Tag Archives: democracy

We Are Women and We Roared!

To say that I am ecstatic today would be an extreme understatement. I am so much more than that emotion, but it is virtually impossible to match a word with how I feel.

Election night was incredible. I shouted, I cheered, I laughed, I cried. Once again I found faith in my fellow Americans. Not only did they rise to the occasion and vote Barack Obama back into office for a second term, they also voted strongly for women and women’s rights.

Following an extremely contentious campaign season that saw a plethora of Republican candidates spouting insensitive and misogynistic statements about rape, incest and a woman’s right to choose, Americans responded, and in a big way.

New Hampshire became the first state in U.S. history to elect an all female contingent. The Governor, the House, and the Senate; all women. They include Gov. Maggie Hassan (D) and Reps. Carol Shea-Porter (D) and Ann McLane Kuster (D) who join the Senate incumbents, Jeanne Shaheen (D) and Kelly Ayotte (R).

Wow! Can it get any better than this? Yes!

Massachusetts chose to elect Harvard professor Elizabeth Warren (D) instead of the Koch brother’s puppet incumbent Scott Brown (R). Warren becomes the first woman Senator in the history of Massachusetts.

Missourians sent a strong message through their votes for Senator Claire McCaskill (D) and literally shut down “legitimate rape” challenger Todd Akin (R).

Tammy Baldwin (D) becomes the first female and openly gay Senator by way of Wisconsin, after voters showed their belief in her abilities. Baldwin won this race by holding off a political comeback by popular former Gov. Tommy Thompson who had never lost a statewide race.

Mazie Hirono becomes the first Asian-American woman to be elected to the Senate and Hawaii’s first female Senator.

Then there is Iraqi war Veteran Tammy Duckworth (D-Illinois) a helicopter pilot who lost both legs and part of the use of her right arm in an explosion during combat, and was awarded the Purple Heart for her injuries. Duckworth defeated Tea Party incumbent, Representative Joe Walsh for the Congressional seat in her district.

Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) was elected to the US House of Representatives as the first ever practicing Hindu. Gabbard “voluntarily served on a 12-month tour of duty with Hawaii’s National Guard, and then became the first woman in the history of the Accelerated Officer Candidate School at the Alabama Military Academy to be designated a ‘distinguished honor graduate.'”

Altogether, the 113th Congress will have at least 20 female senators and the House of Representatives at least 77 Congresswomen, more than at any other time in U.S. history.

And of course there are all the female Representatives who were elected to their State Assemblies. Among them my friend Sara Gelser (D-Corvalis) who was re-elected to Oregon’s District 16.

I have had the honor to know Sara for many years. Her strong sense of integrity and fearless drive to fight for the rights of others less fortunate than most, has always impressed me. Sara is the youngest woman in the Oregon Legislature and has served since 2005. She is the Assistant Majority Leader, Chair of the House Education Committee, serves on the Revenue Committee and the Rules Committee, and President Barack Obama appointed her to the National Council on Disability. The nomination was confirmed by a unanimous vote of the US Senate. In my educated opinion, the future of U.S. politics has “Sara Gelser” written all over it.

Each one of these women is a hero to me, no matter their political affiliation. They have fought the battle, and against the odds, are rising to the top of their game in a man’s world. They serve as positive role models for our daughters, and are paving the way for all women now and into the future.

As I reflect on this historical time in our country I am still in agony over my attempt to describe in words the raw emotion that continues to rise inside. So, instead of attempting to put words to how I feel, I will turn your attention to the following video which displays how I feel quite eloquently.

This rather raw video captures Campaign Manager Richard Carlbom of Minnesotans United for All Families as he announces to campaign staff and board members that the vote on the proposed constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage in the State of Minnesota was too close to call. As he was about to end his remarks and tell everyone to go home and get some sleep, Carlbom was told by the campaign’s communications director that the A.P. just called it. An ecstatic, joyous, tear-filled celebration ensued. This was the first time in U.S. history that an anti-gay marriage constitutional amendment had been defeated.

I can relate to this expression of pure joy on so many levels and for so many reasons, but I will leave that for yet another blog…

(The real joy begins at around 2:50)

(Video by Robert Arvid Nelsen)


Self-Evident Truths

Freedom

©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010.

Photo: ©Tracy J. Thomas, 2010. All rights reserved.

I will never forget my 8th grade Civics teacher Mrs. Herman.  This woman instilled in me a strong love of Democracy and belief in our unalienable rights.  Though some 39 years ago, I vividly remember the moment she stood at the front of the classroom looking old and wrinkled but every bit as wise.  She read the Declaration of Independence with shaking hands and a voice mired with deep conviction.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness…”  By the end of her speech, my eyes welled with tears and I felt a strange sense of pride to be an American.  It was at that moment that I understood why our forefathers traveled from far off and diverse continents in search of a new life.  This was the land of opportunity, the land of hope, the place where dreams could come true; even for a shy small-town country girl like me.  Ours was a country where immigrants from many nations were welcomed with open arms to fulfill their destiny and to practice the religion of their choice under the protective veil of freedom.  This was a country where those very freedoms, inked with passion by our founding fathers, were worth fighting for when threatened.

My 8th grade graduation left me with a new-found sense of hope and pride.  I had been told by my iconic heroine, Mrs. Herman, that all things are possible in this great country and I was ensured the Constitutional right and the freedoms to pursue my dreams to be whatever it was I chose to be in this life.

Fast forward 39 years…Though Mrs. Herman’s words continue to impact my heart, I have become a tad bit disillusioned over time.  My youthful enthusiasm, though not completely squandered, has suffered years of battering at the hands of individuals who choose to spew hateful dialogue targeted at those who do not fit into their own belief systems.  Personally, I do not care what political party you affiliate with.  If you are an American, you are free to make that choice on your own.  It is also within your First Amendment Right to speak whatever is on your mind with the exception of spouting rhetoric that fringes on irreversible harm or causes slander.  We are all entitled to live our lives as Americans the way we choose to live within the confines of laws that are in place to protect us from those who would do us harm.  Each of us has the Constitutional right to follow whichever religion we decide to follow.  We also have the right to choose no religion at all.  Since it does no harm to me in any way, shape or form, I do not care who it is you decide to love.   In fact, it is your right to make that choice.  At the same time, I also have the right to love whomever I choose.  My deepest hope is we are each blessed with love in our lifetime.  Perhaps if there was a little more love to go around there would be far less room in this world for such blatant hatred.

Though jaded and weathered from time, I continue to have faith in the basic principles that this great country was founded upon.  When I begin to feel disheartened, I take a deep breath, close my eyes and imagine Mrs. Herman as she paces in front of me.  I hear the words of conviction flow from her mouth and I am embraced once again with visions of hope.  The hope that every child in our country will be allowed to grow up to be whoever they choose to be, to practice a religion of their choice (or not) and to have the freedom to experience love with the person who they choose to love.  This is the legacy of powerful words crafted centuries ago by the great minds who held our freedoms in their hands.   Powerful words that continue to hold irrefutable and self-evident truths.