Wednesday, November 26, 2008
As I watch this awful news, I keep thinking of a conversation we had with our Indian guide in Manali, a sleepy mountain town in the Himalayas. Our guide was my age, and he had lived in India his whole life. He spoke about his homeland, and he spoke frankly about India's flaws; the remnants of the caste system, the history of religious discord and terrorism. Whereas we Americans had only experienced terrorism a couple of times in our lives, he and his fellow country men had always known it. It was simply a fact of life. Yet despite these things he was deeply proud to be Indian. He spoke about his country with love and pride and hope. He talked about the importance of family so intrinsic to Indian society. He extolled on the virtues of India's beloved cricket, not just a sport but, as he referred to it, a "way of life" . Tonight as I watch parts of India's largest city burn and hear reports of fatalities and hostages, I think back to that conversation we had in Manali, on our way back down a mountain on a clear, cool day. I think of this man, or kid really, and I think of the look in his eyes as he talked about his home. I think of the news coverage of India's first ever gold medalist. Here was the least likely sports hero ever, a thirty something guy in glasses who had won his medal in rifelry. And the entire country went nuts over him. There was such pride and such joy in the fact that he had brought a single gold medal home. It didn't matter that it wasn't a glamorous sport or a high profile win. And that's how it was covered, like the guy had just walked on Mars or something. It wasn't just a medal won by an athlete for himself. It was a victory for all of India.
Tonight I think of the thousand other moments over the course of two weeks when India revealed itself to me, little by little, as a country so much more than what I had read about or seen on the news And when I go to sleep, I'm going to close my eyes, and search for the India I remember, the one underneath all of the current images of chaos and senseless violence. I'm going to close my eyes, and send all of my own hope east.
At a Hindu shrine outside of a temple in Manali
Outside of the same shrine
In the desert of Rajahstan
Monday, November 24, 2008
I mean who doesn't love a sexy, sensual song about nutmeg?
For me Christmas really isn't Christmas without an intelligent discussion of the cultural differences between Christmas and Hanukkah as expressed through song.
So despite all of our differences, can't the spirit of a Colbert Christmas unite us as one, if even for just a little while? So tonight I'd like to sign off by saying,
Merry Colbert Christmas to all, and to all a good night.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
I say this as an absolute avid movie watcher. Over the past few months, cinema began to lose its luster. I saw movies I liked and would probably recommend to a friend, but which I more or less stopped thinking about the moment the lights went up in the theater. I would go to Blockbuster and scan the entire New Release section and not see a single movie I was really dying to see. I would sit through the previews before a movie, my absolute favorite part of the movie going experience (I must get to a movie at least a half hour early to ensure that I do not miss a single preview), and not be interested in even one of the eight movies being previewed. And this all made me very sad. Because like I said, I love movies. I love what it feels like to sit through a great movie in a theater and know that you're sharing that experience with all of these complete strangers; how for a couple of hours there is no other world but the one on the screen in front of you. I think film at its best can be true art, a valuable and important method of storytelling. But lately I was starting to lose that faith in movies. And then tonight I saw "Rachel Getting Married."
"Rachel Getting Married" tells the story of a former junkie named Kym (Anne Hathaway) who leaves rehab for a weekend in order to go home and attend the wedding of her older sister, Rachel (Rosemarie DeWitt). Family drama ensues. Those two sentences pretty much sum up the meat and potatoes of the plot. The brilliance of this film lies in the breadth and scope of the world that is created within the confines of that rather familiar story. Kym is a self-obsessed, self-destructive, self-loathing addict. She's appalingly selfish at times. She's the kind of person who, as a friend, you would have given up on long ago. But with the pull that only family can have, she re-enters the lives of her relatively well adjusted and happy sister and parents and drags them into the painful, ugly reality of her inner world. I know a lot of praise has been heaped on Anne Hathaway for this role, and I loved her before I saw this movie. But she just gives the kind of performance that makes you hurt. She's so honest, so visceral, so brutally raw that it's all you can do not to gasp out loud at the sheer force of her performance. Gone are all signs of movie star glamour. She spends the film peering out with big eyes from a jagged and choppy mass of hair. She takes on all of the ugliness and pain of this very messed up character, and never once panders for the sympathy of the audience. And because of that, by the end of the film, the audience, like this woman's family, has no choice but to feel something for her-whether its anger or pity or some mixture of both. Her presence is simply too magnetic to not engage.
Yet one of the many remarkable parts about "Rachel Getting Married" is that Kym isn't the movie. This story could so easily have veered into Lifetime territory if it was only about an addict's road to recovery and the damage they have inflicted on themselves and the ones they love. Like the title suggets, this movie is largely about Rachel getting married. Rachel, as played by Rosemarie DeWitt, is in some ways the heart of the film. In terms of Kym, she experiences what the audience experiences, a strong desire to hate this person for being so selfish tempered with an equally strong desire to want to fix her, to find a way to bring her into a place of love. DeWitt is lovely and heartbreaking. She quietly grounds the movie with her often tested grace.
Shot in a handheld style, the movie follows the events of the wedding weekend at the family's Conneticut home. The director, Jonathan Demme, with a poetic eye for detail, does something very un-movie like. He lets the events roll out unhurriedly, at their own pace, and takes time to linger on the tiniest, most ordinary kind of moments. What other major film would spend huge chunks of time on rehearsal dinner toasts given by characters that aren't even named and which don't in any way advance the plot? There's never a rush in this movie, never a sense that you're jumping from one plot forwarding device to another. You're simply in these people's world, allowed access to their most intimate moments, and because of that you get to know these characters in a way that you don't really get in other movies. They're not simply characters with a capital C whose actions advance the plot, capital P. They're people who are trying their best to enjoy their wedding weekend, people trying and sometimes failing to say and do the right thing, people that are rendered with so much humanity and grace and truth that the last thing you could do would be to judge them.
I've mentioned Hathaway and DeWitt, but there are so many wonderful performances in this movie. From Bill Irwin, as the sweet and gentle father whose tremendous, stubborn love for his broken daughter is palpable every moment he's on screen, to Debra Winger, Kym's mother, who reacts in the complete opposite way, choosing distance and coldness as her methods of dealing with her daughter's crimes. And the screen is just filled with a hundred memorable faces and voices. From very early on you're surrounded by this mesh of people, and like I said, despite the fact that many of them have nothing at all to do with the story, they're never treated as extras or background players. Demme films the movie in some ways like an actual wedding photographer-content to drift and stray from the wedding party for stretches, trusting that their presence informs the entire event, even when they're not on camera. And even with the drifting and the tangents, Demme never loses sight of what the movie's about, the dynamics of the relationships in this family, how it's possible for there to be so much anger mixed with so much love. There's a deep and permanent tragedy at the center of this family, and it forms the center of the movie. But it doesn't overtake it. Juxtaposed with incredibly painful mentions of the tragedy, there are moments of levity and kindness and beauty. And really that's what "Rachel Getting Married" is, a series of juxtapositions, a constantly shifting balance between the ugliest realities and the warmest, most wonderful ones. When Kym comes home she acts as a catalyst. She heightens everything and opens wounds. But in a way it's almost catharsis, for her family and for the film. After the grief and the hurt there comes joy. And joy tempered with memories of pain is perhaps the purest kind there is. It's the joy that knows to appreciate a moment as it happens, because life won't always be so good.
So in summary, I loved this movie. I loved it in a way that I haven't loved a movie in a long time. I know it will stay with me, the raw and devastating parts that made me cry as well as the light, gentle moments. I think a movie like this is very difficult to do well. In some ways it reminded of the reason it's so hard to write a good short story. Because in the perfect short story not a lot needs to or should happen, but a lot needs to conveyed. Hemingway wrote perhaps the greatest short story of all time, a masterpiece called "Hills Like White Elephants." It's incredibly short and it consists of two people talking in a train station. If you haven't read it, please google it and do it now. It won't take very long. But anyways, the story isn't plot driven. Nothing explodes. The world doesn't need to be saved. But by the end of it Hemingway has done something truly extraordinary. Without feeding us exposition, without spelling out the history of this couple, he gives us their world. By letting us into this tiny, unremarkable moment and presenting it just as it is, without the need for fancy language or a crazy plot twist, by just giving us this window into these people's lives, he tells us a story about so many things, fear and regret and a deep, abiding grief for what's to come. Every time I read it, I shake my head, because it takes tremendous courage for a writer to strip a story down to just what is necessary and still trust that it will be compelling. "Rachel Getting Married" does that. Demme shakes off the standard movie making props of exposition or backstory or a likeable main character; hell he even strips the film of a soundtrack (the audience hears only the music that the characters hear). He discards all of the things that are so heavily relied on in most movies, because he trusts the audience and he trusts his characters. And by taking this risk he does what Hemingway did, the rarest and most rewarding gift a reader or an audience member can recieve. We don't just get characters or a plot. We get a world.
"Rachel Getting Married" is by far the best movie I've seen this year. It was soul stirringly, movie-going faith reaffirming good.
The one I came across today was beautifully written. It's about the prevalence of Holocaust related films, particularly in the upcoming awards season. But it goes so far beyond that. It digs into why and how we create stories about something as massive and horrifying and indescribable as the Holocaust. This kind of work is why I laugh whenever someone suggests that newspaper journalism is a dying breed. Because as long as there are writers this talented, who can write something like this, with such passion and clarity and eloquence, then I think newspapers will continue to exist and be very, very necessary. Here's a passage from it with the link:
"The moral imperatives imposed by the slaughter of European Jews are Never Again and Never Forget, which mean, logically, that the story of the Holocaust must be repeated again and again. But the sheer scale of the atrocity — the six million extinguished lives and the millions more that were indelibly scarred, damaged and disrupted — suggests that the research, documentation and imaginative reconstruction, the building of memorials and museums, the writing of books and scripts, no matter how scrupulous and exhaustive, will necessarily be partial, inadequate and belated. And this tragic foreknowledge of insufficiency, which might be inhibiting, turns out, on the contrary, to spur the creation of more and more material.Shortly after the war the German critic T. W. Adorno declared that “to write poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric.” This observation has frequently been interpreted, aphoristically, as a fiat of silence, a prohibition against the use of the ordinary tools of culture to address the extraordinary, inassimilable fact of genocide. But those tools, however crude, are what we have to work with. "
Saturday, November 22, 2008
Gap's annual Holiday ad spread featuring people both beautiful and famous (seen in the December issue of In Style and many, many other magazines). I look forward to these ads every year, because every year they are just utterly charming. They're colorful and gorgeously shot, sweet and goofy. They're complete eye candy, and every time I see them I feel all warm and cheery and ready to go throw snowballs and wrap presents and sing carols. Did I mention I love Christmas? Plus I'm a sucker for pictures of bundled up babies. I mean how can you not be? So for all of your viewing pleasures, here are some of my favorites.
The boys from SNL-even though the non-political parts of the show haven't been super funny lately, I still think these guys are great. Largely because three of them (Jason Sudeikis, Fred Armisen and Will Forte) have been very funny guest stars on episodes of 30 Rock. (I still heart you Floyd!) And their fill in the blank answers made me laugh out loud.
I love, love, love Jason Bateman (aka Michael Bluth) and I think both this picture and his daughter are ridiculously cute.
So there are four of my favorites from the current Gap Holiday ad campaign. I don't know what it is, but I look forward to these every year and feel the urge to cut them out and frame them or something because they're just that awesome (I resist the urge). Maybe it's because models are great and all, but after a while you get tired of tooth picks posing. These phenomenal actors take an otherwise quotidian ad for sweaters and outerwear and turn it into a story, one that can be silly or serious, but always engaging. And I just love it.
And bonus! Some oldies but goodies from last year.
Love him, love her, love them. And they named their baby Archie!
He can act, he can sing, he can dance- and he looks this good in sweater. Can we just take a moment to bask in the beauty that is James Marsden?
Thursday, November 20, 2008
Several of the sexy man photos were scratch and sniff. I sort of wish I were kidding.
Now don't get me wrong. I love me some Chace Crawford and some Michael Phelps. Both are indeed very sexy. But do I really need to rub their "chests" in a magazine in order to smell their "sexy scents?" It all just felt a tad too stalkeriffic. Not to mention creepy. Scratch n' sniff is great, but shouldn't it remain in the domain of Kindergarten? Do we really need to take something so innocent and so pure and tarnish it with sexiness? What's next? Sexiest Backyardigan? Sexiest member of the Wiggles? I just think that People magazine needs to reevaluate its methods of calibrating sexiness and come up with ones that don't involve remnants of my childhood.
Wednesday, November 19, 2008
1) the amazing 2 hour walk I took on the beach this afternoon in the very, very chilly air. My hands went numb, my nose ran, my cheeks flushed and I loved every single second of it (I'll go into more detail about my lovely, spiritual, nearly transcendental beach walks in another post).
2) my brilliant warm up idea for when I got home. After a while on the beach I sort of stopped feeling the cold, but the second I got off the beach I just could not shake the feeling of chill right down to my bones. I guess a two hour walk on a cold, windy beach without adequate layers, not to mention any kind of gloves or ear protection will do that. So the moment I got home I made some hot chocolate (sugar free, so sort of not a cheat on the diet, or at least I tell myself that) and then ran upstairs and jumped in a scalding hot shower. I hate super hot beverages, so by the time my shower was over the hot chocolate waiting for me on the bathroom counter was the perfect temperature (and full of chocolatey deliciousness to boot)
3) my warm and fuzzy, not to mention inadvertently matching, ensemble I am wearing right now as I sit sipping my hot cocoa. My warmest flannel pajama pants (Old Navy men's pajama pants are the absolute best. I love my pj's baggy and women's pajamas pants are usually not baggy enough for my liking and waay to cutesy. I feel like you grow out of cutesy pajamas when you turn 8). I'm also wearing my favorite long sleeve, US Open Series tennis t-shirt and the fuzzy, navy socks I got when I was bumped up to business class on my flight to India.
So basically I am feeling very warm and fuzzy right now, and I love it. I love how cold it is outside and how the air smells like winter. I love wearing pea coats and bundling up. I love the smell of leaves burning that seems to permeate the air the second the temperature drops. I love the sight of breath in the air, and blasting the heat in a frigid car. I love that you can never feel warmer or fuzzier than when it's cold outside.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
So until today, I didn't realize that TRL was ending it's run tonight. That's how completely out of the MTV universe I am these days. But thanks to a convenient America's Next Top Model marathon, I was informed of the occasion and I tuned it tonight for the big finale. Or at least I turned into the repeat of it starting at 11:30. And well, despite how long it's been since MTV was my go-to channel, I find myself getting a little sentimental about the whole thing. TRL started in 1998, when I was thirteen years old. I could not have been more perfect for TRL at the time. I was young, foolish and completely obsessed with pop culture. I covered my walls with magazine cut outs of the boys from Dawson's Creek (yes I had an actual full size poster of Dawson and Pacey) and boys from various boy bands (as, ahem, touched on in my last post, N'Sync may have taken up the most wall space out of anyone). And you know, I could be embarassed about it, could try to be ironic and detached about the whole thing, but well I'm just not. I was thirteen. Aren't thirteen year olds supposed to be young and stupid and have crappy taste in music and be in love with way older and way unattainable boys from the covers of teeny magazines?
I'm not gonna lie. TRL was a big part of my life in middle school (and maybe a wee bit in early high school). The second I got home from school I turned it on and watched while I ate my afternoon snack. I thought Carson Daly was dreamy. I may have even voted for my preferred video on several occasions. I have never been cool. If you've read many of these posts, then you probably already know that. I'm not one of those people who can claim to have been listening to classic rock or punk music since preschool. I have always been gloriously, dorkily obsessed with all things mainstream and unabashedy not cool. And, well, TRL wasn't cool. It wasn't supposed to be. It was just this perfect catalyst for kids to turn on the television and revel in all things pop, a place where "woooo!!!" was the language of the mob, where you could watch your favorite videos and favorite musical acts and somehow feel apart of it all. I don't know if it was our generation's American Bandstand. Really I'm not sure it matters. All I know is that for this former thirteen year old, TRL was an integral part of my preteen and early teen culture. And I'm happy about that. I'm happy that my peak of girly shriekiness coincided with the peak of TRL and boyband and pop mania. It was all silly and harmless, of course, but I wouldn't have chosen to pass my preteen years any other way.
So in honor of the now late TRL, I'll offer one last memory. The first time I went to NYC, there was nothing else that me and my best friend, MK, (she keeps popping up in these preteen related blogs-let's just say we had similar obsessions back then-okay fine we still do), wanted to do more than to stand outside in the freezing, January cold for hours outside of the MTV studio in Times Square while TRL was filmed. Forget museums, forget shows, forget even the shopping. We had one afternoon and the only thing on our agenda was TRL. So that we did. We froze and we screamed until we were both hoarse. We craned our necks upward to catch brief glimpses of the back of Carson Daly's head. Whenever the camera swooped above us, we, along with the rest of the crowd, threw our hands in the air and shredded all remaining dignity with the volume of our shrieks. We "woooo"ed with the best of them. We sang and danced to the music videos on the countdown while traffic swooped past. We acted completely and totally our age.
I can only hope that when I have kids that age, they have a similar outlet to let them be equally spazzy and young. I'm sorry, but no thirteen year old should be put together and trendy. There's no joy in that. And everyone should have the chance, at least once in their life, to scream at the top of their lungs for their favorite song in the middle of the afternoon.
Sunday, November 16, 2008
Friday, November 14, 2008
Thursday, November 13, 2008
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I feel like I have been very honest on this blog since its very beginning, and so it's only fair that I continue that trend. I have a severely inappropriate crush on Jeremy Roloff from the TLC show "Little People, Big World." (pictured at the top center of the above picture) I remember the first time I saw the show. I saw the then probably 15 or 16 year old Jeremy, and thought to myself, that boy is going to be smokin' hot one day. But I let it go, because he was 15 or 16, I was probably 20 or 21, and well that's illegal and gross. But TLC seems intent on corrupting me and every other pervy older woman out there with its new add campaign for its Monday night block of programming. I searched and searched for the actual commercial but if you've watched TLC anytime recently then you've probably seen it. The commerical is for Monday night on TLC with Jon and Kate Plus 8, Little People Big World and the show about the weird mormons with 17 kids who all wear clothes straight out of Laura Ingalls Wilder. And at the end of this commercial, there is a super, gratuitus, zoomed in shot of Jeremy, now 18 and fully grown up, and just, well beautiful. Like they might as well have had him take his shirt off. So now I just have the hugest crush on him, and it's not my fault because TLC with their evil commercials clearly preyed on women like me, women who should know better than to crush on boys who are still in highschool, but who have been blindsided by the sheer hotness of this boy. And so now I just feel dirty and conflicted about the whole thing. All I can say is damn you TLC! I already have enough issues with my love of Zac Efron and Shia LaBoeuf (and they're 21, only two years younger than me!). The last thing I need is to dwell on someone who is barely out of the jailbait sphere. So stop those commercials right here and now. I know this boy is eye candy, I know he's a good way to end a commerical. But for the sake of us all, just end on a shot of a Mormon or something. Because there is nothing sexy about that family.
1) the smell of fresh cilantro. Nothing takes me back to my childhood like the smell of fresh herbs. I can be a thousand miles and minutes away, but give me a whiff of fresh cilantro and I'm a little girl in my mother's kitchen or a kid wandering around the greenhouses and gardens of my aunt Jo' Powhatan farm. Fresh herbs not only have the magical effect of instantly elevating a meal from standard fare to something wonderful, but the slightest suggestion of their earthy, full scent makes me feel home again.
2) Top Chef premiere tonight! as someone who loves food a great deal and who dabbles in cooking, Top Chef is an aspiring foodie's paradise. I can't wait to see the new contestants, who to love, who to hate, who to love to hate.
3) The fact that around 5pm tonight the moon in the sky outside looked like this:
Albeit seen from farther away. It was one of those moons that, if seen when driving, nearly makes you crash. I was on the way home from Harris Teeter, and smack dab in the middle of the sky in front of me, there was this unbelievably full moon. It was fully visible even though it wasn't dark yet, as if this vibrant, orange shaped moon simply couldn't wait for her more glamorous cousin, the sun, to go down. She was at the peak of her beauty after all, and far too impatient to wait for the right cue.
4) My new "beet sugar" coat from Old Navy.
5) that my "job" is spending a day with this little munchkin
Yes I slave away my days walking one and a half blocks to the beach with the cutest, sweetest, little 15 month old on the planet. Again and again I return to the world of nanny-hood and there's usually a moment per day when I remember why. Today it was when Hampton did the traditional one year old move of affection toward a newly acquainted friend. I was holding her, and she smiled wide, scrunched her face up in delight, and head-butted me. This may sound alarming for someone not used to children, but for one thing her head is far too small for it to hurt, and also from the time I've spent with babies I've learned they show their affection in unusual ways. From head-butts to body slams, babies who lack the ability to talk find peculiar ways to show when they're feeling happy and safe. Honestly, I think they're on to something. In many ways a head butt or a body slam feels like a much more logical way to show affection than with our adult methods of conversation and poorly articulated words. And this little girl (shown above in leg warmers, I mean how cute is that!?), has completely melted my heart.
6) for nearly empty beaches, for the resolve and enthusiasm that come on the first day of a diet (we shall see), for warm Barnes and Nobles, for my favorite spice Cumin, for cardigans, for the fresh seafood counter at Harris Teeter, for good conversations with old friends...
for the courage to change plans.
For all of these things I am thankful tonight.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Saturday, November 8, 2008
Thursday, November 6, 2008
I was driving back from volunteering for the Obama campaign in Durham, NC early Tuesday evening (more on that and with more detail in a later blog), and because of the fact that after two days of knocking on doors and talking with similar minded people about Obama and this election and the state of our nation, well let's just say that the election and America were very prevalent in my mind. And something happened that I can't remember happening in a very long time. I was thinking about my home country and I got a little weepy, not in the oh my God we're going down the crapper kind of way or the I can't believe we have to deal with this current administration for three more months kind of way, but in a very country song, I'm proud to be an American kind of way.
I want to attempt to explain why. On Thursday morning before I left Charleston, I went to the voter registration headquarters to vote. I thought it would be a quick stop on the way out of town, and take maybe half an hour at most. The second I neared the place, I knew this would not be the case. Cars were parked half a mile away and three police cars were doing traffic control. And South Carolina does not have early voting. These were all people who would not physically be able to vote on Tuesday because they wouldn't be there or would be working or were over 65 and thought it would be quicker to vote before election day. I walked into the voting place, and was greeted with hundreds of people waiting in line. With a grudging feeling I walked to the very back of the line, and prepared myself for a tortuous wait. But then something happenened. The wait was indeed long, but it wasn't tortous. And I think this was largely due to the atmosphere of the line. I looked around me and saw conversations spring up everywhere. In line at Starbucks, strangers stare straight ahead or text on their Blackberries or talk on their Bluetooths. People do anything but talk to each other. And there was some of that at this place. But for the most part, people talked to each other. They made eye contact and laughed and talked about the election or things having nothing to do with the election. I looked around me, and saw the full range of diversity present in Charleston. There were young people, old people, middle aged people. There were white people and black people, people with foreign accents, people with foreign looks. There were people with babies, people in uniform, adults in suits and kids in sweatpants. There were doctors in scrubs standing next to men whose shirts said Comcast. And the remarkable thing was that these people were interacting freely with eachother. There was a group not too far ahead of me who talked almost the entire length of the nearly two hour wait. In this group there was a young black woman, a young white woman, and a white elderly couple. Now these people could all have been voting the same way, or they could have been voting the opposite. But it didn't matter. They weren't talking to each other because they shared political views, and they probably wouldn't have stopped talking if they did find out who each was voting for. And that might seem simple or obvious, but it's neither. It's remarkable. We live in a country where at the end of the day, at the end of the line, our political differences are a part of us but they don't define us. Our best friends can be at the opposite end of the political spectrum from us, so can our parents and our siblings. Things can get heated of course, but we don't kill each other over these differences. Some exceptions apply, but for the most part we don't set ourselves on one side of a line and refuse to interact with anyone on the other side. Strangers in line to vote for the president of this country talk and interact freely, with no thought to whether or not the people they're talking to are voting the same way. We've grown up with this, but we shouldn't think that it's universal. We should never forget how lucky we are to live somewhere where political differences are cause for debate and argument, but never bloodshed.
The people in this line wanted to be there. Mothers dealt with impatient, grumpy babies. Others were missing work. Men and women in their 70s and 80s stood on their feet and waited along with everyone else. Anyone could have left at any time, but no one did. And then after two hours, these people punched their choices onto a touch screen computer, and went about their days. The very mundane nature of how we vote is something truly extraordinary. No one in this nation has to be brave to vote. No one has to go to the polls and know that if they vote for the "wrong" guy, then a group of thugs will be waiting outside to beat them to death. We vote without fear of repercussions, without thinking that our livelihood and our families might be in danger if we vote with our conscience. And how can you not just think about that and marvel about how lucky we are? Our elections aren't just pretend shows of democracy. We don't go through this process and know that at the end of it all, votes don't matter and that they're just the ruling power's way of appeasing the world. There are places in this world that call themselves democracies and are really only faint outlines of the real thing. There are places in this world where elections lead to violence in the streets, where a group of people who want to change their nation do so at the cost of their lives. But we live in a true, honest to God democracy. In spite of all our our problems, nothing can take that away. When I was volunteering in Durham, someone I canvassed with said that although it was cheesy, he loved that in America, on election day, no one's voice is any louder than anyone else's. It may be cheesy, but it is the greatest trait of our nation. The guy in the mansion may have all the power for most of the year, but on election day, he has no more power than the woman living in a housing project. In a lot of countries, this is not he case. The guy in the mansion always has the power, the thugs in the street, the warlords-these people because of violence or manipulation crush and silence anyone smaller than them and no election can change that. To be able to vote in peace, without worrying about anything bigger than having to wait in a line, it's a blessing in every sense of the word.
In Durham we got into a spirited debate with a man on a street corner. He was undecided and out of no where we got into this conversation about tax policies. It was the middle of the day, and people were all around us, and we could talk loudly and openly about politics. We went door to door with buttons and stickers and fliers which proudly and openly declared us Obama supporters. These things, freedom of discussion, the freedom to disagree, freedom of choice; for people my age, we've always had them and it's easy to think of them in this modern, 21st century as universal or assumed or givens, but they're not. They weren't given to this nation either. These things are privileges. They had to be earned and crawled toward. In this country, they have been fought over and died for. People died for these things. And we reap the benefits, and grow up in a society where our constitutions' pledge of equality is not just a phrase on paper but a breathing, living thing. As a woman, I've never been told by my country that my voice was worthless. Young African Americans never had to wonder why they had no vote in a so called democracy. Entire generations of women and African Americans went their whole lives as citizens of a nation that for all its grand promises and waving of flags, refused them a place, told them they weren't good enough to fill out a ballot. And because of these generations that went before us, because of people who marched and fought, because of soldiers who left home and never returned from distant lands, because of them we have an America that truly lives up to its creed. Voting is a right, but I never want to forget that it is also a privilege. I never want to lose sight of the fact that in 2008, there are still places in this world where people have to meet in secret and whisper their ideologies. News shows where people yell at each other about politics are annoying, but the very fact of their existence reflects an America that I am so deeply proud of, one that is open and free and willing to listen to every voice.
On November 4th we, as a country and as a people, voted. Now whether or not you were happy with the result, I think we can all agree on the significance and importance of Obama's election. I watched his speech, and again got weepy. Now a lot of this was probably due to my support of him as a candidate. But I think that even the most fervid John McCain supporter could have gotten a little misty too. A very short time ago, America was segregated. My parents spent their childhoods in a world with separate black and white drinking fountains and bathrooms. My grandparents spent their childhoods and young adulthoods in a world where racists could be open and unapologetic. And a couple of nights ago an African American was elected by a majority of this nation to the highest honor and office in our land. If that's not progress then I don't know what is. I've heard time and again people talk about how the world has only gotten worse and America has lost its values. I've always disagreed but sometimes have been hard pressed to offer concrete proof. Well if you turned on the television after 11pm on Tuesday night then there's your proof. Throughout all of our recent troubles, all of the things that have gone wrong in America and in the world, there's been a line of progress moving steadily through time. Through our darkest moments and worst decisions, that progress has been there. It's that progress that allows me to hold onto my idealism. It's that progress that allows me to believe to the core of my being that our best days are not behind us but ahead. And Obama's election is a vivid and permanent mark of that progress. Nothing can take away the fact that a nation built on the backs of slaves, a nation fueled by racism and prejudice for so many years, elected this man. Barack Obama as a candidate was not defined by his race and he shouldn't be defined by it as a president. But for one brief moment, we can all take time to appreciate how many long held dreams were fulfilled on Tuesday night, how many wounds were healed, how many men and woman saw something they thought they would never see in their lifetimes. You just had to look at the faces of the older people in the crowd in Chicago. Their eyes said it all. No child born after today will be able to think that in America the color of your skin can hamper your ambitions. My children will never be able to look at a list of our presidents and wonder why they all look the same. Everyone should be able to take pride in that. And we should take this as a sign that progress is real and that if fought for, it can happen sooner than you expect. Fifty years from now how much will happen that we once thought impossible? Personally I'm excited to find out.
I believe with my whole heart that Obama's election will change this country and this world. That's why I voted for him. People attacked him for being like a "rockstar", for the size of the crowds he spoke in front of. People attacked him for being empty, that for all of his speeches and his eloquence, inspiration would not mean change. But I disagree. Whether or not he makes the right choices as president is yet to be seen. But I believe that inspiration alone has a tangible affect. It's not hollow or empty. It's very, very real. As a candidate Obama inspired hundreds of thousands of people to take time off from school or work and knock on the doors of strangers in neighborhoods they would normally avoid. He inspired my shy self to go to Durham and spend two days surrounded by people I didn't know, doing things I had never done before. As a candidate he did that. As a president, I can only imagine what he could inspire in those who believe in him. Inspiration can lead people to take a year of their life and give it to service. It can fill up the foods banks that have been at their lowest in decades. It can lead to people giving blood and time and compassion. Inspiration can turn apathy into a new era of civic service. I believe our grandparents' generation was great, but it doesn't have to hold the mantle of greatest. Believe me, that's not heresy, it's hope. For the first time in a long time, I honestly believe that we, this texting, celebrity gossip addicted, underachieving generation of ours can be great. We have so much to give, and it starts today.
This election was meaningful for me. It was emotional. And I know I'm not alone. This past weekend and past week, I spent a lot of time reflecting on how lucky we are to even have elections, to be able to vote the way we do. And late Tuesday night, the moment President-Elect Obama ended his beautiful, eloquent speech, I looked forward. For the first time in years, I looked forward and smiled.