If you make stuff – write, photograph, film, dance – now’s your chance to feature those individuals. Tell their stories. Express their fears. Make their voice heard. Do more than take crowd shots. Take on City Hall.
It’s easy to ignore a “Photoshopped” crowd shot of protestors. But it’s harder to dismiss our neighbors (or refugees) face-to-face.
Last week was your first national political election. At just over a year old, you already participated in American democracy, even if it was not directly. And as you joined me in polling booth, I feel like we had high hopes.
I put you to bed last Tuesday night feeling both sad and grateful. Sad, because maybe you wouldn’t grow up having a woman president to look up to, but grateful that you’re growing up in an America that makes it decently safe and secure to live as a woman. You have more privileges than some, but less than others. You probably have more to worry about from non-political threats.
Historically, the good news is American does grow more tolerant as the years pass by. Blacks and Latinos, while still harried and threatened, are in a better situation than when your grandparents were born. Muslims may have more to worry about. The nation still mostly fights for women’s rights. Gay and lesbian and whatever couples can legally marry. Even the furries are gaining respect (maybe).
But I still worry about the environment we’ll leave you, both in terms of nature and politics. I worry about what art and music education will be like when you’re going to school. I worry about how your peers will be treated by people who are white and scared and stupid. I worry about the America you’ll grow up in. It’s survived a lot over these 200+ years, but you never know.
It’s obvious to say it, but your world will look very different than mine does. I hope it’s for the better, and I’m going to try like hell to make it better. I hope that there will be a woman elected president, and that you’ll get to vote for her. I hope I get to vote for her, too.
It was about 4 p.m. yesterday that I stopped caring about being a participant in the election and wanted to be merely a spectator. With the highest voter turnout ever and hundreds of volunteers spread across Jackson county, helping to turn the “birthplace of the Republican Party” blue for the first time since LBJ, my modest phone-banking efforts Tuesday afternoon were strained. My ear was rubbed raw, my voice was scratchy, and I had been up since 5:30 a.m.
Besides, I had a hot pot of Election Night chili waiting for me at home. And friends, you can’t argue with that.
The election of Mr. Obama amounted to a national catharsis — a repudiation of a historically unpopular Republican president and his economic and foreign policies, and an embrace of Mr. Obama’s call for a change in the direction and the tone of the country.
It was a catharsis of sorts for me, as well, after the incredibly upsetting weekend I had. That Mark Schauer commercial I was in? The Jackson Citizen Patriot’s Chris Gautz suspected something from the beginning. How did all those unemployed people get into that factory, he wondered.
Then, on Friday, The Adrian Telegrambroke the news. Little ol’ me and my one-hit-per-day personal blog injects some extra controversy into the campaign. Suddenly I’m an “actor,” and the entire premise of Schauer’s ad is thrown into question. This weekend, the Battle Creek Enquirerpicked up the story, and Chris Gautz from the CitPat writes an “I told you so” column.
And it was all kicked off by a press release from the Walberg campaign. Someone had found my blog post, and they were telling all.
First, a confession: the whole deal was totally my fault. I should have kept my big mouth shut. Despite Walberg pulling his own shenanigans and generally being a big creep, it was naive of me to think that no one would stumble on my personal blog.
This all went down Thursday, so the rest of the weekend I kept my head down, made phone calls for the Schauer campaign, and tried to make up for whatever damage I had caused. Tuesday night I even skipped the big Democratic party at the Michigan Theatre; I just wanted it all to be over.
Luckily, Schauer won the election after the returns from the local cities – Jackson, Battle Creek, and Adrian – came in reliably for the Dems. My original thoughts behind volunteering for Schauer (Obama will win Michigan, but the 7th Congressional race would be much tighter) turned out to be spot-on, because we didn’t know Schauer won until Wednesday morning. So my little controversy amounted to little more than a blip on the local political radar, though it was enough for folks to pick on me at the Democratic office.
I spent yesterday morning at the St. John’s polling location, not far from downtown, then I came back to the Dem office to eat lunch and make calls for the rest of the afternoon. It was amazing to see such a hub of activity: Obama voters by the dozens streaming in and out (and an incredible amount of African Americans helping), phone lines buzzing, and the mood of the place steadily rising as we all felt the Change coming. A lady came up from Oklahoma to help out with the election, and one of the guys she called was so excited about the day’s events he asked her out on the spot, right there over the phone.
With the local elections now out of my hands, I went to grandma’s for a bit, and then came home to concentrate on watching CNN’s iPhone-like touchscreen numbers and listening to MSNBC’s commentary for the rest of the night, watching state after incredible state fall for Obama. I heard Tom Delay, that know-nothing fool, predict that it would be Nancy Pelosi, not Barack Obama, that takes control of the country. After Ohio went blue, my grandma called crying.
The Michigan ballot proposals, one for legalizing marijuana for medical use and one supporting stem cell research, passed in a state that, only four years ago, voted to add a one-man, one-woman marriage clause to our constitution. Incredible.
On several levels, this will be my first active, participatory election. It’s the first I’ve given my heart to a politician that had a slim chance of winning. It’s the first my name saw shame in the local newspapers. It’s also the first that I can say, with all honesty, has made me question whether this whole political thing is right for me.
The amount of energy it takes to run something like a Congressional race is staggering. It’s like having sex for for a full year with someone you can’t stand the site of, and – at the climax – you have a 50/50 chance of either getting off or having a stroke mid-coitus.
But like sex, most of the fun comes in the participation. In college, I liked campaigning far more than I ever liked governing. The thought that a few of my efforts helped stem the tide of idiocy is comforting; even my slip-up couldn’t stop Schauer from winning.
As Andrea said, I wonder what’s next. My God, can we really look forward to at least two years of campaign-free news cycles? Will the economic turmoil cast us over the cliff? Will reason and decency and hope be enough to undo the damage done to our wonderful country?
I like to think so. This morning my thoughts reached out to Ronald Reagan, my childhood president, when he said, “It’s morning again in America.” Barack Obama is our generation’s president just like John F. Kennedy was my grandma’s president, and just like FDR was my great grandpa’s president. It remains to be seen what kind of impact he’ll actually have in the White House, but who can doubt things will be different from here on out.