"If I should need to name, O Western World, your powerfulest scene and show. ... I'd name — the still small voice vibrating —America's choosing day."
—Walt Whitman 1884
"I was reared to believe that voting is a civil sacrament."
—Mark Shields 2008
This "choosing holy day 2008," we the people have peacefully elected a head of state for the 56th quadrennial time. We lived the constitutional miracle of Philadelphia one more time. There were no armies in the streets. There were no tanks surrounding the Capitol or radios going blank with static. The political battle, Walt Whitman's "swordless conflict," is now spent. Today we all need to beat the posters into plowshares and come together.
With the balloons popped and the signs beginning to blow down, this is the moment for the new president and also for us to become again one people and one country. Whitman described this unity: "For every atom belonging to me as good belongs to you." We Americans all possess the same atoms. Elements bind together to make molecules. Cells are built from molecules. Cells create organs and organs make the body. Individuals make families, families populate communities, towns form states. The whole population is the complete soul of this nation, not the hand saying to the leg: I have no need of thee. There is no red; there is no blue. It is only the same blood.
We speak too often in this country of diversity. Politics exploits it: white and black, north and south, rich and poor. The negative rhetoric emphasizes differences and feeds on it. I do not like that word or thought. It is divisive. It is true we are an amalgamation of all nations and peoples and faiths of this earth. Yes, we have a great variety of colors and thoughts and minds, but we should not be divergent in our mutual desire to do what is right and good for this land and all its inhabitants.
Variety unlike diversity for me describes this mixture without the forced feeling of hostility or finding the contrast, not the similarities. Partisan polarity has been the poison of these past years, and we and our country have all been sickened by its toxicity. The focus now needs to be on solving problems that affect us all. Righting financial misdeeds and mistrust, judicial misadventure and military mistakes will be tasks for the new president.
These particulars combined have lead a world leader to say that the lack of respect that the world holds for the United States is because as the sole super power we failed to serve the world. A servant-leader can lead the hike on a repentant trek up to the moral high ground that we have recently abandoned for expediency or greed.
Accompanying unity, there needs to be accountability to all of us. He is our president; he is not our savior or the great wizard of Oz. He is not the tooth fairy to grant a wish to everyone. He is our commander in chief. There are all sorts of battles to fight, but the enemy is the challenge, not each other. He is not my president — to the loyalists — nor is he your president — if part of the loyal opposition. He is our president, of our country.
This election is a change like a Shenandoah flood that carves a new channel of flow. The new path before us is the opportunity to rebuild, reconnect and recommit to a life of civility and social justice and freedom for all.
Whitman wrote, "What place is besieged and vainly tries to raise the siege/Lo, I send to that place a commander, swift, brave and immortal."
America has been besieged and our new president is mortal and will make mistakes, but I hope that we have sent him to Washington to be a commander, swift and brave.
So Mr. Barak Obama, Mr. president-elect, God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.
Joseph Cramer, M.D., is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, practicing pediatrician for more than 25 years and an adjunct professor of pediatrics at the University of Utah. He can be reached at email@example.com.