Thursday, August 28, 2008

My thoughts tonight

Okay, I'll admit it, sometimes it takes inspiration, stress, exhaustion, and a couple beers to get me to write. Tonight was another evening trying to get caught up on things, and started at the laundromat, finding that, to my surprise and delight, in my Chicago/Bridgeport neighborhood laundromat, one of the two TV's was tuned to PBS' coverage of the DNC. As I was of course glued to it, there was a Latino guy (wearing a tee-shirt that said something about being a designated driver for drunk, hot chicks) who came over and watched closely when Gov. Richardson gave his speech, and periodically afterwards. He wasn't the only one watching there, either. I got home shortly after, and watched Dick Durbin and the really moving video on Obama's life. I guess I'm glad I didn't make it to one of the watch parties, as I don't easily cry in front of people. Tonight I teared up many times, but, for the first time in 2 weeks, it wasn't because of sadness, it was because of hope. Here's what came out right after Obama's speech ended.

I’ll check my cynicism at the door with one quick comment, I could have done without the country music conclusion of Obama’s speech.

Tonight, I have a feeling that’s been hiding deep in my soul for several years now, a feeling that maybe things really can change. Hope, I guess you could say. This is my 4th presidential election voting and being active in campaigns, and I reflect back on why it was I got involved in politics to begin with. I can’t ever remember a time when I wasn’t aware of elections and who should and shouldn’t win (thanks mom!), but this is the first time I can remember when I knew they absolutely had to. I stand by the opinion that you can’t bitch about politics if you don’t vote. And you can’t change the system from without, it has to be from within.

This election has been a tough one for me, I started out supporting the white, southern boy who was the most obvious friend to workers; then the feminist and long-time Hillary supporter came out in me, only to be heart-broken when the glass ceiling was yet to be broken. It took me awhile to warm up to Obama, I’m a policy, tell-me-how-you-plan-to-do-it kind of person. And a labor person. And a woman. And a cynical Gen X-er. And someone who got their start in politics working on Bill Clinton’s re-election campaign. My initial doubts had nothing to do with race, and I took great offense to accusations that it might, both to me, my friends and family, and the 18 million people who voted for Hillary. Today, I know that race is a big issue for many voters, but I have hope. I have hope that people will see who represents them, who represents their jobs, their health, their security, their future. And that in seeing that, they’ll look past what that person looks like. They’ll see the same hope I finally feel tonight. The hope that if I end up unemployed in 4 months, I’ll be able to find a job that will still pay the bills. That when I start having kids in a year or two, we’ll be able to pay the bills, buy food and diapers, make sure the kids have decent and affordable day care, and not have to worry so much that we don’t enjoy the beautiful children we have.

Tonight I dedicate myself to this election. Not just the presidential, but state and local races, too. I might need periodic reminders as I slide back into my usual cynical self, but this race isn’t about me, it’s about the future, and my future. This race is for my kids. And their kids. It’s time for me to get past the issues I’ve had with this presidential race. It’s time for me to get over the losses of candidates that weren’t really losses. Every little girl, teenage girl, young woman, working mom, and grandmother now knows that women can achieve anything they set their minds to. We will have a woman in the White House. Maybe not this January, but soon. Hillary will do amazing things as she continues serving in the Senate; we need her there now. We need more of our allies there now. And we need more women there now.

We have to make sure that we get more of our allies into the House, Senate, and Governor’s offices this year, and in State Houses and Senates. It’s not enough to get Obama and Biden in the White House, we must also increase the number of Democrats in the House and Senate. We can’t allow another 1994 election, when any gains Bill Clinton made were completely destroyed by that Republican freshmen class. We have to look ahead to the elections in 2010 and 2012 and continue to build on the historical momentum this election is providing, to ensure that real change can and will happen.

Real change. To build on the health care plans that will likely get passed in Obama’s first 100 days, to provide real, single-payer health care for all. To not only pass, but improve the Employee Free Choice Act. To not just make it easier to get student loans, but to give people more ways to achieve higher education. To make sure that everyone is protected on all levels against discrimination, be it who they choose to marry, who they choose to be, or who they choose to live with. And to guarantee that all the benefits that go along with those choices apply, regardless of anything. To make sure that women have the choice to govern their own bodies, to receive the support they deserve for whatever decision they make, to guarantee that birth control will be free and accessible, and that child care and education at all levels are free. To guarantee that women will be paid the same wage as men for the same work, that they won’t be passed over for promotion for any reason; that men and women of all races can expect the same.

November 4, 2008, marks a date that I feel will truly impact my entire life. I don’t think I, or most Americans, can survive another 4 years. I’m tired of going nowhere, I’m ready to go somewhere. I’m ready to build the foundation for new life. I’m ready to work for the future. I’m ready to do whatever it takes to [pause and deep sigh] elect Barack Obama and Joe Biden to the White House. I’m ready to build the future for my future kids. I’m ready to make sure that change can and will happen. And I’m ready to dig in come January 20, 2009, to make sure that all the hard work we’re doing keeps going. Are you?

cheers! and peace and solidarity,
Melissa O'Rourke
Labor Commission Coordinator, CPUSA

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