Wednesday, November 05, 2008

American at last

I had been eligible for American citizenship for quite a while, but I only made up my mind when Bush was reelected in 2004: I wanted to vote the next time around. After a longish but uneventful naturalization process, I became an American citizen two years ago. Quite frankly, it felt mostly like a bureaucratic procedure and I still thought of myself as French. I started to feel some stirrings when I cast my vote in the Democratic primary in February. Readers of this blog know I was a Clinton supporter but I had zero qualms supporting Obama once he was the nominee, and yesterday I voted for him 110%. (Factoid: voting with one hand—especially when you're not experienced with the New York system—while trying to film with the other is hard!)

This morning, I can say that for the first time, I am an American. I feel American. There is no shame anymore in holding this passport. And in fact, it's the country holding my other passport, the French one, that suddenly looks archaic with its antiquated power structure and elite-grooming system.

In the meantime, the tears have got to stop! Cars honk in triumph: I well up. Strangers scream in joy: waterworks. I look at the newspapers' covers and it's sob time.

But the thing that really, really gets me is when I think of the point in Obama's acceptance speech when he said America is "young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled." I know this is par-for-the-course verbiage, but at the same time it means a lot that he included gay people. I didn't think it would matter so much to me, but it does. Especially since as I write, it looks like the loathsome Proposition 8 making same-sex marriage illegal has passed in California. Part of me hopes it's just the death throes of a certain kind of mean-spirited, exclusionary thinking, but at the same time I'm not blinded enough by last night's triumph to actually believe it. We may be energized, but so is the dark side.

So yeah, I'm euphoric right now. It won't last long because the country's in a right old mess, but we can savor victory for a bit. Our side had forgotten what it tastes like.


Anonymous said...

Voting always seemed like such a big deal with those booths, but now where I live (Rhode Island) they've switched over to a paper form and a marker with velcro stuck to it that you use to draw an arrow next to the people you want to vote for; there's no curtain, no switches, and no big lever when you're done. Just some pop-up plastic tables and a counting machine at the end.

Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

Upon viewing my video, my sister commented from France that it looked like "a medieval torture chamber or a space-shuttle launch."
Speaking of France, I do like it's paper-ballot system. You pick a ballot for each candidate and an envelope, enter the booth and put your prefered candidate's ballot in the envelope, then discard the other ballots. After exiting the booth, you drop the envelope in a big urn. The attendant then says "A voté!" (just voted). Pretty thrilling.

Mike Wolf said...

When I remembered how cool our voting machines are here (NY state district 31, represent!), I was bummed to have left my camera at home. Everyone whining about touch-screens and whatnot, while we have the fabulously arcane Shoup Lever Machine. Mine even had a half-rubbed off sticker that said "old shoupy!" on it.

As for tearing up at the sight of today's papers, how about this stripe of pure Americana?

Mike Wolf said...

Wait -- you had Old Shoupy too!

Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

Go Old Shoupy! You have served us well!

As for the NY Times on eBay, this is where you see the limitations of the interwebs: try to print a blog post as a memento. Nah, doesn't work.

Unknown said...

Here in the UK people were very excited, respect for Americans has lept to the high end of the scale suddenly, after 8 years of 'Why, America, Why?'
And while your voting machines look scary, our system actually is. When I vote, I get given a ballot paper, I take it to a booth where I can mark X with a pencil (yes, a PENCIL!) on string next to the candidate(s) I want to vote for. This then goes into a locked box. Then when voting closes, people count all the X's by hand!! Talk about margin of error...("6759...6760...cup of tea? I'd love one...7661...7662...")
And we also then have the phenomenon of 'spoiled votes' - where people 'supposedly' just scrawl abuse all over the ballot.

Elisabeth Vincentelli said...

I love the pencil!

Anonymous said...

Hi Elizabeth,
I have spent the last week felling so happy about the election. I thought the same thing when I heard Obama´s speach - really great. I hope he brings in all the multicultural, brainy young people in this country in his organization and that they will use the latest technologies to bring about real change on the most important levels. A Swedish friend of mine said that this election represents an apology to the world for the last 8 years, and that is why the rest of the world felt so included.
Great entry, thank you.
Kristina Snyder