This post is a mess but I’m not going to revise it. I think it captures my day.

I’m feeling happy about politics for the first time I can remember. I don’t know the outcome of the presidential election yet, but it’s looking good. I feel differently about this election than I have about any other I’ve participated in. It’s just dawning on me. It may be that the way I’ve treated past elections has been pre-conformity masquerading as post-conformity—the pre-trans fallacy for Ken Wilber folks—meaning it’s possible that the reason I’ve never voted for a winning candidate (without a vote-trade, at least) has as much to do with my sense of being disenfranchised as with any sense of investment in the government of my country; I have always voted with consideration and integrity, and there’s always been that sense of “fuck you, you clueless idiots” towards mainstream political culture.

I’ve avoided watching any news about the campaigns. One of my professors, at the end of an evening lecture said he hoped he could get home in time to catch some of the debates and I joked, “Oh, you haven’t decided who to vote for yet?” His eyes bugged a little before he assured me he knew who he was going to vote for. That’s been my attitude toward the campaign: I already know who I’m going to vote for, so watching TV about the campaigns is just entertainment, except that it just makes me feel anxious, so it’s not even good entertainment. If I had time to devote, I’d rather volunteer.

I did go hear Obama speak on campus last spring. My family, especially my brother Ely, had gotten really excited about Obama, so I decided to go out. It was great. He was great. I didn’t get into the arena so I stood outside in the cold on the Astroturf with a bunch of other Eugene folks, crying, listening to the speech piped out. This is what I said into my journal that night: “He was a good speaker…he actually moved me. Partly it was just because I became…it just hit me how bad it’s been for the last eight years—it’s been really terrible! It’s so creepy, what’s going on. It would be better to have anybody else in there. And Obama said some stuff that I really liked, like it’s time for a Manhattan–project style sustainable energy project…and a lot more stuff that now I’m forgetting. I wish I had brought this recorder. He sounded pretty right on, for a major party candidate. He’s saying things that people could not say and get elected even four years ago.” I remember thinking ‘This guy is saying this stuff and is probably going to be the president.”

I’ve felt plenty of frustration in past elections, but never anxiety and never hope. I spent today working at the Lane County election office, mostly in the sorting room, watching thousands of ballots move through. It’s fun. There is a nice team spirit and such care taken with the process. I have no criticisms of the way votes are handled here. (Some criticisms of the voters, though. I saw some strange interpretations of the ballot, like the person who did not vote for Obama but wrote him in.) Most of the time I was a ‘runner,’ moving boxes of ballots to the sorting teams, but for a while I was sorting myself. The first box I went through was from the city I live in, Springfield, and I surreptitiously counted the votes for president. They came out three to two for McCain. I started feeling anxious. “Who are these people?” Later, at school, a professor got a call from his mother during his lecture. He took it and the news was Obama had won Pennsylvania, which had been in question. Riding home I started feeling happy and hopeful and that’s when I realized that this is a new thing for me. Maybe my attitude towards America and national politics is so embarrassed and preemptively pessimistic because I’ve never had anyone in there representing me who I liked, much less someone I could be proud of.

And I’m wanting to say something hipper. I’m feeling guilty about this. I’m so apathetic, politically. I didn’t volunteer this year, and a lot of my friends did. I don’t pay much attention to local politics—I usually just take the advice of our local progressive newspaper when it comes to the local and state races and ballot initiatives. And I suspect that paying attention to presidential races is like going to watch some Christians get eaten by lions while Rome falls—more like the heavyweight championships than…. WOOHOO! I just got the news that Obama won, from a friend calling. I feel happy. I’m smiling. I feel relieved. I’m crying. Yeah! I’m going to go hug someone. America, seven generations after the Civil War, is not racist enough to keep Barack Obama from being president! Hooray! I’m actually feeling proud… I’m proud to be associated with that man. I can, right now, imagine an America I wouldn’t be primarily ashamed or embarrassed to be part of.

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