It is about 11:50pm on election night and I was planning to go to bed. The "paths to victory" for my candidate, Hillary Clinton, are closing rapidly and I don't know if we will win or lose, but the tone of conversation among the pundits, my friends, and my family makes it clear. We are expecting the worst. I was going to hit the sack, rest up, and head back out tomorrow. I really was going to do that. The computer was off and the lights were out.
I want to say something that will hopefully still make sense when I look at it in the morning.
I just went into the living room to turn off the TV and I saw my son falling asleep on the couch, still waiting for Pennsylvania. When I saw him, my mind drifted back to when I was his age. It was election night and I was in the "Governor's Suite" at the Portland Sonesta Hotel. We had gathered the family along with close friends and key campaign officials to plan the exact steps that would lead to my father's concession speech in his race for governor of the state of Maine. There was silence mostly, and tears. Eventually we lined up and walked to the door, Then we slowly marched down the hall and into the elevator to the 1980's-tacky ballroom where more people waited. There was more silence and more tears. The son of the outgoing governor appeared next to me and guided me, my sister and brothers up to the riser and behind the lecturn. "It is going to be OK," he said. Then he drifted into the crowd.
I was standing directly behind my parents and slightly to the right. My mom was standing next to my dad. Then he began to talk. I don't remember much about the speech but it was one of those gracious ones. Dad had lost to a man who had been a friend and rival since high school. They had the sort of respect for each other you don't see anymore. What I do remember was watching Dad finish reading a handwritten page of his speech and then slipping it to Mom in a way that the people out in the audience--shocked and dismayed--could not see. Her hand was on his back and Dad stood as still as he could but we were all shaking.
It was one of the darkest moments of my life and I haven't really felt that way since. Now I remember it. I remember the sadness. I remember the sense that we happy few had worked so long and so hard and all had been for naught. All that we had hoped and dreamed wasn't going to happen after all. We--all of us in that hotel ballroom--had lost. In the morning we would need to face the new world. We would have to live with someone else's goals and dreams.
You know what? I remember something else, too. I cannot tell you where the voice came from. Maybe it was inside me. Maybe it was something my parents said. Maybe it came from somewhere else in the room. Whatever it was and wherever it came from I remember standing up there looking out at the people and the cameras while saying four short words to myself over and over and over again.
"So now we fight".
So now we fight. That is what rattled around in my head at the lowest of moments when I was fifteen years old. We fight for every person who stood by our side. We fight for everyone who needs someone to struggle with them or on their behalf. We stand up for that cause we believed in enough to dedicate our time, our effort and our money. We will enter this new world with a firmness of resolve and a chip on our shoulders. Dammit we were right! That rightness was--and is--worth fighting for.
You know what? Those four words have guided my life. That awkward kid in the picture is seventeen-year-old me at the 1988 Democratic convention fighting again, this time for Jesse Jackson. I sure know how to pick a winner, right? That week in Atlanta was when I heard the call to ministry. I chose to be a pastor because it gave me a voice. It gave me a way to enter into the struggle.
It is now 12:30 and I have spent more time on this than I should. The outcome is clearer now. My son is yelling at the TV. I am glad he is a fighter. We are entering another new world. There will parts of it that will truly be awful. We need to keep hope alive. We need to check in with each other. We need to stand up for each other, especially for those who will probably receive the heavy blunt end of the backlash against our shared dream. Women, Muslims, LGBTQIA, poor people, Native-Americans, African-Americans, latinx and other minority groups need every ally they can get. We cannot let the side down.
Dammit, we are still right! We will act that way. We may have lost but we are not defeated or dead. We must remember the requirements and responsibilities of a just society and we must shout them from the rooftops. We need to rush out of our houses tomorrow to continue what we began. Hold your heads high. Meet every gaze firmly and with confidence. No sulking. No hiding. Now is not the time.
So now we fight. We will be back. The truth is on our side. and in the end...
We. Will. Win.