I was born in 1988. I remember when Clinton was elected in 1992 because my mother told me that it was the first time in her life she's voted for a presidential candidate who won.
I didn't have any political awareness until late elementary school, when we had a model United Nations, and even then the only issues I knew anything about were international-- we talked about nuclear issues worldwide, Tibet, and the Iraq and Saddam Hussein.
I didn't get any awareness of national politics until the Monica Lewinsky scandal, which was not exactly the best introduction for an elementary schooler.
The first time I really cared about politics that I remember was in the 2000 election. I fell asleep listening to the returns come in on the radio by my bed that night.
We all know what happened after that one. Then the World Trade Center collapsed and everything changed.
We were expected to be proud of our country, to have faith in our country, because we were under attack. And I was, for a while. But when Bush started using that power-- that patriotism-- for what I saw as unworthy causes, I got upset. The patriotism-- the pride I'd had in my country, that I'd had for a reason that was outside of my country's control-- left a bad taste in my mouth.
A commenter on BoingBoing
today said that "We had no flags, all the songs have been taken from us." And that's been me for as long as I've understood what the flags and songs meant.
I formed a political awareness with a bad taste in my mouth.
The first election I really watched was decided in favor of the man who didn't receive more of the popular vote that the other guy. It seemed wrong. I was 12. I didn't get how we could live in a country with a system that could throw an election to the Supreme Court when the purpose of voting in the first place was to find out which candidate more of the country wanted.
The first political activity I involved myself with was protesting the war in Iraq. I was a freshman in high school. I had friends around the same age as me-- at the time, 14-- who went to different protests than me and got tear gassed.
And we joked about how we weren't really Americans. We all felt so disconnected.
There are millions of others like me. We've developed our sense of politics under the Bush administration. We watched helplessly both times he was elected, fully invested in the race. We made plans for making out with people of the same gender in front of draft offices if we ever had to; some of us watched emergency contraception get approved for over the counter use while we were under the cutoff age-- 18-- to get it ourselves. We refused to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance.
We learned to consume news from the September 11 attacks and Columbine High. We weren't old enough to understand what patriotism was until the concept had been co-opted.
So I might be speaking for the liberals of my generation or I might just be speaking for me. But my faith in this country has been broken since I understood what it meant to have faith in a country. I've been watching America go into a downward spiral since I was 12.
So knowing all that-- understanding the only America I've known-- you know the gravity that comes with the following statement:
I am proud to be an American tonight.
I went downtown with friends after watching Obama's speech and there were literally people dancing in the streets. We cheered and waved and danced.
You know how in science fiction, you get robots who get exposure to humans and end up with feelings they can't rationalize and they have that conversation with one of the humans?
The robot turns to the human and says, "Is this love?"
And I think I stand with millions in my generation who came home from dancing with full hearts, with a question in the backs of our heads: Is this patriotism?
Because I've never felt anything like it before.