I had a dream the other night that my mother told me my vote in the presidential election didn’t count. In the polling booth made of gingerbread I looked at my ballot, voted ‘No Thank You’ on all the propositions I could see, couldn’t find Prop 8, and when it came time to pick the next leader of our country, there wasn’t a bubble for Barack Obama on my Scantron. Outraged, I went crying to my mother.
“You’re from California,” Dream!Mommy said, “why bother?”
Why bother indeed?
I hope to see an end to the Electoral College in my lifetime, so that maybe as a California Democrat I can feel that my vote actually matters, but if the 2000 election taught me anything, it’s that complacency is political poison. I am not a politico – politics makes me nauseous. I have enough to be depressed about without having to take on the problems of the country, or the world. It’s a selfish outlook, I know, but the fact is, ignorance is about safety. People who choose to be ignorant are afraid of what they might learn.
I wasn’t old enough to vote in 2000, and in 2004 I was proud to say I got all my news from The Daily Show. At college I wrapped myself in a fleecy blanket of naivete. But this year, something strange happened toward the end of the Democratic primary – I actually started to care.
Maybe it had something to do with my recent graduation, pulling the wool away from my eyes, but for the first time in my life, I sat down voluntarily to watch speeches, and I got swept up in something bigger than myself. After the convention, I agreed that if we voted for First Lady, Michelle Obama would have my vote. I found Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow on MSNBC, pundits who shared my liberal bias and said the things I was thinking. I could have discussions with other human beings about politics and actually sound like I knew what I was talking about.
And then, on the final night of the convention, I heard Barack Obama speak.
Don’t ask me what that acceptance speech was about, specifically. Other than hope, and change, I don’t remember. What I do remember is that for the first time in a long time, I watched a politician and thought, “If he was giving it, I would actually listen to the State of the Union Address.” It was powerful, it was inspiring, it was grammatically correct.
Some of my newfound passion could be attributed to wanting my place in history. This election, whatever way it goes, is unquestionably historic, and I have a chance to be a part of it. But it’s not about race, or even getting a Democrat into the White House. I’m inspired by the man himself. His calm, his intelligence, his eloquence –
Oh, okay, so Tina Fey’s Palin impression has won some of my allegiance, too.
I remember exactly where I was on 9/11. Driving to school with my mother, a breaking news announcement startled both of us, as we were listening to K-Earth 101, the oldies station. At first we thought it was a joke, but by the time we pulled into the school’s parking lot, everything had changed.
What I remember even more clearly is sitting in my AP US History class during lunch, trying to take a make-up test. The teacher had the news running on a television in the corner, and I couldn’t take my eyes off the images of the burning towers. Eventually he took pity on me.
“You can finish tomorrow, if you want,” he said. “I don’t know how we expect anyone to concentrate today.”
And for awhile, I listened to the news, and I scanned the newspapers, constantly on orange alert. I hated hearing George Bush’s Texas drawl trying to reassure me about terrorists. It wasn’t long before the fear won out, and I decided I’d rather stick my head in the sand than have to deal with everything that was happening to my country. Everyone was afraid, and fear made people crazy. Patriotism and religion were the most important qualities to have. I felt alone, so I pretended I wasn’t listening.
I’m tired of being afraid, I’m tired of being ignorant, and finally, seven years later, I don’t feel so alone. I’m with the majority now, and I have a candidate I believe in. I have the candidate who promotes unity, not the idea of pro-America and anti-America Americans. I know that if something awful were to happen, my president would be on the side of the people, not looking after his own agenda.
Even if you don’t think yours will make the difference, go out and vote, just so you can say you did. It’s a badge of honor, a right that not everyone has. Vote to make a statement about what you believe in.
That’s why I don’t care how long it takes; tomorrow, I will be casting my vote for Ralph Nader.
Quote of the Day: Rachel Maddow says it best – watch it from 3:00. I tried to imbed the video, but well, that sort of thing’s not my strong suit.
Link of the Day: Free Stuff on Election Day for Voters – Starbucks, Krispy Kremes, whatever gets you up and out.