Monday, July 14, 2008

rock the vote

I've been fairly busy lately, in part because I've been participating in a few events for the Obama campaign (despite the controversy of the recent vote on FISA). I'm not trying to sway anybody to vote one way or the other, but rather to explain how being involved in a campaign has been a very positive experience for me.

Most of what I've been doing thus far has been registering voters. This isn't strictly campaigning, because we register anybody during these events, regardless of what their political leanings are. We usually have a little table of some sort set up, with the voter registration cards, and some buttons and bumper stickers for sale. This is done at places like free outdoor concerts in the park and at the farmers market. People stop by and chat while they browse and fill out voter registration cards. I've spoken to people of all different ages, and races, political afiliations, and nationalities.

Perhaps one of my favorite conversations I've had while registering voters was with a five year old girl. She seemed pretty bright, and asked me about what I was doing. I explained the presidency and elections to her as best I could, and told her the names of the two candidates. I showed her a picture of Obama and had to apologize to her when she asked me to show her a picture of McCain. I could tell she was still confused about something though, and, making a sweeping gesture that encompassed the whole table I was sitting at, she asked, "But why are you doing all of this?"

What a fair question, I thought. I explained that we really liked one person more than the other to be our next president, and that we just wanted to tell other people that and answer any questions they might have. But that's not really a reason, I thought. Why was I doing all of this?

What inspires me to be involved now, at this moment, is that for the first time, I feel like I really care about an election in a positive way. In the past, I've only really wanted certain individuals to not be elected (and yes, I am referring most specifically to Bush here, especially since I'm too young to have done any presidential voting before him), and have never felt passionately that I cared whether any particular person take office. This time, it's different. I really want this man to be my next president.

I'm sick of not caring, and sick of expecting the worst from our "leaders". I'm sick of being cynical and waiting for the other shoe to drop. I'm sick of the apathy, and of expecting to be disappointed. I'm sick of the intolerance, and the institutional condoning of intolerance. This is not what I expect from my political system or from my country. It's not what I was taught to expect growing up. I realize that utopia is not just over the horizon waiting for us to elect the right leader, but I also realize that as a nation, we have a lot more potential than an outsider might think to look at us right now.

All this thinking about why I care now about the presidential elections in a way I never had before reminded me of a post by arduous, in which she stated "We can't resign ourselves to doom AND also believe in a brighter tomorrow" - I guess I'm not ready to resign myself to doom. Sure, this country is a big old mess in a lot of ways. I'm not so naive to believe that it's even just one big old mess. We've got lots of messes (Iraq, social security, health care, and of course, the environment, for starters). I don't feel a sense of doom about any of these things. I realized that what I've always felt in the past was a sense of fatigue with the status quo.

I don't believe in magic "president fairies" that wave a wand and make everything alright. I actually am one of those cynical people who believe that a person's electability as president automatically makes him or her a less than ideal person for the job. I also, however, recognize the reality of the world in which I live, and realize that the system we have in place now is what we have to work with. I do believe also that change is possible. I know it's what I want, and I know it's what a lot of other Americans want too. Whatever candidate you support, and in whatever election, be it local, state, or federal, I believe that we need to start becoming more involved in our political processes. By doing so, we are actively helping to shape our future rather than passively waiting for it to happen to us.

That, my little friend from the park, is why I am doing all of this.

(And no more politics for a while, I promise!)


Green Bean said...

Hear hear! We can no longer sit at home on the couch complaining about the state of the nation, or the world, unless we are prepared to also do something about it. And if not us, who? If not now, when? Hate to quote Ronald Reagan on this but we must be active if we want this world to change. Good for you for getting out of the house and making a difference.

eco 'burban mom said...

I love the politics, personally and I am in agreement with you that this is the first election in that I feel positively about our choice. By choice, I mean Democrat of course! Awesome that you are taking the time to get out there, participate and be the change! I need to find out how to do more here in michigan...

Melissa said...

green bean, I totally agree! It's great to sit on the couch complaining too :) but after a while, gotta take it to the next level!

eco 'burban mom, glad you like the politics - I kind of get scared to venture too far in that direction sometimes! The Obama website ( allows you to type in your zip code and search radius to find all sorts of events in your area. They're doing some pretty creative stuff too, like giving the public a chance to write the party platform. Check it out!