But then last weekend I started reading a book called America: Our Next Chapter by Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel and, I have to say, it really struck a chord. On page 18, I stumbled upon this tasty little nugget of wisdom: "For Americans to believe once again in our political system — and by believe in, I mean participate in it with their votes and their active involvement — they have to believe their elected leaders." Shocking concept, no? Now, I’ve written briefly on my political history, or lack thereof, once before, but perhaps I should expand a little.
A decade ago I was an 18-year-old high school kid whose closest thing to a political thought was either, "Cool, I can buy scratch tickets!" or maybe a joke about what the definition of is… um, was. I justified my political apathy with standard slacker rhetoric; "I don’t want to throw off the system with my uneducated vote." Flash forward five years, and my teenage ambivalence had long since given way to a feeling of complete disenchantment with the system as a whole after having watched a man who lost the public vote move into the White House a few years earlier. I remember sitting in the student union building at school, watching CNN’s tickertape coverage of bombings in Iraq, silently thinking to myself, I thought Al Qaeda was based in Afghanistan.
Another five years later, and here I am: a 28-year-old in a wheelchair with a president I voted against whose administration we now know used 935 false statements to convince the American public to send their sons and daughters to bravely give their lives in a war that should never have been waged. Let me see if I have this right: we hold impeachment hearings regarding the happenings in Old Billy Boy’s pants, but then 10 years later a president falsely leads us to war and we shrug it off, allowing him to simply mail-in what remains of a second term worse than I did my last quarter of college?? (Seriously, dude… I tried harder in springboard diving class.) WTF?? Shouldn’t someone be doing something about this??
Like who, the media? Fifty-some-odd channels of "political commentary" that has devolved into a brand of partisan hackery that is more concerned with the Kevin Bacon Factor of our presidential candidates than their stance on the environment, especially if someone’s dog walker’s cousin was caught with socialist reading material in high school? Right. All they’ve managed to accomplish lately is allowing words like dishonesty and accountability to be replaced with more spin-friendly terms like "mis-spoke", "misremember" and "truthiness." Sorry Stephanopoulos & Co., but who wears how big of a flag symbol for how long is not exactly one of the issues my vote hinges upon. Oh wait, did another poll come out??
Fact is, if we can’t rely on the media to keep our politicians honest, the responsibility falls squarely at our feet, my friends. And yes, it may have taken 10 years to fully get my act together, but this time I’m not willing to sit idly by and let the pattern of mistrust that has infested the Oval Office continue any longer. And that’s precisely why my vote this year will not be going to someone so willing to blatantly and repeatedly lie about her foreign-policy experiences to secure a nomination she doesn’t seem to even have a true mathematical chance of winning outright except for what would only be seen as the backrooming of superdelegate votes that will do nothing but disenfranchise enough of the party to lose her the general election anyway.
No, I’ll be casting my vote for a candidate (gasp!) I can actually believe in. A candidate whose biggest criticism seems to be that he lacks the type of lengthy, hypocrisy-laden voting resume that most politicians spend the majority of their campaigns selectively claiming based on which vote they are trying to win at that specific moment. I want my next president to be the man with the vision, tenacity and passion that not only have the ability to re-inspire the disillusioned people like I once was to get back involved in the future of their country, but the potential to unite the public in such a way that will start making the kind of changes that could make me honestly utter the words, "I am PROUD to be an American" for the very first time in the 10 years I’ve been eligible to vote. This November I’m voting for change. I’m voting for hope. I’m voting for Obama, and I hope you do too.
"This is our moment. This is our chance. There is a moment in the life of every generation where that spirit of hopefulness has to come through. Where we cast aside the fear, and the doubt and the cynicism — the cynicism that so often passes for wisdom but is actually just being afraid to reach for something higher — were we shed that and, arm in arm, we decide we’re going to remake this country; block by block, neighborhood by neighborhood, county by county, state by state… THIS is OUR moment. THIS is OUR time. And if you stand with me… if you will vote for me, we will not just win the nomination, we will win the general election and you and I together will transform this country, and we will transform the world." — Barack Obama in Virginia on February 9, after sweeping contests in LA, NE, WA and VI