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Monica Bielanko
A chronicle since 2005 of my marriage & move to Brooklyn in my twenties; becoming a mother in my thirties; moving to Pennsylvania and learning to amicably coparent after divorce in my forties while living 3 doors down from my ex-husband in a small country town.
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Friday
Aug292008

Washington Is Dead

I just finished watching Barack Obama's acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention for the second time. It's past midnight, I'm sitting here on my couch, dogs at my side, crying my eyes out. The speech will go down in history, just as Dr. King's speech 45 years (to the day) before. This is the America that I want to be a part of. This man, Barack Obama, gets it. It isn't about him, it's about us. And times, they are a changin'.

I grew up with nothing to believe in. America was America. Oh sure, we had the Pledge of Allegiance drilled into us and all those patriotic songs about being proud to be an American. We learned about the Boston Tea Party and the immigrants who traveled from across the globe in search of The American Dream, but really, it meant nothing to a kid who grew up in the suburbs of Utah.

As I grew older I learned about the assassination of JFK but never really understood why it cut so deeply to so many. I studied The Greatest Generation, I marveled at their patriotism... at my own grandpa's patriotism, his insistence on flying the flag and folding it and storing it properly. Yet it seemed hokey somehow. Almost silly... something that belonged to another generation.

And then 9/11 happened and everything changed. Fear took over. America lashed out... and we were led into war by a Vice-President (oh yeah, and a President) who talked tough, scared the shit out of us and dragged us into the wrong war. Patriotism turned into a mandate. Be patriotic or you've let the terrorists win. Sure 9/11 horrified me. But it opened my eyes to American politics. About why people could hate us so much. Oh I felt bad about 9/11. Still do. Even after everyone, especially the Republicans (Giuliani) bastardized it and turned it into a weapon. Or a commemorative coin or a fucking coffee mug sold at Ground Zero. But overall, I didn't understand it. Didn't feel patriotic. Especially when we began bombing the fuck out of Iraq and especially Iraqi civilians. Iraq? Didn't the dude who bombed us live in Afghanistan? Iraq? Really? It wasn't patriotism swelling in my heart and mind. It was embarrassment. I wasn't proud to be an American. I was embarrassed. Suddenly it was all about Saddam Hussein and how dangerous he was and weapons of mass destruction that didn't exist. Misplaced aggression. Like me, when I have a bad day and take it out on my husband.

I waded through my twenties with no real pride in my country. I was disillusioned by old-school politics. But I didn't know better. Didn't know what it was like to feel inspired by a leader. To respect a leader. A true, motherfucking leader. A dude who was born to be this man, at this time... It will happen now. He will be President. I can smell it. Inaugurated just days before I bring a child into this world. And for the rest of my baby's life I can tell him he was born when the first black man was elected President. He was born when the tide began to shift. That Mama excitedly watched Barack Obama become President while my baby grew inside of me... that Mama traveled for hours to hear the man speak and Mama shook his hand. That the rich, old, white mans turn in Washington might finally be over and Mama actually began to believe in her country and in the brotherhood of man... and it wasn't forced, it wasn't hokey, it wasn't political rhetoric. It was real.

It is an historic night in America. I wanted to mark it somehow. To acknowledge that I recognize it... as it is happening. History in the making. And forever from now I will tell the story of how I sat on my couch and watched this man speak, this future leader of America and I bawled my eyes out over the patriotism he awakened within me. I don't want my children to grow up like I did... Blase about politics. I want them to care, to feel the fire and to know what it's like to be inspired... and maybe be the ones to inspire. I am glad that I'm alive and able to fully understand and metabolize what is going on. To hear a man so eloquently champion the down-trodden, universal health care, ending our dependence on foreign oil, women's rights, gay rights... Amazing.

Washington is dead.
...you have stood up, one by one, and said enough to the politics of the past. You understand that in this election, the greatest risk we can take is to try the same old politics with the same old players and expect a different result. You have shown what history teaches us - that at defining moments like this one, the change we need doesn't come from Washington. Change comes to Washington. Change happens because the American people demand it - because they rise up and insist on new ideas and new leadership, a new politics for a new time.