Saturday, January 24, 2009

The End of a Dark Era

This week marks the ending of a dark era in this country...

In the fall of 2000 I was a freshman in college. I had been actively involved in student politics throughout high school and was a newly elected Freshman Representative at Clark University. I was ecstatic about my opportunity to participate in the national elections at the just ripened age of 18. I got involved with the Ralph Nader campaign and started doing small demonstrations with a few friends. We were all disenchanted with the Clinton Administration's failure to see just how horrible "free trade" was and we all wanted a change. Although we all knew that Nader didn't have a shot in hell at getting elected, we all gave our time and energy to spread the word about fair trade, the anti-globalization movement and other issues Nader represented. We did it because we believed this country deserved better than just a two party political institution that systematically silences 3rd parties. I knew it was idealist but was I not supposed to vote for what I truly believed in because the polls told me we wouldn't win?

In late October of that year, about 25 people gathered on the campus green to march through Worcester with signs, banners, drums, and puppets. It was a beautiful autumn day as we made our way down Cambridge Street towards Holy Cross College, banging and chanting all the way. As we rounded a corner there was a small truck pulled over on the side of the road with short flames coming out from under the hood. As we got closer, the fire grew. The driver was just standing on the sidewalk, staring at his truck, seeming confused about what to do next. Someone called 911 while others of us helped with directing traffic away from the fire. By the time the police and fire trucks showed up the entire vehicle was engulfed in 15 foot flames and the entire street needed to be shut down. Perhaps this was a sign. For me, it certainly came to symbolize the years that followed.

When Bush was (not) elected the first time I was absolutely crushed. I had believed all along that Gore would snatch up more than enough votes when November rolled around. Wow, was I wrong. My freshman year was my first and last that I represented my peers in student government. By the time the beginning of my sophomore year rolled around we were all confronted with September 11th, which ushered in a new culture of fear that the Bush Administration fondly nurtured. With everyone living under "code orange" and in a general state fear, Bush and his cronies were able to get away with things like the Patriot Act. I spent a lot of my time feeling like the man whose truck had gone up in flames, confused and unsure of what I should do next.

In February of 2003, I went to New York City to partake in the worldwide anti-war rally. The group of people that I was marching with took over a street and before I knew it we were being chased by police and then coralled in an ally. Decked out in riot gear, the police held us there for hours taking pictures and video of our faces all while the rally was taking place without us just a few blocks away. Millions of people gathered across the world that day. Although it didn't bring the war to an end, I realize now that my participation was important. Unfortunately, as the war raged on, my anger turned to apathy and I tuned out.

As the recent primary campaigns started heating up, I began to see a faint glimmer of light at the end of a long tunnel. Barack Obama sparked my interest very early on but I needed to keep pinching myself as a sort of reminder that a lot could happen over the course of the campaign. I hung a few Obama stickers in my window and then eventually I made my first ever financial contribution to a political campaign. I made Obama buttons that I sold at craft shows; some of which showed support like, "I Rock with Barack", while others mocked the McCain campaign. And then on November 4th I did it. For the first time since 2003, I got up and physically volunteered myself for something I believed in. My boyfriend and I drove to New Hampshire and we spent the day working for the Obama campaign knocking on doors and reminding people to vote. We can't take too much credit because the truth is that most of the houses that we went to no one was home. But we went and we participated and in the process we met lots of other eager and excited supporters all of whom, along with Barack Obama, have renewed and replenished my broken political spirit.

I've cried a lot this week...

Thank Goodness it's over. Thank Goodness the fire is out.

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