Two weeks ago, when I mailed off my absentee ballot, I did so with the anticipation of an impending Obama victory, where I’d cry tears of joy at the most important accomplishment a black American could attain in a country where we, for so often and for so long, were not counted as part of “we the people.” I would play Sam Cooke’s bittersweet “A Change Gon’ Come” and call my friends and family back home and hoot and holler and say silly stuff like “us got us a pres’dent, nah!” (I did actually call my father and say that to him).
But when November 4 rolled around, I was nursing the wounds of a three-day old heartbreak, when the day after my birthday I was told by the person I was semi-dating in Bogotá that (long story short) they were going back to their ex because they “couldn’t see a future” with me. And it’s true, my plans are to move to Brazil at the end of my current work contract. There was nothing but logic and self-preservation behind that statement, that decision. And I was crushed.
Living overseas, it’s very easy to drown in loneliness and cultural isolation. I live in a country full of black and brown people who look like me, but don’t think at all like me; where the prevailing political tendency is very much to the right; where a large number of people don’t bother to even learn my name, choosing the arguably rude appellation “el gringo” when referencing me. In fact, I live in probably the only country where the majority of the people wanted McCain to win the election; though in Colombia’s defense, much aid from the US stands to be cut as Obama works to rebuild the country from within and that assistance is the basis for their bias. But in this sometimes hostile cultural environment, I was moved by one person who showed me concern, compassion, and above all, possibilities. No regrets; it was easy to fall in love.
And when the pollsters officially handed over the presidency of the “free world” to Brother Barack, I, caught up in my own personal knot of desire, allowed the single most important political event of my lifetime and of the last forty years to pass with little more than a raised eyebrow and a “good for him.” I felt cheated out of the climactic fruition of hope and aspirations, while folks danced through tears in Times Square and in front of the White House. I was completely numb to the seismic paradigm shift whose epicenter lay, that night, in Chicago.
This, my friends, is one of the costs of exile.
And now, a week later, my wounds are healing and I can feel myself rebounding both stronger and wiser (clichés, I know), pero cada vez mejor. And I can feel, belatedly, the change radiating from up north. I can look in the mirror and see, belatedly, an All-American face where before, I only saw a nation-less, black face. Because the Face of America now looks like mine. And, belatedly but nonetheless, I can play “A Change Gon’ Come.”
Yes it is, y’all.