Cute, I know. But really…I was about a month too young to vote four years ago, so this was my year. And to be honest, I wasn’t really that excited about it for a long time. I’ve always said that I hate politics, and in many ways, I dreaded the thought of living in DC this year. I mean…how much more political can you get?! I expected the city to be buzzing with political jargon – most of which is over my head – and Republicans and Democrats arguing left and right. I assumed it would be the heart of all of this election crap and I would have to be involved. In fact, I would probably be swept off my feet with it all… or so I thought.
Instead, when I moved to DC in August, I found it to be a pretty quiet city, and honestly, the most political aspect was probably my housemate Christa. It didn’t really make sense at first. I work 6 blocks from the Capitol – why aren’t protests happening outside of my window?? Well it didn’t take long to learn a few things. First, 99% of DC supports Obama; the remaining 1% must be hiding somewhere because I have yet to meet a Republican here. Secondly, the city is quiet because all of the politicans have been out campaigning in their home states. The politics leave the city for elections. Not what I expected.
As the election grew closer, it almost seemed like DC grew quieter, anxious and hopeful for the results. But around 11pm last night, when Barack Obama was announced President-elect, Washington DC erupted. My housemates and I heard commotion in the streets and went out to witness the city’s reactions. Many of our neighbors were on their porches yelling and cheering for Obama. As we walked down the street, we connected with person after person (sometimes physically, through hugs and high fives!), sharing a common sense of purpose and brotherhood that DC has been yearning for since the days of Martin Luther King, Jr. We continued down our street until we came to the biggest nearby intersection. There, we joined with a group of ten or so other young adults to cheer and yell at cars driving by. Every car was honking uncontrollably! (So much so that it occurred to us that the horn industry will probably be doing well over the next week.) Some cars even pulled over to high five us! The vibe was electric, and though it was late and we all had to work early the next morning, we knew our walk couldn’t stop there. We walked towards Howard University – one of the first historically African-American universities in the US. Students flooded the streets and cops had to come in to help traffic get through. Something about such a stride in history makes you feel temporarily invincible, however, as the students banged on the cop cars, unafraid of their attempt at organizing the chaos. After tons of yelling and throwing our fists into the air, it occurred to us that the McDonald’s across the street might be giving out free food. So naturally, we headed over to check it out. Nothing free, but I’ll tell you…I’ve never seen such delightful exchanges between costumer and server as I did in that McDonald’s on that particular night. We were the only white people in the crowded fast food chain, but it felt more than comfortable to celebrate as one united group of Mcdonald’s/Obama lovers. Luckily, we sat down right in time for Obama’s speech. The crowd fell silent as we listened to words that will (probably) one day be carved into some stone monument. Though the Howard Students marched on to the White House where thousands of others were gathered, we headed home for the night, adrenaline pounding.
I looked forward to seeing the ladies at N Street today; I knew they would be beyond excited. I expected them – mostly African-American – to be overjoyed to have an African-American as president…the common vibe I was getting in DC. But what they said gave me even more joy than I expected to feel, and I could not respond through the tears I felt coming on. Over and over, ladies said, “I just canNOT believe this is happening in my lifetime! If this can happen, anything can happen! If Obama can be the president of the United States, I can do anything!” These women are constantly trying to find motivation and hope, and Obama shines bright for them. To think that in their lifetime, they’ve gone from the worst kinds of discrimination and hate to a sudden realization that they can do whatever they want really choked me up. The fact is, we are voting in mini-elections every day, and the choices we make have a lot of power that can be used for good or bad. The optimism that most of the ladies at N Street are able to carry with them is teaching me more than I ever expected to learn this year. Perhaps DC isn’t so bad after all…