Last night I went with two people from my program to cover the Obama rally in Manassas, Va. It took us three hours to get there and two hours to get home, where we finally landed at 3 a.m. It was brutal but it was another life-changing moment, much like sitting in Invesco Field watching him accept the nomination in August.
I cannot believe I've been there for the things I've been there for, speaking inarticulately.
I sat on the media stand on a really, actually beautiful night in Virginia, praying I wouldn't fall off the riser and break my neck, smooshed on one side by a tiny camerawoman from a Japanese news media outlet and a man to the right of me from who knows where who wasn't pleased that I found a spot on the "floor" between their two tripods. For a not-small woman I can compartmentalize into these spaces pretty well when I want to. There were almost 100,000 people in those fairgrounds - a magnificent mix of color, age, gender and fashion sense. There were many, many people in wheelchairs and using canes to pick through the uneven ground to get out there and wait for a man who lost his grandma today, which I could tell by the look on his face and the almost-imperceptible slump in his demeanor.
The admittedly kind of shady but well-meaning video that I captured is on my YouTube channel.
I wrote this while I sat there:
I really never want to forget how I felt, sitting in these chilly fairgrounds in southern Northern Virginia. This has been a long, ridiculous eight years and whether or not this man can even begin to piece some things back together, I'm not willing to bet any more of my country's future on a short-sighted party that sold it out to the atrocities of war and domestic oppression.
80,000 people in Manassas, in November, at 10 p.m. on a Monday night. My friends, this is change.
I slept for two hours so it's a good thing the adrenaline is kicking in. I'll be in a few places today. I'm going to stop into my local precinct and vote, then go to campus to pick up some last-minute footage and news for the YouthVote Blog. TerpsVote and College Dems and Republicans are holding events all day.
I'm on Twitter at @lauriewrites, which I expect will heat up when I'm with the awesome list of bloggers expected to be at NPR tonight with me as part of their election coverage. My friends Jill Miller Zimon and Shireen Mitchell (aka digitalsista) will be there, along with several others - mostly women, amazingly. As much as after two years of this I want to be on my couch with a beer and a pizza, this is such a cool opportunity and I can't wait.
I'm going to vote now. For the rest of the day, if you're interested, you can find me on what I randomly called LeftRightLeft, the small corner of this site where I allow myself to get political. I can't promise wisdom, not at all, but what I can leave you with is the reason why all of this happened in the first place, in two small parts.
In 2000, I knew very little about politics but I knew in my heart that something was wrong. I had been back in Maryland for a year and my life was sort of messy (nothing like the airtight awesomeness it is now! Haha. ;)) The Gore loss - the election day actual real-time debacle and the eventual legal loss - changed my life and my mind forever. It altered my concept of what is fair and just, and what a country can really do. I learned then that things are not always as they seem, that sometimes in fact they are quite horrible no matter what kind of a pretty dress you put on them, and nor are they as they ought to be, at least not from my spot anyway.
I got seriously fired up for the first time but clearly not the last and I dragged everyone I knew and loved with me through my growing sense of frustration and disenchantment with the political process and the rightness of leadership in this country that has not abated since. Nice, right?
In 2004, my life was a little more together and things seemed like they might be looking up. I sat up all night hoping against dying hope that even though I knew that John Kerry the windsurfer didn't have what it took to get us out of the hole we were in, that some kind of universal force (call it God, call it what you will, I'm open) that opposed an unjust war killing many thousands of people would cause a miracle to happen and let him take over for awhile.
When I am told I need to be unbiased as a journalist I respect this - on paper. But as a fully living, beyond-opinionated woman living in this crazy world, I can't be. It stresses me. It challenges my communication skills, because I have too many ideas and have drawn too many conclusions to pretend I haven't. Because, see, I want equality for people of color and for women. I want - as I said - an end to an unjust war, and a slimmer chance that we'll end up in a series of other ones, with nothing but axes to grind forevermore. This is my central issue, I admit it, beyond the economy even, even though I know how very serious this is. This is my heartbreak, and anyone who says this means I don't support troops or my country - well, okay, I'm all about freedom of speech, but they're wrong.
So that's why I'm here. I may never work in a traditional newsroom because of this (and let's face it, at my age I'm cool with that - they can't afford my starting salary.) I'm a teacher and a writer at heart so I'm okay if I just do those things. I'm not going to be silent today, except when it makes sense because I don't want to get punched. Today I'm going to say on my little corner of the Internet what I believe in my heart, my most impassioned heart that was very battered along with millions of others eight and four years ago. Today I'm going to say like I have not before in this cycle that if things go the way I hope they do for a man who has managed to stir millions of people the world over with an undeniable sense of promise, the right thing will have happened. I'm saying this because I've finally decided that I should, and because even when I didn't I caught hell anyway. I'm saying this because yes, I can.
Seriously, drop by the other page later if you feel like it. We're going to tear it up at NPR, I promise. There may even be a webcam involved at some point.