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Make a choice

question-mark.jpgThis is cross-posted with If a TV Falls in the Woods…, a blog written by Becklyoo, a friend and contributor to our sister site. While Dustin and I have never tried to hide our lefty leanings, I’m not posting this particularly because of its political point of view. Rather, I think there’s something more moving about Becklyoo’s missive, regardless of which side of the political aisle you live on, namely that politics and the system as a whole can still, every once in a while, actually affect people. Kick ‘em in the ass and get them to do something. That’s an awesome notion to reacquaint oneself with, particularly in a time when the political machine generally has most of us saying “what-the-fuck-ever.”

I consider myself an expert on two things. Television and bullshitting. I am proud of the former. But while the latter comes in awful handy, I’ve been working hard over the last few years to know of what I speak — and when I don’t, to shut the fuck up. It doesn’t come naturally. I’m a passionate, performative girl. I get took awful easy and once I’m on a roll, you best get the hell out of my way. I could convince a room full of non-astrophysicists that I’ve got deep insight into the inner workings of our solar system even though I only passed pre-calc ‘cause my hilarious, acid-tripped-out teacher let me take tests with a text book in my lap (a killer story for another day). But the deeper I dig — the more I read and listen and learn — the more aware I am of how little I know. Of how my perspective on the world, while wide and willing, is but one of billions. And that each of them, like faces of a prism, refracts truth and certainty into a rainbow of maybes and what-ifs. It’s freeing and it’s maddening.

For the majority of my childhood, I planned to be the first woman President of the United States. I would go to Harvard Law, run for local office and take it from there. This was not a lofty goal. It was going to happen. I believe whole heartedly that, had I not changed my mind, I’d be well on my way. I bought hook, line and sinker into my parents’ teaching that I was capable of anything for which I was willing to work. Anything.

I changed my mind because I began to understand that I dealt with life in terms of metaphor and that the United States of America for which I was so passionate, the citizenship of which I was so proud, was a myth. A beautiful and important myth, one worth threading through daily life, but one that was in constant conflict with the practical workings of government. Thus began what I suspect will be a life long struggle between idealism, healthy skepticism and debilitating cynicism.

Recently, I said that I was seriously considering never voting again. That was no joke — I’ve been drowning in cynicism for a while now. These last few months, I’ve spent a fair amount of sit-and-stare time pondering whether or not I wanted to continue to engage and, if so, how. And now, after much reflection, I’m amazed to find that for the first time in a long, long while, I feel passionate about this country. Excited by possibility. Proud of our potential.

And it all started with a choice….

2004 was a huge bummer. I was all for Dean. Kerry interested me about as much as a re-run of “The Love Boat” but I loathed the alternative. I mean… Fuck. Lest we forget, I’m from Texas. Molly Ivins and Ann Richards are my heroines. I’ve hated that sumbitch since childhood. (And a big fat fucking “I told you so” to anyone with whom I conversated in 2000 who didn’t believe me when I said that yes, it really would get this bad.) I did my part for Kerry with some phone banking (which was, for the most part, torturous — I don’t like strangers calling me at home asking for money either). And though I believed whole heartedly that the majority of the country would reject Bush, I had no illusions that anyone was inspired by Kerry. I certainly wasn’t. …Guess I was right on one count.

But there was that speech. At the convention. I remember sitting on my couch, lump in throat, thinking, “This is the guy.”

Obama moved me. The only other politician who’s ever made me feel that way was Josiah Bartlett and I think we all know he’s no Jack Bauer. But my healthy skepticism kicked in. In that moment, with that speech, Obama was metaphor-made-man but, unfortunately, there has to be more to it than that. Otherwise you end up with “compassionate conservativism.”

I downloaded his second book and listened to him tell his story while driving across town everyday. It was inspiring. Everything he said naturally balanced between pragmatism and idealism. I kept an eye on him in the Senate and, aside from funding for E85, haven’t come across a vote of his with which I disagree. I brought it up with everyone who’d listen: “He has to run. This is the guy. If he runs I’m quitting my job and going to work for him.” He announced and I smiled. I went on the website and signed up, willing to do whatever. Call me when you get to Cali.

Then the political theater of the endless primary process began with the cornucopia of debates (where nothing was really debated) and the nonsensical yammering from the punditry. Shit wasn’t getting done in DC despite what had seemed like a clear message from the voters that, you know, not so much with the war and the waste and the dishonesty. Then I started getting these anti-Hillary emails from the Obama campaign and cynicism set in. I thought he was going to do this differently. What if he’s not for real? What if this is an act? What if the system is so fundamentally flawed that the only way to get to run for president is to be full of shit?

A couple of months ago folks from the campaign started calling to ask for my time. (Note: NOT my money.) I’d tell them he had my vote but I wasn’t sure how much time I was willing to give and could they please call back? I ignored the emails. I stopped reading political blogs, stopped watching cable news. I couldn’t make sense of the situation. I’d lost perspective.

But I knew this Thursday was the Iowa Caucus and the political junkie in me couldn’t ignore it. Driving back from Sacramento, half way home, NPR was predicting a statistical tie for the Democrats. By the time I got to LA, they’d called it for Obama. I have no illusions that as goeth Iowa, so goeth the country. It’s a bizarre process involving a small fraction of voters. So it’s merely 1 down, 49 to go. But I made the mistake of turning on MSNBC when I got home and the pundits sure didn’t see it that way. They were too busy remaking the myth of Hillary to put shit in proper context. (Curtsy to Rachel Maddow for being the lone voice of reason.) Myths only do their jobs as cultural touch stones when they spring naturally from the people. When they’re forced down lazy gullets by yammering toadies looking to fill 24 hours of dead air, they’re downright dangerous. They obscure truth and poison discourse. It’s a serious fucking problem. So I turned off Chris Mathews and turned to google to find Obama’s victory speech.

I am uncapable of cynicism when listening to him speak. He moves me. One phrase kept running through my head as I listened: “I want to believe.” Not just that he means what he says. I want to believe that the system can work. I want to believe that committed citizens can change the world. I want to believe.

The first thing I saw when I went to his website was , “I’m asking you to believe. Not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington. I’m asking you to believe in yours.”

Uh… Get out of my head?

I spent the night reading all of his policy proposals. Just as I’d found with his voting record, it was almost impossible to find something with which I disagreed. What was my problem? Why was I still so hesitant to do everything in my meager power to try to get this guy elected?

Then I took the time to watch his “Call to Renewal” speech, delivered to a group brought together by Sojourners, a progressive Christian organization my family’s been involved with for some time. Much of it I’d heard before in his book. But in this new context of doubt and desire, the speech provided a tipping point.

It forced me to confront something I’d known since the convention speech in 2004. Barack speaks my language and shares my perspective in such a rare and fundamental way that to not support him, to not do everything I can to put him in a position of power, is to betray who I am and what I believe in. I’d been hesitant out of fear. Fear of disappointment. Fear of being wrong. Fear of misplaced faith and trust. Fear of finding out that we really are fucked. That our system is irreparably broken…

In the speech he tells a story about his late-in-life acceptance of the Christian faith: “It came about as a choice, and not an epiphany.” I thought back to my recent visit with my best friend, about to be a mom. I told her one of the gifts I was most grateful for from my parents was that of choice. Outside of the general boundaries of childhood, I was never forced to do anything. I was always given a choice. I was raised to believe happiness is a choice. Success is a choice. Change is a choice. And I realized, if I so desperately wanted to believe, I just had to chose it.

So I did.

Saturday morning, I spent three hours at a training session to be an Obama Precinct Supervisor. It was an amazing experience, 80 or so folks crammed into a little coffee shop which had closed down for the occasion. Smart, passionate, interesting folks of all ages, creeds and colors. An all volunteer army. None of the organizers I met were on salary and each of them was giving every spare second to the cause, giving out their cell phone numbers to strangers, willing to answer questions day or night. They spoke about their personal reasons for getting involved in the campaign before we broke off into groups and discussed amongst ourselves. It became clear that while everyone there believed in Obama, more importantly, they believed in this country and in our promise and potential to change it for the better. It was an empowering and affirming experience.

I’ll do my best to keep things light and TV-centric ‘round my blog, but being that the next month of my life is largely going to be about the California primary, I suspect the blog will be a tad more political than usual. While it’s obvious I’m passionate about an Obama presidency, I don’t have any interest in converting folks. As long as you’ve done your homework and believe strongly the person you chose deserves your vote – Amen. I have a hard enough time figuring out what’s right for me. I won’t dream of trying to cypher what’s right for you. But if you’ve been sitting on the fence, thinking you dig the dude but aren’t sure… Dig a little deeper. Make a choice.

And now, in keeping with the mission of my blog:

Gets me every fucking time.