I was 11 years old when George W. Bush took office. My father, ever the politico with a penchant for reading articles from the The New Republic to me as bedtime stories, was of course irate at the unfair takeover. I don’t remember much from the 2000 win. The closest thing I can find about that time is from 2003, right before the US declared war on Iraq (has it really been 6 years??!) From a diary entry dated March 17, 2003:
Bush issued a mandate yesterday that said if the UN does not back up the US in its war effort by today(Monday), we will go in and start preparing for attack Monday night, so that we can be at war by Tuesday. I'm going to try to state this in a cool, calm, and collected manner... WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?! This is supposed to be a democracy. The definition of democracy, from dictionary.com is as follows "Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives." Does that sound like America? Or, better put, does that sound like a Republican American? I don't think so. More than half of the population of American is against the war, but does it matter what we think? No. Then again, as my father so graciously put, Bush wasn't elected by more than half of America, the bastard. Hell, he wasn't even fucking elected. Grr. If this were a true democracy it would matter what we all say, but it is not, so therefore no one gives a shit about the people trying to make the world a better place. It just downright pisses me off that we can go around calling the US a democracy, and then pull shit like this that just proves how hypocritical we are. It's such bullshit.
I was 15 and already this hard, blackened distrust for the government had begun to develop in my gut. Brought up a liberal in a politically-attuned family (my Dad used to teach AP government), I was used to hearing about presidents and wars. There’s a videotape somewhere in the basement of my Dad’s house that has him quizzing me and a neighbor friend on Presidents and Secretaries of State... when we were in pre-school. I loved learning about history, the presidents, this fine nation. The point is that I didn’t hate or distrust the government until Bush came along. My formative years, my teen years, I saw education go to shit-- the middle school that I attended got taken over by the state because of No Child Left Behind the year after I left it. I saw sex-education continuously fucked with until by high school all we were taught was that pregnancy was gross via a horrifyingly graphic film of a woman giving birth. I remember going into my Dad’s room while getting ready for school one morning and seeing the first US planes bombing Iraq and being absolutely terrified and disgusted.
In 2004 I worked tirelessly for the Kerry campaign. I was 16 and I dedicated my free hours to phone banks, petitions, interning for my local democratic Congresswoman. I cut school and went to Kerry’s rally at UPenn. It wasn’t that I liked John Kerry himself, it was that I saw something pathological and dangerous in a president as unabashedly idiotic as Bush. On election night in 2004 I got a Kerry/Edwards cake made at the local grocery store and threw a party. The results weren’t in until I was at school the next morning, and I was devastated. I went home early and cried and slept all afternoon.
When Bush won in 2004 I was still too young to vote. The celebratory cake went uneaten. I took my Kerry/Edwards sign that had been on my front lawn and put a sign over it that read “He may have won the election but he is not my president” or something to that effect. I went to the inauguration with my Dad and friend Alyssa and we sat with the socialists along the parade route and protested. I was bitter, I was upset, I felt so fucking HELPLESS. But most of all I remember feeling so angry: at my Republican neighbors, at the bigots, at the nation as a whole who had allowed fear mongering and hate to put that man into office again. I was 16 and I was embarrassed to be an American.
That feeling continued while abroad in Paris. But I was there first-hand to see the election of our nation’s first African-American president and how it immediately changed the minds of Europeans concerning Americans. Overnight, Americans in Paris became like celebrities. Everywhere I went I was asked about Obama as if I might know him personally. The shame began to ebb and in its place came... HOPE. There was a pride there, something distinct that I had never ever felt before. I had grown up under the tyranny of a president who will surely go down as one of the country’s all-time worst leaders. I had been taught to distrust and despise, to use terms like “regime” and “fundamentalist,” and I used them fluidly, because my political formation was occurring under George W. Bush, a man who, even at 11, I knew was a complete asshat.
But as of tomorrow, that is all over. And I know this is not a new or refreshing perspective, that my reactions to Bush and Obama are typical of liberal media and student peoples, but they are worth sharing, if only because tomorrow is the dawn of a new era, and I am so happy to be alive for that shift. I have spent the last 8+ years, from 11 years old to 20 years old, enduring a government that I did not vote for and COULD not vote for. My first ever vote in a presidential election was cast for an intelligent, politically-capable and sexy as all hell man, an incredible orator, someone who is fresh and new and can represent me in a way Bush and his Republican cronies never could. And after all of my disappointments these past 9 years, I am overflowing with RELIEF!