I turned 18 in 1999. I was a freshman in college and Bill Clinton was our President. And that means my first ever Presidential election was in Bush vs. Gore.
On the eve of Election Day 2012, I've been doing a lot of thinking about that road that brought us here. Mine is a generation that was thrust into uncertainty. An election that wasn't decided for weeks, followed not-so-far after by 9/11, wars, the Patriot Act, the great recession, and political parties that have grown further and further away from compromise and respect. Sometimes I wonder why all of the harsh words fly over social media when one person declares their political leaning, but then I remember all that we've experienced. How quickly it seems our world was turned around and how very often it has felt that the bottom is just moments from falling out from underneath us.
I'll be voting tomorrow. And I hope will be too. And I'll my Election Day experience to the list that has come before.
Election 2000, Bush vs. Gore
I was a college sophomore and filled out an absentee ballot as soon as it appeared in my mail slot. I was utterly convinced my candidate would win. And I watched results come in with my roommate and friends from down the hall. Sitting in a cramped dorm room, cheering when the news organizations declared Gore the winner. Waking up stunned when the news had changed. I don't remember much of the week after the election. I was too busy studying and drinking and doing all of things college students do. But when Gore finally conceded I remember thinking that the air had already been blown out of us.
Election 2004, Bush vs. Kerry
Again, absentee ballot. This time I had joined ex-pat groups and only got my news filtered through Greek TV and the Herald-Tribune. In my world it seemed as if there was no way that our country would elect Bush one more time. Sure, Kerry wasn't exactly what anyone had pictured when they thought Democratic Leader. But he wasn't Bush. I spent hours of conversation spent trying to the confidence in my country. And then hours after explaining my disappointment, having friends pat my back and tell me that they may not like the American Leader, but they still loved Americans. I watched the results come in all night long through a static-y CNN International station, eating take-out, and under the blankets in my living room/bedroom. And promising myself that the next election, I would make a difference.
Election 2008, McCain vs. Obama
I made good on the promise to myself back in 2004 and volunteered for the Obama campaign often. It was easy because I had left my teaching job at the start of summer, had yet to start graduate school, and was only working part-time. So I spent Election Day 2008 out with the guy I had just started to date, knocking on doors, making sure people were voting, and falling in love. The new guy and I watched the election results on his couch, eating Chinese take-out, and crying when the results came in. We knew the world was about to change. Just not how.
And tomorrow I'll be working all day. Keeping my political leanings quiet as the professional librarian that I am. It's not too hard to figure out who I'm voting for if you see me on a daily basis and pay attention. I'll be voting after work and may just treat myself to take-out as I watch the results come through from my couch. I'll be staying up late, of course.
So, no matter the side with with you align, vote. I may feel strongly one way and you may feel strongly another. But it doesn't matter if we don't find ourselves exercising our right. And please, let's just start being nice to each other again.