Thursday, November 6, 2008

Inside the "Youth Vote"

WB is happy to announce the return of 45rpm, last seen around here reviewing the Rothbury Music Festival back in the summer. We're also pleased to introduce new writer Ogg Vorbis, who shares her own perspective as a first-time voter... almost.

Ogg Vorbis:I sat in a cubicle and dialed endless homes asking Michigan voters to vote for the pro-choice candidate. I walked the streets of some of the state's most liberal and conservative towns petitioning for comprehensive sex education, the right to choose, affordable birth control and health care, and for earth-friendly energy sources. I stood outside the Capitol building in Lansing, holding signs and handing out voter information.

My name has made it onto government lists for being involved in these "radical" activities. And to top it all off, I'm still two months short of my eighteenth birthday. Two months short of being an eligible voter during the most historic election of all time. I couldn't have been more devastated.

I've worked harder in the last year to put Barack Obama in office than most people can say, and I can't even contribute my vote. At 11:00 on Tuesday night, November 4, 2008, I thought Jon Stewart was pulling a cruel joke. But MSNBC, CNN, and even Fox — which notoriously jumped the gun for George W. Bush in the 2000 election — all validated this historic moment: Barack Obama elected President.

And at that moment, I knew it wasn't my lack of a vote that mattered. Barack Obama is a figure synonymous with hope, progression, rebuilding, and a new beginning. What mattered is that I did my part to give that symbol of hope America's trust. And my work is far from done.

At 7 p.m. on November 4, 2008, my housemates and I were huddled around our TV, eating take-out Indian food, drinking beer, and watching CNN. Earlier that day I had volunteered with MoveOn to help people find and get to their polling places, then I’d gone to cast my vote and danced and sang about Obama all the way home. At seven, the projections on CNN seemed so vague and scary that we soon muted the TV and spent some time asking each other questions from a 1980-something edition of Trivial Pursuit.

Three hours later, Indecision 2008 aired on Comedy Central and we watched, still unable to face all of the guesswork on the news. But then, at 11, Jon Stewart turned to Stephen Colbert and said, “I would just like to say, if I may... at eleven o'clock at night, Eastern Standard time, the President of the United States is Barack Obama.”

Silence between Stewart and Colbert while they wiped their eyes.

Silence in my house.

Then, all at once: Wait, what?
Is he serious?
Where is the remote?
It's too early!
Where is the damned remote?
Turn on the news!

We finally switched to CNN, where the ticker read “Obama is President Elect.” My dad text-messaged me a second later: President Obama!

“How do they know?” we asked. “How can they know?” None of us dared believe it. We put on Fox News to be sure. Sure enough, there was Karl Rove, congratulating Barack Obama. Oh my God — it was real!

Then John McCain's concession speech came on. It was definitely real. We watched in stunned silence. When he finished, one of my housemates ran for the window chalk while another poured tequila shots. We wrote Obama 08 on our front window and raced outside to take pictures. But we all kept saying: It doesn’t feel real yet.

When Obama came onscreen to give his acceptance speech, it finally sank in. One of my housemates and I sent celebratory text messages to everyone in our phone books. We all cheered Obama on as his speech continued. When he walked off stage with his wife, one of us said, “They are going to have sooo much sex tonight.”

We poured more drinks. We hugged, we high-fived. We said Barack Obama is my President, over and over. We unearthed a firework left over from the Fourth of July and set it off in the driveway. Barack Obama. Barack Hot-Damn Obama. Barack Hell-Yes Obama! It was hard to think of anything else to say.

And suddenly I knew what it felt like to be patriotic. I knew what it felt like to love my country. In an act of modern-day young adult patriotism, I went online and changed my Myspace name to Patriotic for the United States of Amazing. I painted my nails red and blue. I put together a red, white and blue outfit to wear to school the next day (complete with my magic Amanda Palmer hat from Rothbury). I had to do something — Barack Obama had just become the President.

Barack Obama is the President.

Barack Obama is my President.

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