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Some personal reflection
heaven
teaberryblue
My father has been answering his work phone, "Obama Nation, how may we change you?"

Yes, I may be the last to this, but I like to sit and consider my thoughts before I write them all out.

I had a miserable day today. I'm sick, and what started as a sore throat has spread to my chest, which is typical for me-- ever since 9/11, the slightest sniffle makes me asthmatic. I left my phone at home last night when I went to cacophonesque's house, and then, today, on my way home, I realized I didn't have my keys. Blocks from my apartment, I pulled out my laptop and got enough of a wireless signal to ask Destiny if I had left them with her. No! So I went to every store I had visited the night before. No!

I had to call a locksmith. Three hours in the rain did not help my cold. I've got a doctor's appointment for tomorrow, though, so that will maybe get it all cleared. I hope.

So I cried several times today. I'm not sure how many of them were because of the frustration I was feeling, and how many were because of the immense gravity of what happened in this country last night.

Everyone here knows that I've been volunteering for Barack Obama for pretty much as long as I've been able to. And I've volunteered in many, many political campaigns in the past, but this is the first time where I felt like my presence, my part in the campaign really mattered, on some level, even before his victory was announced.

I was watching Comedy Central. No one was expecting the returns to come in that early. I wasn't. I thought it was part of the skit when Jon Stewart announced it. In some ways, it's kind of fitting that I heard this incredibly heart-stopping piece of news from the so called 'fake news' that has come to serve as some of the most real news over the past eight years.

I felt, watching John McCain's concession, that he was finally speaking as the candidate that I would have liked to see run. It was the best speech he has given through the whole campaign, and possibly the best concession speech I have ever heard in my lifetime.

Now, I was in college in 1996, on a campus where no one expected Bill Clinton to lose, and it was barely granted acknowledgment, and since then, I have lived in heavily Democratic cities during Bush wins, so I don't know if this is something that has ever happened before, but I've never seen people literally dancing in the streets over an election. It was breathtaking but also surprisingly sober for a bunch of people shouting "Yes we can!" at cars. I bought two dozen donuts to hand out toe the crowd, and the donut guy, when he found out I was doing this, gave me a half dozen more for free. There were kids asking if I could give them an Obama button-- I ran out of ones I was willing to part with-- and people genuinely in tears thanking me when I mentioned I volunteered on the campaign.





(This photo is by Kitty Laroux, a complete stranger.)

There is so much I want to say about this election. But at the end of the day, so many people criticize Obama for his pretty speeches, and all I have to say is this: What do we remember most of our past Presidents? We remember the ones who spoke to our hearts. And this is a man who will be able to do that in good times and in bad. People are saying that we don't know what kind of leader he is.

Yes, we do. He is a leader who has been able to convince millions of Americans that yes, we can.

And doing that, doing that even before he has taken office, is more than Bush has done for us. We believe in ourselves again.

Yes, we can.

We have restored that childlike and fervent belief that if we put our noses to the proverbial grindstones, we can make things happen.

And when people chanted out on the streets, into the wee hours of the morning, it was not Barack Obama's name they chanted the vast majority of the time. It was "Yes, we can." To me, that is so, so important, that people took a personal share in this victory. This was not about revering a single man. This was about the power of individuals when we come together to form a movement. The stark contrast of that to me, of watching John McCain speak, when everyone chanted for him, and watching Barack Obama speak, where everyone chanted for us, was the final statement on the difference between the two campaigns. And I do mean campaigns and not individuals.

I know this is not true for all of you reading this, but for someone who has been actively involved, yes, we can. We can do anything when we work at it.

I am hoping that our President-elect continues to call on us in the way that he has been doing throughout the campaign. I am hoping he continues to remind us all of our own abilities. I am hoping that he continues to demand the improbable of us and see us work to make it possible and then move from possible to real. I am hoping that what he has laid down for us will function as the groundwork to help all those people in real need tonight whose relationships, civil liberties, and very identities as human beings have been dealt a blow in several states to gain the same possibility that he himself has seen become a reality for so many other oppressed people within his lifetime.

And for those of you who are still cautious, yes, the message does demand hard work. We're not expecting anything to be given to us. That was not the message of this campaign. The message was always that we would have to work like hell.

Which is why I hesitate to say "Yes, we did," like so many are saying, because did implies finality. We still can. We still will. And we need to keep that attitude.

We need to. In every facet of our lives.

So today, when I was on the verge of calling my mom to cry because I was locked out, I sucked it up, told myself that if we could do what we did yesterday, I could fucking figure out how to get into my apartment.

I know that having a message is not the be all and end all of being a good leader, and I definitely believe that a message requires the substance to back it up, but you know what? I think right now, I'd just like to talk about the message. The campaign is done. The changes may or may not come, but even in the face of valid criticism that one can't lead on a message alone, I think somebody's got to say, yes, but the message is inherently and powerfully good.

Oh, yeah, and PS, Pastor Conrad? Allah and Buddha and Hindu just kicked your God's butt. I don't know which God that is, since my God loves everybody.

I know this post is a long post, but that's what happens when I think.

I was reminded of three conversations I have had with my mother, at different points in my life.

In 1984, I was six years old. That was the first Presidential election where I was old enough to know what was going on, and Geraldine Ferraro, a woman who had personally done some exceptional things for my family.

I understood the importance of that, of what the first female Vice President would be, because then, people would still so often attach male pronouns to so many positions of power and important careers. And my mother explained to me, at that time, the female leaders and the black leaders of the Civil Rights movement and the Women's Lib movement. My mother said to me then that she didn't think Ferraro would win. I remember her telling me that she believed we would elect a Black man as President before we elected a female President, and she explained that she felt that way because the Civil Rights movement began first and really inspired the Women's Lib movement and showed the way for a lot of female activists (of which my mother was one). She said that because of watching that history unfold, she felt that our choice to elect would mirror that earlier history. And this was something she explained to a six year old.

In 2005, my mother railed at me about how my generation is not activist enough. And I was mortified to discover that she thought I wasn't, considering the amount of active volunteerism I'm involved in.

And then I realized the difference, and I explained it to her. In the 60s and 70s, when activists wanted to be heard, that's just what they did-- railed at the status quo. They broke the rules, broke the laws. Their movement was effectively an army. Yes, if my mom were running for office, they would call her an unrepentant terrorist.

We're not, I told her. But that doesn't mean we're not activists. We simply don't fight against the powers that be-- we work within their systems, work around them, play quietly by the rules and change things from the inside.

She voiced skepticism that that would ever work.

The next conversation follows that up. When I was volunteering for Obama during the primary, she said that she couldn't help feeling like Barack Obama was my generation's George McGovern.

Right now I just want to say, look, Mommy. My activism worked.

Now let's get to work on giving those unalienable rights to everyone. And then, maybe, it'll take less than 44 years to elect a 47-year-old gay president.

That is the most touching post I have read in a very long time. You are an amazing, amazing person, Tea.

<3 That is very sweet of you. I wish I could say it was not making me tear up again.

Lovely post here. You really sound very inspiring.

And I have to agree about how I am upset over the passing of those questions on the ballots in California and Florida and especially Arkansas. It feels a bit like the silver cloud has a gray lining to it. But I am just going to keep the feeling of hope going that those things can be changed. I know I'm not looking to get married now but if I ever want to I am hoping that it will be legal everywhere for me to do so.

The Arkansas bill horrifies me because not only are they denying children a loving family, but they are denying the ability to have a child to so many straight people who have chosen not to marry for so many other reasons simply so that gay men and women can't have children. Like, how bigoted do you have to be that you are okay with excluding what is probably a much LARGER group just to exclude these people? And that's not to say that excluding straight unmarried couples is worse, it's just that they're willing to do that if it means getting to exclude gay couples, which speaks volumes to the magnitude of their hatred. It's like cutting off your face to spite your nose, and yes, I flipped the adage on purpose.

I am getting ready for work, so I couldn't read through all of this yet...but I just had to say that I agree with you when you say "he was finally speaking as the candidate that I would have liked to see run." Yes! That was the John McCain that should have run all along. It was nice to see his true self again. Also, I believed him to be sincere in saying that he would do all he could to help Obama during his presidency. Here's hoping that's true!

I would actually really like Obama to make an effort to actively include John McCain in this new political face of Washington that he is professing to create. Acknowledging that this is the man that 46% of the country, and that this is the man that the opposing party would have liked to see run the country would be a great step.

First of all, you're a fucking awesome writer.
Second, your dad makes me smile.
Third, you and Destiny are freaking hot.

Finally, bring on the hard work. I feel invincible. I feel, for the first time in my paltry 6 years of voting, that there is someone in power who not only represents me, but understands me. And I'm willing to work as hard as I have to in order to make his promises, the promises of this generation, come true. I didn't volunteer like you did, nor was I involved from the beginning. But the first time I heard Obama speak, I knew he was the person who should be running my country.

1) Thank you <3
2) He makes me smile, too.
3) We know I mean, thanks!

And yes! That is exactly it! This election proves that it is the masses that can change things when we put our minds to it, and we cannot now depend on or expect one man to do it all by himself, even from the highest office in the nation. He didn't get there all by himself, and he acknowledges that wholeheartedly.

This is a wonderful post! It touches on a lot of the things I have been thinking about too.

I've been a political cynic all my adult life--my first election was the 2000 election, and the guy I supported didn't even get to run. I did support John McCain in 2000 because he talked about changing things. His 2008 campaign was especially hard for me to watch. The candidate I supported in 2000 was gone; instead, we had the neocon conservative attack machine my cynicism was born with.

For a candidate like Barack Obama to make me believe again that things could change? It was a feat beyond words that I definitely distrusted at first. I didn't believe him when he declared his candidacy, but the more I watched and listened, the more I found someone I could finally believe in. He broke my cynicism. It isn't "Yes We Can," anymore-- it's Yes We Will. The next four (and hopefully eight!) years may not be a utopia, but it will be better.

Edited at 2008-11-06 01:54 pm (UTC)

I have had this conversation with a lot of people. I am pretty much the youngest a person can be to have voted in 1996. I am pretty much the youngest a person can be to have voted in an election that wasn't deliberately stolen in back rooms by elections officials. I am pretty much the youngest a person can be and not be an utter cynic about Presidential politics. I think a lot of people of our generation, and especially the people who are about ten years younger than me, who are voting for the first time this year, are incredibly, incredibly cynical about the political process and about politicians in general. I know so many people who said they weren't voting because they just couldn't trust the messages of any politicians, that they believed that no matter what they said during the campaign, they would all be the same.

I very much agree about John McCain's performance in this election. I would have voted for him in 2000. I believe that we would be a better country today if he had been our 43rd President. I remember during the primaries, a lot of Democrats and more liberal people said that we needed Huckabee to win the primaries because McCain would have a better chance of winning the general election. And I argued that no, I would rather have McCain win, because I would actually be comfortable with it if he became President, even though the Democrats were so strong this year that I would have voted for one of them.

Midway through the campaign, I no longer felt that way. He had done a complete 180 from where he stood eight years ago, and that was pretty soul-crushing.

I was pretty skeptical of Obama's campaign for a while early on, too. I always liked the guy, but I was like, um, dude, you are too young and too new to be doing this, you're being too much of an idealist...I was afraid he was going to turn into a new Dennis Kucinich. I love Kucinich, but he's got to stop running for President; he's much better off where he is, where he can do things like draw up impeachment papers and propose that we need a Secretary of the Peace. But then I realized that maybe he was the right man to follow up President Bush, that maybe we needed some effing idealism.

Which is why I hesitate to say "Yes, we did," like so many are saying, because did implies finality. We still can. We still will. And we need to keep that attitude.

*applauds*

I was only about 9 or so when Clinton was first elected, but I was following the elections in my own way, and I don't remember spontaneous celebrations outside the White House. This is either new or a rebirth of something older.

Yeah, I don't remember anything like this ever happening before. To see so many people celebrating the political process? In a country and a generation that are supposed to be jaded beyond our history and years?

Yes, we can.

The same euphoria happened here in Seattle; since I come from a Republican state which has no thoughts of slowing down and now live in a pretty polarized state, it was not anything I expected to see, either. Apparently three or four parties on the hill piled into one happy riot.

Now let's get to work on giving those unalienable rights to everyone. And then, maybe, it'll take less than 44 years to elect a 47-year-old gay president.

Also: Amen.

ETA: I feel like I should clarify my own polarized comment above: WA state is pretty divided now, though the majority of the voters do live in more populous counties and are Democrat. Still, though, few of us believed that we'd retain our Dem governor on Tuesday, due to the divide and new sort of resurgence of Republicans in Puget Sound, but thankfully that didn't happen either. There were a lot of cross-the-board victories and I hope that we all continue to see how close we can come to falling on our faces if we don't do participate and change things ourselves.

Edited at 2008-11-06 03:50 pm (UTC)

Yeah, I actually know a bit of this from the other side, as I have a good friend who was voting for both Obama and your Republican gubernatorial candidate. I think that's very much the way a lot of the more liberal states actually are in the whole country-- a lot of New York is fiercely conservative, but you'd never know it for New York City.

<3333

And thank you for standing up for our generation. Starting in middle school, I was so worried that we'd be a complacent generation, caring more about gadgets and pop stars than Real Things, but then in high school (the early 2000s) I realized that it's just that we have a different approach-- we work inside the system, we volunteer on campaigns, and those that aren't active in politics are active in community service.

I'm proud of Obama winning for many, many reasons. But one of them, I have to say, is seeing how young people got out, made a difference, and were given attention.

I think in some ways we are a complacent generation, but not necessarily in a bad way. I think we trust that the system will work for us in a way that our parents did not-- they saw the system as something bad that needed to be taken down. And our response to the part eight years was not that the SYSTEM was the problem, it was that the people in charge of the system were corrupt-- we understood the difference. I am so proud of us for managing what our parents couldn't-- we elected a President who is aligned with the ideals of our generation, and convinced the older generations, who had no reason to trust this newcomer and every reason to be skeptical, that these ideals were the right ideals for now.

routed here by bunnymcfoo...

thanks for this. can I repost?

I absolutely agree that this is just the beginning of the hard work that we all must do to have the nation we want.

I wonder about your mom's comment that this generation isn't "activist enough." I think we grew up with images of people getting hit with water from fire hoses, and brilliant, charismatic leaders being assassinated... and I think we wondered if there was something we would die for. I'm not sure that we came up with an answer, collectively. but there were 200,000+ people in the streets of new york city in march 2003, protesting bush's impending decision to attack iraq. there are marches against the School of the Americas every year in Fort Benning, Georgia. There are disarmament events every year. and the word "recycle" is in the public discourse because of young activists in the early 90's.

I think, more and more, that this generation wants something to live for: the promise of a better world, the promise of a better america. the promise of social and economic justice - not just for americans, but for third world countries as well. Obama has articulated that promise in a way we haven't seen before in our lifetimes.

I think also that the press aided and abetted the protesters from the 60's and 70's in a way that would never happen now. cause the press is about selling newspapers and ad time on air. not about news, or world-changing events. that's a huge difference as well.

I was at that protest, actually!

I questioned her at the time. She said that that was the prevailing feeling among her former activist friends from the 60s and 70s-- and I agree with you, in a large part. There are SO many protests in NYC for someone who wants to take part, but they get very little press unless it's a Union protest that directly affects service to citydwellers or commuters. But I also feel like we have perfected forms of activism that our parents couldn't even imagine-- I've been actively involved with MoveOn PAC since its inception in late 2000 during the election hullaballoo. I've been actively involved in several internet campaigns. I've worked on art projects to benefit Amnesty International and FilmAid, and I think, most importantly, I've worked on this campaign. I think this campaign has perfected a kind of activism that relies on positivity and attraction rather than negativity and detraction, and I think that's part of why they don't necessarily realize that it IS activism, especially in the smaller ways that it has effected change til now. I noticed in your comment that you said "die for" talking about the activism of the 60s and "live for" talking about the activism of now, and I think that is incredibly important to note.

Oh, and yes, absolutely, link, repost, whatever you like.

Edited at 2008-11-06 06:38 pm (UTC)

This was beautiful. Thanks for writing it.

First, I <3 you and miss you and should talk to you soon.

This whole election process has made me feel incredibly optimistic about my country and my fellow Americans for the first time I can think of. I'm proud of us.


I am proud of us, too.

And I <3 you and miss you. But I kinda have bronchitis? SO talking on the phone would be bad. I can barely call my mom to tell her when to pick me up for the doctor. I will talk to you soon though <3

Great post!

Also, I want to point out that over here, on this side of the ocean there was a resounding YES.

I think in part it felt like 'finally we can talk to the US again and not treat them as possibly hostile fucktards'

Most of us WANTS to like America, we really do. If nothing else, you've gained such a HUGE credibility boost with this choice.


your dad is awesome, as is the rest of your post.

Thanks! I love my dad; he came home today (I'm visiting my parents) and started singing "I AM BARACK! I AM OBAAAAAMA! And Barack feels no pain! And Obama never cries..."

(Deleted comment)
Wow, thank you. I don't know if I always come across that way-- sometimes I worry that I swear too much, but I do try to be thoughtful and careful when I'm posting on things I consider important.

First of all, this was the most touching and well-written post on the election that I've yet read. Thank you for writing it and for being who you are.

Second of all, I agree about McCain's speech. It really gave me some newfound respect for him and I hope his supporters listened to it and really heard what he had to say.

Third of all, ???

Profit!

Edited at 2008-11-07 05:45 am (UTC)

The thing about John McCain that saddens me so much, and that feels like a real American tragedy is that I had a tremendous amount of respect for him in 2000. I wanted to see him get to the general election, but I was a registered Democrat at the time-- I had been volunteering for Howard Dean during the primaries. He used to always be the guy who gave that concession speech. I know he's been involved in some shady stuff like the Keating scandal, but that was before I was really politically aware, so my personal introduction to him was in 2000. If McCain had been running against Kerry, I might have considered voting for him.

And then this election came, and I really wanted him to get the nomination again, because of all the Republican candidates, he was the one I respected the most, who had a reputation as a centrist...and then he started his general election campaign. And it was as nasty and gloves-off as I've ever seen. It was the kind of campaign he had promised us he would end. And that was heartbreaking. It was like the moment the election was over, he could go back to being the John McCain we used to know.

Thanks for your kind comments about my post.

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