voluntarism tripped us up.” The marketplace of ideas is a wonderful thing, but when you let people loose in it, they don’t always come back. In fact, it often takes a raising of expectations to get people to engage at all. Expectations and opportunity, combined with new ways of thinking and including people, get people invested. (Wait, this is sounding familiar…)
And that’s what I’m looking forward to most.

So we set off now on a grand journey. The great work begins. I can’t wait.

–Mel Weiss

*I’m speaking here of the electoral triumph of President-elect Barack Obama. In case you hadn’t heard, or in case you were judging the success of this election on the basis of how many states denied gay folks their civil rights. We’re getting back to that sometime soon, don’t worry.