Tuesday, November 04, 2008

I Understand Now

Today, I feel constantly on the verge of tears.
Some people are telling me that this doesn't matter. That this won't change anything. That tomorrow we will wake up and the world will be no different. But I am personally in awe of how important this is to me.

My twenty-first birthday is on Saturday. I have never voted in a presidential election before. This is important, but not why I feel so frantic today. I've been following the race closely and have some firm opinions. This is important, but not why I feel so frantic right now.

I'm overcome today because I realize I have no recollection of any president other than George Bush. I was twelve when he was elected, and the idea that politics had something to do with my life had just barely wafted into my consciousness. I'm overcome today because I have no idea what it is like to have faith in my government. I'm overcome today because I think that tomorrow, my world will be different. It certainly won't be perfect. Obama was not my first choice in the primaries, as you know if you've been here before. But I'm overcome because tomorrow, I have hope for the first time that I will not be struggling against the person with power over my country, I will be struggling with him. I'm overcome because I think for the first time a person with respect for my intelligence and my rights will be in charge of many public aspects of my life.

I've been overcome with anger today. Not at those who oppose my candidate, really; but at those who show no preference, who don't want to vote, that they are forced to choose 'the lesser of two evils', who don't claim they can't see the goddamn difference. The difference for me is between continuing the uphill battle which I have been engaged in my entire politically aware life, or having the relief of knowing that at the very least two men who care about human rights are in the white house. Maybe someone else sees the difference differently. But there is a difference, and to claim you don't care or it doesn't matter strikes me as either ignorant or spoiled. I do have to accept that everyone doesn't care about politics as much as I do, but I don't accept that politics don't affect every single life. The personal is political, and all. I don't say "ignorant" as an insult; I sincerely hope these people realize how these issues and how which guy is sitting in the big chair affects them directly. Because it does.

I'm overcome today with gratitude, because nothing is closer to my heart than social justice, and so I'm acutely aware of how I got this right to vote. Who gave their life for me to have it. People complain about the electoral college (though they're entitled to do) without pausing to realize how corrupt this system was before. What this meant to those who had to fight for it. I don't think I understood before today, thinking about what it would be like to watch this process and have no power in it. When you think of that possibility, which was reality less than one hundred years ago, voting is not a pointless endeavor, even if no candidate is your ideal.

I don't use the word "empowered" often.
I usually don't understand it.
I understand now.