|Haven’t blogged in a while. Here goes…
These are some thoughts I have on my experiences in civics as an adult. It’s more for me to capture my thoughts, but perhaps it might be an interesting read or at least make you think about some of the topics.
I registered to vote shortly after turning 18. Two men were walking through my neighborhood and stopped to talk to the neighbor who lived across the street, a man named Jerry who sold burritos. I approached them figuring they were registering people to vote. One of the men was a prominent New Mexico politician, Speaker of the House I believe. The other was my 9th grade government teacher, also very active in more local politics and schools. I figured they would be as proud of me as I was of myself for taking the initiative to register to vote so early and on my own. They seemed to be more interested in their conversation with Jerry. No big deal.
While I haven’t voted in every election since 1998, I have voted in every presidential election and some other state and local elections. You might say there have only been two presidential elections since then, big deal. To me, it has been a big deal.
I was excited to vote in 2000. I was beginning my junior year of college and was beginning to become more involved and interested in student and community organizations. I voted for Al Gore. I lived at home and remember watching television while the news anchors announced Al Gore’s victory. And then staying tuned just a little longer as the story changed. In the end, Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote, a decision that was made by the U.S. Supreme Court following a mess of recounting Florida’s vote. We might recall the infamous hanging chads.
In 2001 I had the opportunity to do an internship in the Washington DC area. What an exciting experience that was. I can say there is an energy inside the Beltway. In July 2001 my roommates and I took a road trip to New York City. It was short and sweet, but we got in visits to some of the major tourist places like the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building. I even got some pictures of the beautiful New York skyline as it was at the time. I flew out of Reagan International Airport on August 11, 2001.
Of course one month later, the tragedy of September 11, 2001 occurred. I was back in school and car pooled with my mom. We went to my Nana’s that morning as we often did for breakfast. I laid on the couch trying to catch a few extra minutes of sleep. The news reports begin to come in on CNN about what appeared to be a small plane crashing into a building in New York. As the story developed I rolled over to pay attention. At this time, the camera was fixed on the New York skyline and I watched live as what again appeared to be a small plane crash into a building.
It was only later thinking about the perspective I had seeing how large those buildings were with my own eyes that I realized that it was neither a small plane nor a small building. I won’t go into what happened next. It was a strange day to watch anywhere you could catch the story unfolding, unreal, numb. Classes were cancelled. I could only think about the poor people directly affected by the events of that day. I went to a rally in Civic Plaza on Friday. It was hot, I hadn’t eaten and emotionally draining. I almost passed out.
Initially, we began pursuing those responsible for the horrible acts of that day. In hind sight, I can see how the culture of fear began during that time. There were sniper shootings in Maryland where I had lived just months before and there was anthrax being sent in the mail in the DC area. And so the culture of fear was used to turn our attention to Iraq.
While evidence did not exist to support the argument, we were told that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction so it was our duty to strike preemptively to ward off further attacks. I turned 23 on March 18, 2003. I remember that birthday was marked by my hoping that we did not go to war in Iraq. Did Iraq have some problems? Yes. Does every country have some problems? Yes. Did we have to go solve them? I think no. Did we play on the people’s fears and have ulterior motives? I think yes. I remember being in the minority of people who thought we shouldn’t enter Iraq. So the conflict rages on years later.
I had the opportunity to vote for president again in 2004. This time, I was more interested. I heard John Kerry speak, again in Civic Plaza. My mom and I attended a rally where President Clinton spoke and Linda Rondstadt played at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, where I’ll be celebrating my wedding next year. I still have the vest I wore that day with the Kerry Edwards sticker. I think I might have even donated a little to the campaign now that I was a working person rather than just a student. I think I even had a bumper sticker. I saw Fahrenheit 9-11. I went to Michael Moore’s Slacker Uprising tour and helped out on election night. Once again I was devastated watching TV late into the night waiting for places like Ohio and my home state of New Mexico to figure out who they wanted. The following day at work was dark as the reality of four more years set in.
My beliefs are liberal for the most part. I don’t believe all conservative beliefs are bad, but I disagree with them. So yes, I pay closer attention to liberal media sources and have trouble digesting Fox News, O’Reilly, Limbaugh and Hannity. I like to hear Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, Michael Moore and Air America. I enjoy reading Colbert, Stewart and Franken, humorous perspectives. I read How Would A Patriot Act and learned about civil liberty violations. But in the end, for me, in this election, I was really only concerned about one thing, the so called war, or conflict rather since Congress has to declare war. Thousands of Americans have died or been injured and many, many more Iraqis have died or been injured. Reminds me of 1984, the book and the play (done by Tim Robbins). If you keep a society in a state of conflict, you will always need production to meet the demands of conflict, and production can lead to profit for some.
Last year, the presidential primary season seemed to start early. I didn’t know what candidate I wanted. Hilary Clinton was the most familiar candidate. When I learned that Barack Obama had the courage and intelligence to vote against the war in Iraq and encourage diplomacy and demand strong evidence I decided those were ideals I could respect and he would be my candidate.
People can criticize his inspirational speeches. Call me inspired. I believe there is a thoughtful person behind it. This is a step in the right direction. It is my hope that we can restore our identity in the world. So this time I am doing more. I can’t go through again and think I should have done more, even though I am thinking that now. I have canvassed, walking through neighborhoods and talking to people, at least those who are home. I’m encouraging people to vote, no matter who they are. I’m getting others to care. As I walk through neighborhoods, I realize that many people don’t care. I guess that is there right to not be passionate. To take their right to vote for granted. Different priorities. And of course, I’m putting what money I can where my mouth is. I’ve come to realize that it’s really all about getting people to exercise this right. Many people mean to, but it doesn’t happen for whatever reason. I can’t let that happen.
So what inspired this rant? I’m not usually a political blogger. I watched Slacker Uprising tonight on my computer and remember hoping so much last time around for a different outcome than the one we got. Just had to get my thoughts down.
Election Day is a month away. I hope I can look back and be proud of the effort.