November 5th, 2008

The Enormity of the Task Ahead

Four years ago I went down to Florida to volunteer for John Kerry during the final days before the election. I had never been anywhere near a campaign office before, but the one I worked in contained exactly what I had hoped and expected it would: an immense swirl of positive energy and optimism. Surrounded by dozens of people who thought I as I think, who were willing to volunteer endless hours with endless goodwill for what they believed was the common good, I was filled with hope. I loved doing my little lists of get-out-the-vote calls, eating leftover Hallowe’en candy, chatting with impassioned strangers and believing wholeheartedly that change was good, possible and imminent.

Such was my blinkered (and coddled) worldview going into Election Night 2004, and profound dismay and distress was the result. I hadn’t ever spoken to anyone who didn’t think George Bush was a disastrous liability to America and the world, and therefore I thought such people did not exist. I couldn’t believe that anyone would vote against (in my perception) their own ecomonic security, the solidarity of nations, diplomacy and advocacy for peace.

I left the campaign office in the afternoon and spend election night with my family, who are considerably more informed about politics (and everything) than I am. Around 2am, I had to be pried from my chair (a chair I still dislike for it’s association with that evening) and sent to bed with the firm message that the situation was not going to change. If you’ve ever tried to explain anything to me at 2am, including where the bathroom is, you’ll know I have a hard time absorbing information past midnight and I *did not buy it*.

I was so terribly disillusioned to be wrong.

Four years later, I spent election night at the home of lovely friends and a puppy with whom I have a dubious relationship. Last night, when the puppy hurled himself at my chest, I gave him a hug and whispered in his floppy ear, “Remember me, Mookie? Remember when I came to visit last time and you bit me? Let’s not do that again, ok?”

And we didn’t. The evening was so fun and easy, because we were *justifiably* confident long before we had any right to expect that. Unlike my long miserable night in 2004, things were fairly obvious at 9 and over at 11. I could not, however, go home, because we had balloons and blue cookies and noisemakers, the puppy and the speeches and joy to share. I have never made it to the speechifying before–I found McCain’s “the fault is mine” concession speech deeply moving and personal. Obama’s speech was glossier and while he said many things that impressed me, it wasn’t amazing. But here’s the crazy thing–he’s got at least 4 more years of speeches. I’m willing to wait.

I’m still pretty ill-informed, cheerful and excitable about politics, but I’ll never again be in such a happy bubble as I was in 2004. I know now that what I feel I know to be right is not universal, and that there is more to any issue than an everyday goofball person can ever imagine. I am sure I do not well understand any of the positions of Obama’s that I so firmly endorse. But I am happy that I didn’t give up on American democracy, and happy that, if I don’t understand, there is someone in the most powerful office in the world whom I trust to get it.

Despite the two wars, the economic disaster, the health-care system and everything I don’t even know about, I am filled with hope. And I’m so glad those little girls are getting a puppy of their own.

True patriot love

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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