Wednesday, November 5, 2008

After the flood all the colors came out

I meant what I said. I pledged election-related bitterness and snarkiness for only one day. Part of me felt guilty for my post yesterday because, as dooce said, she voted for Obama in part because he makes her want to be a better person. And that post really wasn't a very good example of me trying to be a better person. But like I said people, it's been eight years. Eight years.

Eight years ago I stood with my now sister-in-law here:

Right where that little blue star is. The area to the left with the fountains is Legislative Plaza in downtown Nashville (the state capital is just on the other side of the street that's running across the top of the photo). It was the location of Al Gore's election night party. It was no Grant Park, but we were a festive bunch. Large TV screens were set up around the area and as states turned blue we cheered and high-fived strangers (ahh, who knew that night would begin our national obsession with color-coded states...). At some point the state of Florida turned blue. The crowd erupted. There was hugging and dancing in the streets. But then, a little later, Florida turned red. We couldn't hear what was going on. So we waited. And waited. And waited. Somewhere in cyberspace is a picture by a Reuters photographer of my sister-in-law and me, tired and sad-faced, resting head-in-hands on one of those metal barricade fence things adorned with a giant Gore/Lieberman sign, as we stared up at a big TV screen waiting and wondering. Then it started raining. And we finally went home without any answers.

That night started a long road for me of anger and disgust - not just because of who ended up as president, but because of what that election exposed about our voting system, the kind of country we had become, and that I apparently hadn't been paying attention to any of it up to now. I was angry at our government and our country, but also at myself for having been so oblivious. Somehow we had become a country that slapped an American flag sticker on one car window while we tossed a McDonald's cup out of the other. We had become a country where patriotism was a sense of entitlement and a justification for condemning others who didn't think or look like we did. We were a country so arrogantly self-righteous about our democracy and yet willing to let our leaders obliterate the separation of church and state on a pretty regular basis. We were a country who felt it had the right to tell the rest of the world how to live and how to govern, while much of the rest of the world quietly and humbly went about providing its citizens a better education, more affordable health care, and a cleaner environment.

So yesterday when I said that I had lived with a sickening feeling for eight years, it really wasn't that much of an overstatement.

But now I feel like there's a nation wide dedication and enthusiasm for voting. That there's a new definition of patriotism. That once again we have a government of the people, by the people and for the people.

Here are some of the people I saw on Tuesday:

Volunteers of every color at the Obama offices in Nashville, who sat all day and made get-out-the-vote calls to people in other states like Iowa and New Mexico.

The 13-year old from my neighborhood (whose name escapes me at the moment) that I have seen almost daily for the past howevermany months with a tent and folding table out in front of the gas station registering people to vote, volunteering at the Obama office, standing on a street corner before school waving an Obama sign, and on election day, in charge of organizing people to stand on street corners and wave signs.

The guy getting out the vote by deejay-ing on the street corner in front of a public housing complex halfway between my office and the Obama office.

And Delores

and Phillip

and Keshia

They were three people who could have very easily stayed home and not voted rather than go to the effort to call and ask for a ride to the polls. More than 300 people volunteered to drive people to the polls on Tuesday so I met them all riding shotgun as the navigator for my stepfather and friend Mark who got on the driver list earlier than I did.

For that opportunity, and for the lack of sickness that I woke up with the past two mornings, I have Barack Obama to thank.

But you know what? George W. and all of those other people I told to "suck it" yesterday... I have them to thank too. There is no yin without yang. I don't think I could have envisioned my new sense of pride and optimism, the new possibilities for our country, the hope I have for our relationship with the rest of the world, if I hadn't endured the last eight years.

So, to everyone pictured in the post from yesterday I would also like to say, from the bottom of my heart, thank you.

Thank you for Tuesday. It was a beautiful day.


Green Girl in Wisconsin said...

One of the best days of my life--beautiful.

Carrie said...


I stood out that cool rainy night 8years ago too. I think when I got home I threw my keys against the wall. I just could not understand what happened. And the days that followed only angered me more.

I went to bed Tuesday night feeling happier than I had in a very long time!

I agree it was indeed a beautiful day.