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June 28, 2010

Archives: January 20, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — thirdxlucky @ 9:37 pm

Forgive the slightly corny tone here. I wrote this in Antarctica on the morning of Obama’s inauguration, intending to send it to my upper-middle-class, middle-of-the-road, liberal Democrat extended family because I knew it was the sort of thing they’d like.

I’d planned to describe the scene that morning: A couple hundred of us, both grantees and grunts, had gotten up early and packed into the Galley before work to watch the inaugural address projected live on a big screen typically used for science lectures and PowerPoint presentations about company policy. When Obama made a comment about “restoring science to its rightful place” the Galley erupted in cheers. I was going to say something at the end about how I wasn’t overjoyed by his election; I felt there was still a lot of work to do that was never going to get done on the federal level – but I was cautiously optimistic and, for the first time in my adult life, looking forward to returning to America rather than approaching the customs desk in LAX or JFK with a sense of dread.

The subconscious implication here, I think, was that I wanted my family – who complain incessantly about my expatriate migratory pattern – to believe that the reason I kept leaving the country (and the reason our generation in general were such hopeless political layabouts) was because my sensitive soul couldn’t bear to be governed by George Bush. This is ridiculous, obviously, but since they’re the sort of liberal Democrats who relish blaming random trivia on the ex-President, I thought they’d like that too.

I never finished this, and thus never sent it, because I was writing it at work and got derailed by far more pressing requests for truck parts.

SUBJECT: Something Small for my Family

How can I express this?

I turned eighteen in the Spring of 2000. That September, I voted Al Gore for President despite a flickering sense that it would be morally more sound to go Green, and in November my freshman roommate and I stayed up watching the votes come in until we could no longer keep our eyes open, collapsing in anticipation of the morning paper…which told us nothing. We waited with bated breath through weeks of media punditry and arcane legal arguments.

In 2002, we marched against war. February 15th, along with millions worldwide. The Dublin police force cleared the route, re-directed buses, and patrolled the streets to keep us safe. Food Not Bombs served free burritos to hungry protestors. Back home, my friends marched in Colorado Springs where they were tear-gassed by the police.

In 2004, things were more clear cut. John Kerry would be our next President. Nobody I talked to knew even a single person who would vote for Bush. Who would dare, when his re-election meant half the population would move to Canada? Our favorite professor, an Englishman, laughed at us, “All of you associate with a very rarefied crowd. Bush represents the majority of Americans, and that majority is going to keep him in office, just wait.” We laughed back and waited. When Bush was re-elected, one of our classmates, a Philosophy student and a passionate organizer, committed suicide.

Effectively ever since I graduated high school, Bush has been in charge with everything that entailed. If these eight years have seemed long to you, imagine how long they’ve been for me and others my age. George W. Bush has been the President of the United States of America for our entire adult lives.

Until today.

And suddenly it feels like I can breathe again, when I didn’t even know I’d been holding my breath.

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