COLUMN: My historic evening in Grant Park

By Stephen Spector

Ticket? Check. Photo ID? Check. Disposable camera? Check. Let’s make history.

I entered the center of the universe Tuesday evening and made it out alive, but not before witnessing political history crafted by the minute.

So what does a microcosm of political nirvana look like? It can best be described as Grant Park on election night with more than 100,000 voters craving victory.

Pins, posters, hats and even necklaces fostered Barack Obama’s face. Street vendors sold T-shirts designed with his face depicted as the Lord at $10 a pop. Maybe it was a bit overboard, but then again, only in America.

Before the Illinois polls closed, cries of “Yes we can!” boomed in the streets of Chicago. The only thing missing was Obama’s outline in the night sky.

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A police officer could be found on every street corner.

Scratch that, make that five police officers on every corner. Chicago police reported that a woman slapped an officer saying that they couldn’t arrest her anymore. Yeah, it was that kind of a night.

But the Beatles weren’t in town. And no, the Oracle wasn’t dishing out free advice. It was a political rally. A rally for change. A rally for hope. A rally for democracy.

The set-up was actually quite simple: one stage, two gigantic televisions along with a few tents for the media. And somewhere between it all more than 100,000 supporters squished together.

Everywhere you looked there was someone of a different race and age. To my left was a newlywed Latino couple dying to see a president of a minority. To my right stood a plump middle-aged Caucasian man who relied on his cane to walk. I quickly learned the rules of what to say and what not to say. Taboo words, such as “McCain,” “FOX News” and “maverick” will not win you over lots of friends. Just to be on the safe side, I looked straight ahead and watched as CNN dissected the election.

Between election updates, music echoed in every corner of the park. From Oprah Winfrey to the Rev. Jesse Jackson, a sea of dancers boogied to classic Mo-town hits and Kanye West head-boppers. Obama nation was certainly alive and well.

A chorus of “boos” decorated Grant Park as the news of a McCain victory was announced. But only minutes after the big hand crossed ten, CNN jumped into breaking news, and the thousands of Obama supporters took one big, synchronized, deep breath.

Before the crowd could even exhale, it ruptured with ecstasy. The news of the Obama victory fashioned love vibrations as thousands of Democrats felt imminent liberation. Strangers hugged each other and spouses kissed. Heck, a woman I had never met before furnished a big fat smooch on my cheek.

The same crowd that only minutes before resembled a victorious World Series stadium now hushed to listen to Obama’s words. As his voice draped over the park, only the helicopters from above resonated in every direction.

Bob Dylan once said, “There’s no black and white, left and right to me anymore; there’s only up and down and down is very close to the ground.” As Obama fanatics flooded Chicago’s streets following the rally, there were no boundaries. Race was a thing of the past, and the people of the United States finally looked united. Whites danced with blacks, Latinos congratulated Asians and everyone shared the night together.