Snuggled firmly between Tibet and India is the world's newest democracy, a tiny country called Bhutan, where last Thursday, a very young and handsome man had a colorful raven-topped crown placed upon his head by his father, officially anointing him the fifth Dragon King of Bhutan. Oxford educated Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck of the Wangchuck Dynasty is, at 28, the youngest head of state in the world and will preside over a country where success is measured by the Gross National Happiness, or GNH, as it were.
The strapping new Dragon King, who The Associated Press described as having “Elvis-like hair,” has promised to balance modern policies with traditional philosophies, thereby ensuring the GNH remains high in his homeland, where television was un-banned in 1999. This was a crucial step toward the modernization of Bhutan, but it came with a gentle warning: Too much TV can be detrimental to GNH. You certainly don't go to Oxford 'cause you watched a lot of it.
It should come as little surprise when I say that Nov. 4, 2008, culminated with a dramatic explosion of my own personal GNH. I hit the jackpot of happiness that night. I won the lottery of love. Sort of like that carnival game when you swing a big mallet-thingy onto a platform, the impact forcing a rubber ball to shoot to the top of a poll and ring a loud bell. Well, this election was the mallet-thingy, and that bell was my bliss.
Overcome with emotion—and probably due in some small part to the consumption of obscene amounts of champagne straight out of the bottle and later, regrettably, some tequila—I risked living the rest of my joyous days as a registered sex offender. With my husband and four friends, I ran through the streets of North Park, indecently exposed, in nothing but running shoes, white over-the-knee socks with black stars and two strategically placed Obama stickers. Incidentally, those stickers are made to stick, boy. Owwwch! is all I'll say about their removal.
Now, perhaps the emotion that precipitated my hurling of caution into the wind was due to the Herradura. Or perhaps not. Because, the thing is, I'm still exhibiting never-before-recorded (at least not in my family) levels of euphoria.
And I'm not talking about the kind induced by something you eat, drink, smoke, snort or shoot. I'm talking about an organic, spiritual, big-picture, comprehend-the-gravity-of-it gross national happiness.
I'm talking about the kind of ridiculous glee that makes me want to put a giant framed photo of our next president above the fireplace, or to wonder whether our awesomely awesome new first lady will jump up and down on the presidential bed her first night in the White House (because, you know, I would), or to obsessively read stories about where Malia and Sasha (whom the Secret Service has dubbed “Radiance” and “Rosebud”) will go to school come January and what they will name their new puppy.
My GNH is an unfamiliar yet overflowing emotion so abundant that I find myself lusting after Rachel Maddow, hanging on her every chuckled word. I imagine being Maddow's girlfriend and staring into her mischievous brown eyes while she speaks of Holy Mackerel moments. (I'll fess up now that I have a thing for Maddow. Rachel thinks Sean Connery was the best James Bond; I think Sean Connery was the best James Bond. Rachel loves a crier; I'm a crier. Political girl-crush complete.) This GNH is causing some childish and geekish, if not all together, losery behavior.
Like millions of people across the country and, in fact, around the globe, I thrill at the reparative prospects of President-elect Barack Obama so thoroughly that I weep on and off throughout any given day—which has made me question whether I'm turning into my father-in-law. Hopefully, I won't grow hair on my back.
I think I'm in shock, really. I didn't believe we would elect Obama. Did. Not. Believe. It. I doubted that Americans had it in them and, when it comes right down to it, I had good reason to be skeptical: Alaskans, as of this writing, have elected a convicted felon to the Senate. In Minnesota, a McCarthy-esque woman who accused her colleagues in the House of being “anti-American” was sent back to D.C. for anther term. And, most pitifully, California, Arizona and Florida passed reprehensible legislation against our gay brothers and sisters, citizens of this nation.
But the silver lining is visible in the form of Barack Obama. He looks different than any president we've ever had, and it is impossible to see him without being immediately conscious of the history behind him and the progress he embodies. If he represents any one thing, it is the fact that change is inevitable; it will come. It takes time and effort. But it will come. As Newark, N.J., Mayor Corey Booker told Maddow last week, “There is no right or left. Only forward or backward.” Americans have chosen the forward trajectory.
The 19th-century French philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville once said, “The greatness of America lies not in being more enlightened than any other nation, but rather in her ability to repair her faults.” Maybe we're not as happy as the citizens of Bhutan. We've gotten ourselves into a deep hole, and now it's time to start digging our way out. But we've turned our backs on fear and chosen possibility. We've offered up one gigantic apology to the rest of the world and the promise of a better, more humble and self-aware America by electing our own Dragon King. By so doing, we've exponentially increased our Gross National Happiness, if only for the honeymoon period. I'll take it.