a group of 20-somethings huddled around a big-screen flipping back and forth between nbc, john stewart and fox (for a good laugh). we all came together, first through the pregnant silence of what might happen, then to the could-it-be-true gasps and finally cheering in welcome relief. it felt incredibly adult, not only because the hostess cooked killer homemade mac n’ cheese, but because we debated on key points – the partisan nature of government, the statues at hand, the future of government – not just from a place of impassioned youth, but one of informed caring.
i left full on democracy, camaraderie and cheesy goodness.
cut to this morning, my drive to work, flipping to npr for some post-election coverage. the u.s. embassy in beijing held a mock election. ex-pats as well as a handful of chinese nationals were invited to get their first taste of democracy.
the girls the reporter interviewed were giddy – partially because of obama’s “cuteness” as one girl professed, but also by the act of voting…something they don’t normally have the luxury of doing.
i am far from what some might call a patriot, but in that moment, hearing those girls – ecstatic by simply MOCK voting, it stirred something. as the reporter continued, most of the chinese republic has little idea who runs their district, let alone their country as a whole.
my first thought? holy shit, i am lucky. while i know it is a communist nation, i guess the weight of the public’s involvement, or lack thereof, never really entered my consciousness.
again, i think how lucky i am. cheesy as it may be – our right to vote – it’s what makes america america (duh, i know, give me a minute). regardless of partisanship, taxes, health care, etc. – we have the right to disagree and question and celebrate our political process. it makes me think of all the “get out there & vote” campaign slogans that have been streaming through the media. i get it now. not only can you make a difference, but more importantly, to NOT vote is to demean those girls in china and everyone else whose voice is restricted.
realizing this painfully obvious thought for the first time has made me more of patriot, more impassioned about this country, than i think i have ever been.
as obama said last night, “more than 200 years after a former colony won the right to determine its own destiny, the task of perfecting our union moves forward.” beyond an epic opener, it’s the underlying goal beneath the political rhetoric of bipartisanship. it’s what we as a country need to remember. because we have the right to vote, we have the ability to determine our own destiny.
and well, i think that’s pretty neat.