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Sarai and I were away from any news sources for about an hour and a half last night, just as the election returns started coming in. We saw the first handful of results, including Obama taking PA, but then nothing until after 8:00 when our class let out. We were on our way home to change clothes before heading over to Stacy’s place for her election returns party and were nervously wondering how the numbers were looking. About halfway home we were stopped at a red light when the car next to us started honking. We looked over to see a woman yelling into a cell phone, laughing, and honking the horn. Good sign, we thought. Maybe something exciting happened?

We were at home for maybe five minutes, just long enough to change and get out the door again, but about a minute after getting there we heard our next door neighbors yelling. On our way to Stacy’s house we saw people in the streets everywhere, yelling, talking on cell phones, and one guy in his front yard firing off a roman candle. Even the solitary people walking on the sidewalks all seemed to be on the phone.

It was pretty obvious what was happening and when we arrived at Stacy’s and asked, “Did we miss anything?” everyone just stared at us. It turns out McCain had just conceded and Obama was declared our 44th president. We missed the announcement but were there in time to hear McCain’s concession, Obama’s acceptance speech, and partake of the delicious Sarah Palin memorial baked Alaska, which was splashed with high-proof rum and set on fire (from my favorite Berkeley ice cream shop, Ici).

Obama elected president

A couple weeks ago Sarai and I were wondering if we’d ever see an atheist elected president. We decided this was unlikely, unfortunately, but a year ago I might have said the same thing about any non-white Christian male. I’m still in something of a state of shock.

On the way home we drove past the Berkeley Obama campaign office and the street was packed with people, yelling, cheering, and high-fiving the honking drivers as we slowed to work our way through the crowd. Closer to home, we found an impromptu street party a block from our apartment and after parking the car we walked over to check it out. It was basically a smaller version of the one at the campaign office and consisted of two separate groups of people who converged on this completely random small intersection, plus assorted passers-by like ourselves who just stopped by to hang out. This went on until about midnight when it started breaking up and we headed home.

Election-night street party

Election-night street party

(more street party pictures)

In other California news, Proposition 2 passed. It could be better, but anything that will improve conditions in factory farms is a good thing, even if it still leaves lots of problems. Proposition 4, the attempted end-run around abortion rights, was defeated, but barely.

Not all is rosy, however. Despite electing our first black president, bigotry is alive and well, as evidenced by the passing of California Proposition 8, which enshrines a “man and woman” definition of marriage into the state constitution. So much for the “liberal left coast” I hear so much about. On the other hand, this is so blatantly discriminatory that I don’t see how it could not be overturned. Gay marriage bans were also passed in Florida and Arizona, and Arkansas banned same-sex couples from adopting or participating in foster parent programs. My only hope is that the next eight years (there, I said it!) will see this country dragged into the 21st century, kicking and screaming if need be.

Despite these few setbacks, today is a beautiful day.