I really wanted to title this post, "Bill Clinton Stole My Virginity," but I decided against it. I'll get to that in a bit.
A bitter sweet night on Tuesday as we finally get over ourselves enough to elect the first person of color to the highest office in the land--but three states agree that *somebody's* gotta be the n****r and it may as well be queers. You would think we could figure out by now that the old 'seperate but equal' argument is just a sham.
I think the phrase that best sums up my election season is 'mixed emotions.' My first time voting in a presidential election was for Bill Clinton in 1992. I had a mad crush on him, politically speaking, and I was totally excited to have come of age in time for vote for him. I've never been a very political person but I don't think 'giddy' is too strong a word to describe my feelings about Bill. I was old enough to hate Bush the first, and welcomed the possibility of Democrats taking back the White House.
Then, practically the first thing he does in office is implement the Don't Ask, Don't Tell policy--after boldly courting gay voters with promises of actually treating us like people. I was pissed. It was like sleeping with my first boyfriend and having him turn right around and cheat on me (something Bill turned out to excel at in reality as well as metaphor).
So, while there's no denying the unbelievable relief I feel about the outcome of the election, I have never been quite as excited as it feels like I should be. Obama talks a good game and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't hopeful and excited, not just about what his election represents for progress in this country, but also the fact that he actually seems to have a brain and is willing to use it to try to solve some pretty serious problems. But after the Clinton fiasco(s), I've got a few trust issues that I just can't stuff back into the box. I'll be watching to see how much of Obama's campaign was saying what he had to say to get elected, and if any of his real views come out, now that the job is his.
So that's my pessimistic, cynical, cheated on side. But there was another aspect to this day, and on Tuesday, I finally gave in to the Kool-Aid. During the campaign, I kept thinking I should go volunteer--but the thought of canvassing or making phone calls is pretty cringe-worthy. Instead I sent what sheckles I could to the campaign via MoveOn.org and their relentless, mafia-like demands for more money.
On Tuesdays I have a class about WDIM (Web Design & Interactive Media). Last week, Dan, our teacher had said we basically had a free pass to skip, if we volunteered on election day. It was just the small catalyst I needed. When I looked back on the day, regardless of the outcome, I'd rather think to myself I should've volunteered sooner rather than, why didn't I do anything?"
The campaign office was a madhouse of excitement, hope, activity and most impressively, organization. In less than 10 minutes, I had a neighborhood to canvas (turned out to be mine actually), a list of people who hadn't yet turned in their ballots, and instructions on what to say to them. I had ridden Fezzik to the office but another volunteer who couldn't do much walking had offered to drive us over. Then I spotted my friend Bria, who was also doing some last-minute, first-time volunteering. A staffer suggested if we knew each other we should go out together. So I ended up riding with Bria in her borrowed Prius over to the Mississippi neighborhood.
We spent the next two hours knocking on doors and talking to people. Everyone we actually contacted said they had turned in their ballot. Everyone was friendly. The sun was even shining when we started, though we got sprinkled on and the temperature dropped as our shift went on. When we got back to the office, we ran into yet another friend and spent some time catching up. She was contributing by holding a big sign and cheering.
As I was about to leave, a guy walked in with a big box of fried chicken. I'm pretty sure it was home made and it was hot and delicious. I haven't had chicken that good since my mom died. Finally I tore myself away and holed up in a coffee shop for the next several hours to work on a paper that was due the next day.
I'm taking a writing and argumentation class and the whole term is discussions about democracy and what consitutes the perfect society. In the last few weeks, we've read the Declaration of Independence, Martin Luther King's "I Have a Dream" speech and a couple of short pieces about different ideas of utopia. The reading has been great, but the timing of this paper couldn't have been worse.
"Where were you when the first black president was elected?"
"Um, writing a paper about utopia."
Yeah, it didn't sound right to me either. I compromised by working until Jess got off work. But after dinner we headed over to the Bus Project election party at Grand Central Bowling. We had to stand in line for about twenty minutes to get in, which was maddening. I didn't have an iPhone or anything, so all we had were the rumors floating around in line. People were saying it was over, that McCain had conceded, but I couldn't quite bring myself to believe it. Jess went to the pizza place half a block down to try to hear one of the news casts, while I kept our place in line. While chatting with the family in line behind me, the dad, who clearly hadn't read this article said to me, "Let me ask you something," causing all my spider senses to tingle.
"What's that?" I said, dreading the answer.
"Do you think that now Obama will go to "black" instead of saying "African American?"
I was quite proud of myself for managing to answer him civilly and without sarcasm, when what I really wanted to say was something like, "Wait, let me tap into the Great Black Hive Mind and see!"
Someone let me know that the sound was being piped outside the bowling alley. I called Jess back and we stood in the rain and watched McCain's concession speech on three big screens through the huge windows. Halfway through, we got to the head of the line and finished watching inside. It seemed to be the first time McCain actually behaved with any kind of dignity. Too bad he didn't campaign that way. There are a ton of reasons why I'm glad he didn't win, not the least of which is that I won't have to listen to his voice anymore. It's a toss up as to which resembled nails on chalkboard more, McCain or Bush.
It was great to be in a room full of ecstatic people when Obama finally came out to give his speech. I doubt there was a dry eye in the place, including mine. When my little cynical voice tried to speak, I squashed it. Now wasn't the time. Now was a time for a big schmaltzy celebration. A time to celebrate the fact that maybe now we can begin to repair our world image, as well as our devastated country.
So, in the spirit of unbridled sentimentality, I made a little video of highlights from the day, with some music that seems strangely appropriate: