Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I'm fired up! I'm ready to go!

 (These are all old photos from the inauguration in 2009 & a politcal rally in 2008 -- I have a sick girl that I'll update you on later in the week.)

WARNING: This post will be political (and written yesterday afternoon -- I didn't get to post as I was dealing with a sick girl; more on that later in the week).  If you don't have an open mind, please just browse the photos.  I've realized in the last 4 years that politics is a very sensitive, highly charged topic.  I'm not out to change anyone's mind with this post -- just simply telling my story for my daughter.

Today is Election Day.  And my little Finn is going to vote twice (shhhhh, don't tell!).  This morning, E rose early to hit the polling place when they opened (6:30am here in Ohio) and he took our daughter with him.  She got to witness her first vote for president of the United States of America.  Late this afternoon, after I get off work and pick her up from daycare, she will witness her second.

Before I tell my story, I will preface it by saying that this is only my story.  Everyone has their own story to tell.  And no one has the right to judge anyone else's story, just as you don't have the right to judge mine.  I am an unwavering liberal.  Yet I feel that just because your opinions aren't the same as mine and I vehemently disagree with them, it doesn't mean that we can't discuss why we hold those values.  We have walked different paths, had different experiences.  I find it intriguing why people vote the way that they do, what personal stories or issue they hold most important when casting their vote.  But I usually refrain from asking because in the day of the 24 hours news cycle and the internet, people tend to get their information from various places (sometimes I don't feel the sources are actually factual) and in today's political climate, it's a very polarizing question, especially if they ask in return and they find that I didn't vote along the same lines.  At the end of the day, we should agree to disagree and move on our merry ways.

My first encounter in politics happened in 2000.  I was 22 and had never voted.  Living at home with my parents, I worked a full-time day job and then also tended bar at a local watering hole 3-4 nights a week.  I worked the night of the Bush-Gore election.  A regular named "Mike" who was my daily crossword buddy came in and asked who I voted for.  When I told him that I didn't vote, he handed me the local paper with both candidates and their platforms.  He told me to read through them and decide who I would have voted for, so I have someone to root for to make the night interesting.  Gore was my man.  Little did we know just how interesting that particular election evening would be.

My second and ongoing encounter happened in 2001 when I met E.  E has many passions in life -- none as great as politics.  Thankfully, he and I were on the same side (so we are a united household).  I became immersed in politics during the 2008 primaries.  We watched the returns come in from the Iowa caucus.  That was the first night I had heard of Barack Obama.  From that point on our household of two (six if you counted the dogs & cats) became obsessed with the democratic primaries and then the general election.  We donated our loose change in "Change for Change". We also watched every single debate and followed the polls.  My immersion became so much so that I drug E to a political rally.  Obama was holding three political rallies in Philadelphia on one day in three different areas of the city.  We hit up the second one.  We waited in line for over an hour.  Rumors had run through the crowd that they were only letting in the first 10,000.  We didn't make it into the parking lot where he was going to speak, but as we heard the music begin, the crowd surged forward.  We raced down a side street and were able to see him in the distance.  But his voice rang through loud and clear (with the help of technology, of course).  The crowd was electric.  It was amazing and something that neither of us regretted me dragging us to (which was in stark contrast to earlier in the morning while we were waiting in line, thinking that we weren't going to get to see him).

The line to get into the rally approximately 10 minutes before it's start time.

This is as close as we got from the side street.  He is the little white speck in the center of the photo.

The night Obama was elected, we both stayed up as late as we could.  I think that they declared the race a little before midnight.  I had wanted to see him give his acceptance speech.  We both fell asleep, but I spontaneously woke up right before he went on.  Our house was happy.

The day after he was elected, I decided that I wanted to go to the inauguration.  We were living in Princeton, New Jersey and it was only a 4 hour car-ride away.   We started plotting about our best way to get down there.  We decided on riding one of E's motorcycles down.  Our rationale was trains would be too expensive.  There wouldn't be any parking for cars.  If we rode the motorcycle down, we could easily park in-between cars (it was our go-to transportation when we knew that we were going into NYC or Philly).  We realized that we were crazy even before we got "the looks" from people when we said that we were riding a motorcycle down there in the middle of January on the East Coast.  We even took a test run in snow suits the weekend before -- riding around locally for as long as our cold little hands would let us.  In the end, it was all for naught.  The Sunday before inauguration, it began to snow.  It continued to snow for most of the day.  It snowed enough to make riding on a motorcycle on wet & most cases, icy roads in the wee hours of the morning a very dangerous prospect.  My heart was crushed.

We thought it was too late to find any openings on Amtrak the day before the inauguration.  And if there were any open seats, they had to be outrageously priced.  We were very lucky.  For a mere $165/ticket round-trip  we were booked for a train the next morning.  So at 3:30am, we got in the truck, drove through the snowy roads to get to the train station.  That train ride was nothing like I've ever experienced before.  I've never again experienced such joy from a group of complete strangers.  No one was averting their eyes on this train ride as passengers walked down the aisles.  Everyone was going to the same place.  Everyone was excited for the day.  Every stop, as more people got on, as the train got closer to its destination, the atmosphere became more electric.  By the time that we pulled into Union Station, everyone was laughing, smiling, and "ready to go!"

The Capitol at dawn

I won't detail the entire day of inauguration, but my plan was "Head for the Washington Monument -- it's on a berm, so we'll be able to see the Capitol.  We don't even need to try for the National Mall."  I thought that we were going to bypass all the congestion and be able to nicely set up shop, having ample room to move about -- no one is going to want to stand 1.2 miles away from where the new president was going to be sworn in.  When we got there, there were people laying on mattresses and covered in blankets, as they had camped out the night before (just a reminder that it WAS January and that the low was 19 degrees the night before.  We were lucky as the daytime high was a balmy 30 degrees with 13 mph winds, gusting to 25mph).  We were greeted by swarms of people, thinking the same thing.  We ended up moving off to the side to stand in front of one of the many jumbo-trons for our first row seat at history.  I saw lots of tears of joy, lots of smiles from strangers, and lots of kindness.  It was a truly historic day and one that I am so very thankful to have been a witness to.

As zoomed in as my 200mm would let me go...

This was our actual view (courtesy of a monopod with my camera mounted to it) -- taken with a remote.

The sea of supporters behind us...

The sea of supporters to our right...

MSNBC was telecasting from the National Mall as we walked to the train station.  If you look closely over Howard Fineman's left shoulder and right below the white SUV, there is a crazy, cold girl with her arms in the air.  That's me and my 5 seconds of fame!!!!!  (There were television broadcasting the telecast outside the trailer -- so E snapped photos while I acted a fool to be on TV.)

I'm not going to go into my political beliefs.  But I'm sure that you know who I'm voting for today.  I do have to say that the elections directly influence our lives.  With E's work being reliant on government scientific research funding, one guy wants to increase it -- the other wants to cut it.  So I hope that my guy comes out on top.  But if I'm being honest with myself, everyone is directly influenced by the results of today's vote.  Whether it be about women's issues, healthcare, marriage, or taxes -- this election will effect every single American in some way.  As the saying goes, "If you don't vote, you can't complain about the result."

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