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Election magic on Broadway
Election magic on Broadway
by Michael Melancon - Special to the SGN

It's 6:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 5, 2008, and a magnificent day is dawning.

The most amazing phenomenon happened in Seattle last night. Watching the early morning news today, I learned that it also happened in San Francisco. After the mid-evening announcement that Barack Obama had won the presidency, the streets of Seattle erupted into a huge and spontaneous street party that started independently in three separate areas across the city. The first was in downtown Seattle near Pike Place Market. The second was on the University of Washington Campus at Red Square, and the third was on Broadway Avenue, a few blocks from our home on Capitol Hill. Thousands of people were pouring out on to the streets of Seattle, hugging and kissing, and hooting and hollering and just having the best time together celebrating the election of our 44th President, Barack Obama. My partner Glenn and I were at home and saw it on TV, so we put our coats on and walked up the hill to take part in it.

There were thousands upon thousands of people. Everyone kept saying to another, "Have you ever seen anything like this?" I thought to myself, "Well, yeah," as my mind flashed on the photos I've seen of V-J Day (Victory over Japan) in 1945 when everyone took to the streets of New York to celebrate the end of WWII.

In much the same way, V-8 Day (Victory over the last eight years) was a deeply moving cultural gestalt. People were crying and laughing and hugging one another and high-fiving. The crowds were packed tighter than Bourbon Street on Mardi Gras Day, if you've ever been to my hometown of New Orleans. But the vibe in Seattle on election night was something entirely new and different; something I've never witnessed personally before. The throng was 90 percent young people. They were chanting " USA! USA!" and "O-BA-MA! O-BA-MA!" and "YES WE DID! YES WE DID!" Many people were hefting Obama signs above their heads. Others were clutching Obama election posters to their chests, his face turned outward toward the crowds who were now celebrating his victory; our mutual victory.

The crowd included a little bit of everybody; black, white, young, old, short and tall, straight and Gay, male and female, human and canine. Everyone was dancing and shouting and singing together, hugging one another and jumping up and down. At one point somebody put a large speaker on the roof of a nearby building and boomed Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" out over the crowd. The entire assemblage joined right in and sang it together, voices at full throttle:

Strangers waiting, up and down the boulevard
Their shadows searching in the night
Streetlight people, living just to find emotion
Hiding, somewhere in the night
Don't stop believing
Hold on to the feeling
Streetlight people


There were hundreds of young people waving small American flags on sticks. People were shouting, "I love this country!" A few climbed street lamps and were alternatively waving or swaddling themselves in blanket-sized American flags. There were hundreds of bottles of champagne popping and spewing all over the crowd. And we all simply looked up into the night sky smiling, letting the foamy libation cascade down on us like a gentle cleansing rain. There were fireworks and bottle rockets exploding just 50 feet overhead and sparklers fizzing brightly everywhere, right in the middle of the crowd.

You could see the new realities dawning across people's faces, thought by thought. You would hear them murmur, "How cool is this?" followed by "We elected a black president" and "Think about the Supreme Court" and "Michelle Obama is our First Lady" and lastly, with relief, "The Bush nightmare is over." These very thoughts kept running through my own mind. Hearing others give voice to my thoughts gave the whole experience a weightless, dreamlike quality.

Like a torrent from a flashflood, revelers kept pouring in from the side streets. Smaller crowds, which had initially gathered in farther corners of the neighborhood, were all converging at the intersection of Pike and Broadway. It was remarkable to see Seattle's youth expressing such positive and patriotic pride in our country. At one point, the entire crowd of thousands, with an average age around 25 or 30, spontaneously broke into our country's national anthem. The Boomers in the crowd sang along in stunned amazement, their expressions betraying their surprise that the 20-somethings A) knew all the words and B) thought "The Star Spangled Banner" was the perfect song for this moment.

Finally, Glenn and I left the intersection at about 1:30 a.m. and headed home. There were still new groups numbering in the hundreds making their way down Broadway Ave., toward what I suspect will forever be etched in the minds of those who were there as a sort of new Ground Zero. Hundreds were making their way to join thousands at the intersection of Hope and Intention.

A young woman who grabbed me by both shoulders summed it all up when she beamed. "I finally feel proud to be an American again!!" In that moment I completely "got" what our new First Lady felt when she said nearly the same thing several months ago. We all got it.

I woke up this morning and immediately flipped to the local news to see how the street party ended after we left Ground Zero. Channel 13 reported that in all that revelry, in all the ebullience and crush of the mob, in all that diversity, there was not a single act of violence or malevolence, and not a bit of damage to anything, even though there were cars parked on the streets right in the heart of the crowd. There was not one single injury and not a single arrest. In fact, the news footage closed with some of the revelers pushing brooms across the intersection to clean it all up when it was over.

I'm so happy to be right in the middle of it as the torch is passed to yet another new generation. Thinking about them celebrating last night I am reminded of Martin Luther King's last speech the night before he died. "I'm not worried about anything," he said. "I'm not fearing any man." It's exactly as Dr. King saw it when he peered hopefully into the future. It's going to be all right. It's all going to turn out just fine.

Michael Melancon is an organizational effectiveness consultant and Reiki practitioner who also practices mindfulness meditation in the tradition of Thich Nhat Hanh at Seattle Practice Center. Mike's partner, Glenn Johnson, is an executive vice president and COO with Alaska Airlines. Mike and Glenn were married in California on September 12, the 10th anniversary of their commitment ceremony in 1998. It looks as if the electorate in California has voted to change the California State Constitution to establish marriage as between a man and a woman only. Whether this will invalidate Mike and Glenn's marriage remains to be determined.

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