Dan and I spent election night camped out in front of the computer and TV, watching returns, obsessing over projections, knowing that we might not get answers until morning, but hoping things would look clear before we went to bed.
While I refreshed and refreshed the NY Times electoral map, despairing over the lack of data from the bluer parts of Virginia and the widening gap that seemed to favor McCain, I pinged back and forth with my friend Angela over Facebook IM. At one point she asked me why it mattered so much to me that Virginia's electoral votes go to Obama if he was projected to win the entire country. I believe she used the word "obsessed."
As I watched the votes from Northern VA, Richmond, Norfolk, and Newport News start to roll in, and the gap reverse, and narrow, and then saw the state turn pale blue (blue!), I tried to explain it to her.
Aside from four years in Maryland during Dan's residency, I have lived in Virginia for my entire adult life and all of my adolescence as well. As long as I can remember, I've felt like a speck of liberal lint on a vast conservative bearskin rug. Being in a "blue state" means not feeling like my vote doesn't count any more. It means that I actually got to help put our next president in office, rather than being part of the discarded chaff. It means I can look around my neighborhood and not feel alone. It means that even in Henrico County and Richmond City, which are plagued by racial tensions and religious bigotry, maybe there is hope for equal rights for all of our citizens.
When I moved to Virginia in 1988, I was greeted by kids on the bus with the question, "are you Yankee or Confed'rate?" I had lived in California for most of my childhood and that question was virtually meaningless to me, but in the twenty years since I have seen how the prejudices of the past still grip this state. Even recently, I've listened to next door neighbors and even a VA Senator spout ethnic slurs against fellow Virginians with Indian ancestry. I've seen people recoil in horror when they hear the news that my family is moving into town, because, well, people move out of town, not into it, so that their children don't have to go to black schools. I've watched as 57% of my state voted to discriminate against homosexual couples. With this election, I have renewed hope that these people are not the majority, that their ignorance need not be the status quo.
So with hope in my heart, I say GOOD FOR YOU, VIRGINIA!!! and also HAIL TO THE CHIEF!