Tuesday, November 4, 2008

The Virtual Snowstorm...

I voted this morning, right after I dropped Aidan off at preschool. Afterwards, Leo and I made our usual Tuesday morning excursion to the grocery store, where the lines are usually short, the people are usually friendly, and the atmosphere is usually fairly peaceful.

But today, it was a virtual snowstorm at the grocery store. There were ten times as many people there, all looking a little lost, distracted. The checkers seemed kind of on-edge, warily looking at each other. Lots of people looked out of place, shopping on a Tuesday morning for an odd assortment of items. But instead of sizing up one another over the last loaf of bread, roll of toilet paper, or gallon of milk, today people seemed to be sizing up one another over an entirely different commodity: whether or not that fellow shopper had voted, and for whom they had voted.

People seemed to be buying food that seemed to me either celebratory in nature, or some serious comfort food. Bottles of wine and cheese and crackers in one cart; the fixings for massive quantities of chicken pot pie in the other. Some shoppers wore their "I Voted" stickers on the outside of their raincoats, while others proudly bore the t-shirts of their candidates - strictly forbidden in the booths, mind you. The atmosphere was tense, charged, highly anticipatory and anxious. Much like I feel when shopping before the snow comes, I couldn't wait to get out of there -- and also couldn't wait for what was to come, the excitement of the snow, the results of the long-awaited election.

This year is history-making, to be sure. More than likely, Barack Obama will win the election and become our first ever African American President. Less unlikely, yet still historical, Sarah Palin might become the first woman to hold the position of Vice President. And despite Hillary Clinton's loss to Obama in the Democratic nomination, Clinton, too, has forever changed the way in which we view our country's topmost leaders. When I was a child, adults would give an indulgent laugh if a girl were to say that she would be President of the United States. Today, because of Clinton, and perhaps because of Palin as well, I am guessing that most adults don't bat an eye at the idea of their daughter, granddaughter, niece becoming the next President of the U.S.

This election is important. In fact, I believe it is the most important election of my entire life. The candidates are stark opposites, could not be more fundamentally different, yet the record number of people who are going out to vote this minute, who have already voted, make one point very clear: things must change, and change in a major way. We owe it to our children, to our grandchildren, to our grandchildren's children to do far better than we have done. It is hard not to feel as though I am failing my own children right now, because of the utter mess we are in right now as a nation. I called dozens of people last night, reminding them to vote, making sure they had a ride to the polls, providing information, if necessary, on the candidates. I can't stand making calls like that, and yet, for the sake of my children, and for the sake of our nation, I had to do my own part, no matter how small.

When the snowstorm comes tonight and the results of the votes are tallied and translated into the fascinating Electoral College's magical numbers, I expect our nation will have a fresh start, a new beginning, a new day. I expect that the nation I see today - ugly, bleak, ominous, dark - will be blanketed overnight, transformed and made beautiful, hopeful, and new, like the ephemeral beauty after a snowfall.

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