Wait! Before you read this- have you voted?! Seriously, I’ll still be here when you get back. But as a Canadian, I don’t get to vote in this election, so I’d love to see you go out and exercise your vote.
Lately, I’ve been starting to feel like this little girl about the elections. Don’t get me wrong- I love politics- but coming from Canada, I was not prepared for the sheer intensity and nastiness that comes out during elections. Every time I heard a member of the GOP open their mouth about rape (or anything having to do with women’s rights, women’s health, or any other kind of mansplaining they wanted to do), I really just felt like hitting my head against the wall. When catching up with my Rick Mercer Report on Youtube, people had purchased ads targeted specifically to Floridians. To be honest, I just stopped listening.
Florida- or Hillsborough, more specifically- is an interesting area to be. On the one hand, the state is stuck with a governor who I can only describe as the “Rob Ford” of American politics. And he’d done whatever he can to make voting difficult. The line-ups are hours long for advance voting. And yet, there are so many young people who are coming out to give their time and vote. Because they know it’s important.
About a year and a half ago, the NDP (the New Democratic Party, for you Americans who may be reading. The party that was founded by Kiefer Sutherland’s grandfather, who also established universal healthcare (which was eventually extended to all Canadians), and the party that I’ve been involved with since before I could vote) had a historic win in our election. They became the official opposition party, something they’d never done before. Something that the leader, Jack Layton’s, own father had said would never happen. Something I didn’t think I’d be around to see. It showed us the possibility of change. That we could dare to ask for something different. And I definitely feel like seeing the rise of the “Obama Generation” and his message of hope had a huge influence on these results.
Unfortunately, just months after this victory, Jack Layton passed away from cancer. But not before leaving a beautiful, inspiring letter to all Canadians. It read “my friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful, and optimistic, and we’ll change the world.” And that’s a message that still resonates. A message that seemed to draw its inspiration from Obama’s message of hope.
As I felt myself growing more concerned about the future of this country where I’ve chosen to be, I couldn’t help but wonder what was missing. How could the man whose election had sparked hope around the world just disappear? Watching from an international perspective, we were just wrong? So tired of the same old rhetoric here that we were willing to see leaders anywhere?
Over the past couple of days, I’ve seen the return of this leader. The leader who inspired millions to exercise their right to vote for the first time in their lives. The leader who made us care about politics again. The fist-bump guy, the one who recorded an It Gets Better video to reach out to LGBTQ teenagers across the world, who inspired a generation with three simple words: Yes We Can. (Not to mention the guy who managed to slip in a reference of his “Not bad” meme to his Reddit AMA and put a copy of his birth certificate on his campaign coffee mugs this year).
On my way to school today, I was listening some broadcast of him on NPR, and I heard that message again. The message about the change that we’ve made- and that we still need to make. The message about hope and the legacy that we’re going to leave behind. The message that reminds me that what’s inspiring about him isn’t the ability to outdebate or out-insult the other party, but to connect with the voters and remind them why he’s the future they want for their country.
And the beauty is, it isn’t just about putting on a show. This man hasn’t just said, he’s done. He overturned the Global Gag Rule, prioritized comprehensive sex education, called Sandra Fluke to express his support after Rush Limbaugh made particularly offensive remarks about her sexuality, repealed Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and has repeatedly spoken out against the rape comments from the GOP and has committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose. In terms of sexual health and women’s rights, he has advocated for their rights, reversed some of the discriminatory practices of previous governments, and maintains his commitment to upholding the Affordable Care Act.
Most importantly, he still seems to love it. He made fun of his own performance in the first debate, coined “Romnesia“, tweeted a response to Clint Eastwood’s infamous “empty chair” speech, broadcast from MTV, and still manages to do little things like respond to a 10-year-old’s letter about her two gay dads, and inviting him and his family for dinner.
How can you not have hope with a leader like this?
I checked out his spotify playlist the other day, and found this fantastic Florence + The Machine song, “You’ve Got the Love”, which seems oddly appropriate as we head into voting day. “Sometimes it seems that the going is just too rough/ And things go wrong no matter what I do/ Now and then it seems that life is just too much/ But you’ve got the love I need to see me through.”
I’m sorry I doubted you back there, Mr. President, and thanks for sticking with it. But you’ve reminded me of just how much you love this job and your country, and I have great hope for the things that you’re going to keep doing.