There are a lot of cynical people who assert that people just cannot change. Undoubtedly, people who make that claim are basing it on real experience. Maybe they've seen an uncle lose his fight with alcohol or drug addiction; maybe they've suffered through an abusive relationship, read the research that says that obese people can't keep the weight off or worst of all, they've endeavored to change themselves, stumbled and lost faith in their own personal ability to alter the course of their lives.
No matter how valid their experience, the trouble is that it's limited. It fails to take into account the resiliency of the spirit and the capacity of the individual to persevere. The truth is that sometimes people do change. They change for the better and they change for good. Their very existence is proof that change is possible. It's often painful and is almost always difficult. Usually, it's incredibly messy, but it's possible.
The truth is that millions of people are agents of positive change in their own lives and the lives of others every single day. Sometimes, change is hard for outside observers to appreciate, but every once in a while their is a transition so dramatic that it is impossible not to recognize it's existence and impact.
Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or Independent, it impossible deny the tremendous change in our nation. President Elect Obama as well as the pundits and historians will and have characterized this shift much more eloquently than I can hope to. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to reflect on the enormity of the election, what it symbolizes and how it informs my understanding of human nature. It seems impossible that we need only to reach back a few generations to touch the dark reality of slavery. That segregation and racism, lynching, oppression and impossible hate exist in our living memory is unthinkable when viewed through the lens of our current world.
A number of people contended that the change that was necessary to elect an African American president was not possible at this time. They worried about the Bradley Effect, explaining that it was possible that polls were deceptive because deep down, Americans couldn't pull the lever for a black man. I confess that I shared some of that cynicism. I have known too many people who have exerted an incredible amount of energy arguing for their belief in supremacy of whites to be certain that reason was more powerful than hate.
I would never limit the complexity of the election to the race issue. In the end, most Obama supporters were focused on economic issues, a fact which underscores the enormity of the shift in American views. Until very recently, Obama's race might have dominated his candidacy. Today, we can recognize that we have witnessed a momentous historical event, but that's not all that matters to us.
This morning, I woke up thinking about possibility and promise. I woke up believing in the ability of everyone, myself included, to change. It was and continues to be an incredible struggle, but we have made the conscious choice to change together as a nation. We have challenged established prejudices and redefined the nature of reality.
Isn't that what we are all striving for on a personal level? At 278 pounds, I couldn't imagine what life would be like at 228. All I could know was what I was living. That made success seem impossible. Today, I can't visualize life 50 pounds from now, so I must struggle to believe that it's possible. I'm must confront my own cynicism daily and believe in my own capacity for change.
I certainly hope no one feels I am trivializing Obama's victory by discussing it's implications for me on a very personal scale. I think sometimes seeing is believing. That's why we read other people's success stories and click on their progress pics. We need to see that someone has done it to believe that we can. My difficulty is that I sometimes have difficulty believing that the kind of change I need to make is possible. This victory, this obvious shift in the nation, is a powerful symbol that demonstrates that all change, even the most unlikely and glorious is possible.