Monday, September 14, 2009

New Beginnings . . . Hopefully

I always think Spring is the time for new beginnings, but lately I've had several friends that have taken giant chances on themselves and making very large changes in their life. I am so proud of my friends that have made these huge decisions because if you don't take a chance then you'll always be what you've always been. I think this new found faith in ourselves and each other is directly related our country's economic situation. The time is ripe for innovation and historically economic downturns and moments of hardship always bring out the best and most creative. Everywhere I turn people are starting gardens, selling talents that was once just something that you did on the weekend, and starting new businesses. Doesn't seem like the time to start a new business but recent college grad without a prayer of getting a good job the time couldn't be more perfect.

As you may know, I am and always have been an eternal optimist. It's just who I am. I often get into fights with people about it, which I did this past vacation with a bunch of 25 year Aussie boys who said that the only functional type of government is a dictatorship. (One of them runs an organization that encourages civic engagement.) I truly believe that there are always good things to be found in bad moments. I guess that's why I get paid shit and work my ass off in an attempt to help communities pass safe school siting laws. You need to be optimistic and extremely patient to do that kind of thing.

We must look at what our nation is facing, domestically and internationally, with the same optimism. There are good moments to find in the health care debate and the international financial system fiasco. There are lessons we must learn.

Just this past Saturday I was awake at an ungodly hour with tons of energy and so I went for a bike ride. Little did I know there were extra amounts of crazy in the district that day. I ran directly into a developing Tea Party Protest. My first reaction: AAAAAAAHHHHHAAAAAHHHH! and I sped away. The looks of disgust I was throwing in all directions made it difficult to ride in a straight line down 14th ST. I really had no idea this was happening. I was so confused and got the fuck out of Freedom Square and headed to the Lincoln Memorial where normal tourists take pictures and locals run laps around the reflecting pond.

After I had expended a bunch of energy I realized I had to go back up 14th St in order to get home. So I slowly cycled back, almost getting bulldozed by a Metro Bus. Wouldn't be a bike ride in DC if that didn't happen. I arrived back at Freedom Plaza at 14th and Penn, NW. The crowd had gotten bigger and I heard the faint crys of old angry white men scared shitless --- U. S. A. U. S. A. U. S. A. I just started taking pictures and breathed deeply.

Here are some of the photos I took:

I'm glad that I had seen some photos before so that I was able to at least walk around and not get punched for speaking out loud in the crowd.

There were tons of photos about the budget and deficit and big government. Those signs and messages totally make sense. I totally understand that people have those concerns.

Why am even talking about this, I'm sure you are wondering. These are a small amount of people in our country who are just projecting how terrified they are that they live in a different era now. That our country has changed and is still changing and their narrow minded points of view is becoming irrelevant. What I thought was fascinating about this protest were some of the signs and people I heard speaking about being so angry that they now have to participate in the democratic process.

This is what I talk to people everyday about. The government doesn't take care of you, you have to pay attention. Democracy only works when you are engaged and they aren't going to ask you to become engaged. You have to read the papers . . . all of them. Congress doesn't care about us. Our local governments don't care about us. We must make the system work ourselves. You must make the system what we want it to be. This is why we are broken right now. We were making so much money and had so many things in our living rooms that we didn't have time to pay attention. Corporations have been taking over and we have been playing Rock Band or shopping at Neiman Marcus.

Yes these people are crazy, but I am also happy to see people who never thought of themselves as having to do anything besides put a magnetic yellow ribbon on their SUV in order to be proud Americans taking to the streets as proud Americans.

Though our unemployment rate will stay in double digits for a while and our credit card interest rates will continue to rise, our nation really is seeing a new beginning. And you have to kick up a little dust in order to get the floor cleaned. We are entering a time where we don't want stuff, we want a good life, an engaged life, the life we want not the life we feel we should have because everyone around us says they want it too.

I just hope Obama starts kicking ass and threatening to bust some kneecaps really soon.

Renee Claire

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