November 21, 2008

An Election 2008 Retrospective

This week has been one of the busiest this year. I should be working on my ten-page research paper on Nova Scotia's lack of involvement in the American Revolution, but I thought I should share a little something about more recent events in American History.

Lately, I've been writing about my experiences during the 2008 election, specifically my support of Barack Obama. I tried writing it out and the end product became an article that was published in the Argosy, Mount Allison University's Independent Student Newspaper. Here is an the latest version of that article:

I was born in Canada, but lived most of my life in the United States in a Chicago suburb. After years in the U.S., I automatically became an American and have since had dual citizenship. But until a few weeks ago, I was pretty averse to admitting I’m also an American. Whenever I admitted to it (or a friend outed me to a stranger), the automatic response has been an almost universal "eww," followed by America-bashing, often related to President Bush. I think a lot of Canadians mistakenly believe most Americans support the policies of the U.S. government during the past eight years, but with Bush holding the record for highest disapproval rating in decades, I think there needs to be a distinction made between actions of the Bush administration and the views of most Americans.

I was ten years old when Bush took office, and since I was old enough to care, I’ve been opposed to the actions of the current government. I joined the American Civil Liberties Union and wrote to my Senators. I watched the news almost every day, watched the U.S. military drop thousands of bombs in the days of “Shock and Awe” in the Iraq War, and was angry to have to go to alternative media to see what happened when all of those bombs hit their targets.

I closely followed the 2004 election, and when I saw Barack Obama speak at the Democratic National Committee Convention in 2004, I was excited. For four years before I could vote, I was grateful to have him as one of my Illinois Senators. I was even more glad when Obama decided to run in the presidential election.
I watched almost every debate. When I saw the presidential primary returns, and Obama won Iowa, which is ethnically one of the whitest states in the country, I was optimistic about the future of the country for the first time in years. I had never thought about getting involved in an election before, but on a cold day in January, I took a train into his Chicago headquarters to call complete strangers to ask them to vote for Barack Obama. At the end of the day I had left more messages than I can remember, been yelled at, and hung up on, but I felt proud that I had done something.

I donated what I could, saw that he was behind in the polls, and donated again. I found out that he was going to speak in Wisconsin, so I spent my entire day in a car, in the cold, and then in a line to be shoved into a crowd to barely be able to see him speak for forty minutes.I had two hours of sleep that night, but it was more than worth it.
I'm in the red shirt, two heads below the Secret Service Agent at the bottom of the stage.

I walked through the cold and the snow to vote early for him in the primaries. When I decided to come Mount Allison, I knew I needed to be sure I got an absentee ballot, and sending in my voter registration was one of the first things I did here. When people asked me if I was going to vote, I asked if they were joking.
On election night, I saw more people huddled around one television watching American election results than I had ever talked to in my entire time here about Canadian politics.

I gladly stayed up all night to see him become elected the President of the United States. I was exhausted and behind in my work, but, more importantly, for the first time in years, I was optimistic about the future of the United States and its role in the world. After the election, most people I knew were relieved, but held a "took them long enough" type of attitude towards the outcome. Some were even annoyed at the amount of coverage of the election and thought it wasn't very important who was in the White House. They have no idea how much work was done by hundreds of thousands of people to get him elected, and how much of an impact President Obama will have on the world.

Just the morning after, there were already complaints and suggestions that he was not going to be able to accomplish what he set out to do. It’s easy as an outsider to be cynical about the chances of him accomplishing most of his goals. Obviously he’ll make mistakes, and face roadblocks. Guantanamo will not be closed overnight and all the troops will not be home by the summer, but I for one am proud of what happened and am optimistic about what is to come.


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