Thursday, November 6, 2008
Proud to be an American
by Jenny Gardiner
For years Lee Greenwood's song, Proud to be an American, has been dragged out, dusted off, and exploited by a divisive segment of the population, used in a jingoistic way to portray the entire country in a way that seemed intended to poke the rest of the world in the eye. It became to some a lovely song that left a somewhat bitter taste behind.
Today, I have never felt prouder to be an American, Lee Greenwood or not. Having seen our democracy alive and vibrant and working as intended on Election Day was something that many of us who'd felt enormously disenfranchised deeply appreciated. It was a restorative tonic that was long overdue.
What I found to be most heartening was to watch the voting process in action while working at a polling station. Sure there were the usual cadre of voters, the ones who vote year in and year out. But then there were the new ones: the Latino couple, newly-minted citizens, casting their first ballot in a free country. Twenty-something young black men who'd never stepped foot in a voting venue, bravely venturing forth with pride to exercise a right they'd never contemplated before yesterday. There was the older black woman who was so flustered she couldn't remember her address when asked for verification, and had to prompt her daughter to answer for her. And then the many, many 18- and 19- and 20-year olds who have grown up feeling voiceless, finally feeling empowered to speak out. Countless times I choked back tears while watching democracy in action, while realizing that sure, our principles have been challenged, and we've felt undermined. But we have hope: an entire nation--really the entire world--feels a sense of hope that feels cathartic. It's simply overwhelming. In an amazing, pride-inducing way.