After work on Tuesday I went to vote. Then I went over to my sister-in-law's house to eat buffalo wings, guacamole, shrimp cocktail, and watch more CNN than I can handle. Oh yeah, and to also get drunk.
Since it was early it was just a bunch of reporters and pundits blathering and yakking about this and that and what they THINK will happen. I couldn't stand this after an hour so I went downstairs to watch The Family Guy with Matt and Will.
When I came back upstairs McCain was ahead in Florida and the popular vote was 50/50 and I was having horrible flashbacks of what could happen. I didn't want to be there in case I would lose my shit, so I said I was bored and tired and needed to go home. We left around 8:30.
When we got home I immediately started getting ready for bed. Went upstairs and tried to read. Around 9:30 I turned the light off and stared at the ceiling. To understand this (my frame of mind) you have to understand my history as a voter. I have been zero and two.
The first election I could vote in was 1996. I was super excited, not necessarily because I knew anything about the candidates, but I was smart enough to know how important it was that I vote. I knew that people had fought and died for my right to participate, so participate I would. Unfortunately, I had a Wisconsin driver's license, forgot to bring along someone to vouch for me, so I was denied. It's just as well...I had planned on voting for Perot. But I remember feeling total humiliation and anger (at myself) when I was turned away at the polling place by a nice old lady. She said I was still allowed to have a cookie, but I was too distraught to take one. It was 7:30 and the polls closed at eight. Not enough time to run home and return with my boyfriend who could say, yes, she does live here. I remember walking home and crying like a baby; a couple of people I passed gave me a pityingly look, they probably thought I had gotten mugged or something.
Flash forward to 2000, I voted for Gore and then looked in disbelief at what happened after. I was horrified that he won the popular election but still lost the presidency. I remember learning something about the Electoral College in school, but at that moment decided the Electoral College was a bunch of shit. I have disagreed with the whole concept ever since. I know why they started it and the original purpose (based on the Roman Republic) but in this day and age, I think we have reached (with technology) the kind of society where it should be based on "one person, one vote". So....whatever, Electoral College.
Onto 2004, when I was sure people would realize how disturbing the Bush administration was and that Kerry would win for sure. I remember going to bed, then awoken by Matt at 2:00 a.m., who said, "Kerry lost."
I sat straight up in bed and yelled into the dark, "What the....!" followed by a string of unbelievable cursing that I can't begin to write here. I was livid and I couldn't go back to sleep. I was so upset I called in sick the next day.
This is what I was afraid of repeating. I didn't know I could stand for it to happen again. So many people were so confident Obama would win, but in my very Midwestern waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop mentality, I would not allow myself to be excited. I felt utter dread and I was upset that I cared so much. I didn't want to care so much. And I didn't want to admit to myself how much I cared, how much I wanted this man to win. I felt like my future and the future of the country depended on it...some will say that is ridiculous and juvenile, but there it is. That's how I felt.
So Tuesday night, Matt came to bed at 11pm and I turned over and hissed at him, "Don't tell me!" I think he got scared. "Okay..." he said. I tried to discern from his voice the outcome but couldn't tell. I turned over and tried to go to sleep.
Two seconds later I ask, "So, do you know?"
"Yeah, I know."
I still couldn't tell by his voice. Was he sad? Excited? Disbelieving? I was going crazy. Still I wouldn't ask...I wanted to hold onto the possibility a little longer. I thought if he told me Obama lost, that I would start crying, and then my husband would think I was a giant wussie.
The next morning I got up and made some coffee. I walked downstairs and held the remote control a little longer than necessary. I finally turned the T.V. and sat on the couch. "Please..." I said and looked down at my feet. I was afraid to look at the T.V.
Then I heard the words, "Obama's decisive victory" and I finally exhaled. Then I went upstairs and opened the front door. I looked down and saw the front page of the paper, and when I saw the title say OBAMA, I finally believed it. I parked myself on the sofa and read it all...cover to cover and his acceptance speech and had tears running down my face. That's when I realize how much I cared.
Even if you didn't vote for him, you have to appreciate his incredible gift to motivate people. He's one of the few people I have ever listened to who makes me want to be a better person. And makes me think I will. If you know me, you know that that's no small task.
Now I'm not so naive to think that the new president can solve all our problems. But he has already solved one. In this election so many people who never really believed that they mattered or had a voice, suddenly found out that they did, and the apathy that has dwelt on most of the American public for so long seems to have been swept away.
And I feel grateful to have been part of it.