Friday, August 29, 2008

These United States of America

A week ago in Somerville, Massachusetts, some one thousand, nine hundred and seventy-three miles away from Denver, Colorado, I stood on my chair in a bar and watched the next President of the United States deliver one of the most stirring speeches of my young life. Surrounded by other Obama fans, all turned towards the big-screen TVs, Obama spoke to us in high-def, and oh my, was it ever.

For the first time in what felt like a long time, Obama laid out his plans for the future of our great nation. Nothing he said last week was new. In fact, most of it I'd learned from reading his book and from various other sources. But in that speech he put his ideals into one, cohesive message, and delivered it with such passion that I have a hard time imaging that I know someone who wasn't moved by what he said. I cried twice.

For a long, long time, I have struggled with my own personal brand of patriotism. Before I met Matt, I wouldn't have said that I was particularly patriotic. Much to my father's dismay, I drew anarchy symbols all over my notebooks in high school and professed a strong desire to move to another, better country. I went to Israel after my first year of college and came back spouting rhetoric about the ineffectiveness of our constitution. And I took just enough political philosophy classes in college to make myself dangerous. But all of that changed for me over the course of a very short period of time.

Just after I graduated from college, Matt and I took a road trip across the United States. Too poor to spend any significant time in Europe, Elissa suggested that we maximize our summer together and drive around the US. Matt was thrilled. I was disappointed. When I thought about our summer together, I imagined us taking pictures in front of the Eiffel Tower. But a few weeks passed on the open road and I learned that there is nothing quite like finding a love of your country while eating at an A&W's in Holbrook, Arizona, because it will take at least three days to order the part necessary to fix your truck. In the course of those 5 weeks that we drove around America, I came to appreciate the meaning behind "America the Beautiful." We saw the piddliest fireworks display I have ever seen in my life in a teeny tiny town called Lillian, in Alabama. And as bottle rocket after bottle rocket was launched into the air by teenagers, I welled up at Sousa's familiar tunes.

A little over two years later, the same music would make me cry, only this time, it wasn't on July 4th. It was on September 12th, as I watched the first of many video montages and stared in horror as I saw the twin towers fall over and over again. While most of my friends felt some amount of irritation at the swelling of patriotism that overtook the nation, I felt privately grateful. I was glad for the comfort of strangers, united as we were in making sure that our troops would be safe in the inevitable war. I saw so many of Matt's friends board a plane bound for the desert, their excited and eager faces making my stomach churn and hurt with worry and fear. Yes, I felt grateful for the patriotism then, learning, as I was, what it meant to be the partner of an officer in the United States Air Force.

It was just a few months later when I sat in a classroom in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma and learned about the Constitution. I surprised my classmates and myself by staunchly defending our governing document, the Justices who promise to uphold it, and the tenuous grasp we have on liberty. I carried a well-worn copy of the Constitution in my backpack everyday for three years. In my first year of law school, I memorized it, turning the words over and over on my tongue, listening to how they sounded in my mouth. To this day, I read the Constitution when I feel particularly lost in the world of law. And to this day, it makes me calmer to know that we created such a living document over 200 years ago.

It was just a few years later that I stood before a former Chief Justice of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and I took an oath the Commonwealth, promising to pursue and seek justice, and to help those who need it most. In the three years since I took that oath, I have struggled to personally define its meaning. I have found that I take it more seriously than most, that I believe a promise to be a promise, more than mere words. I believe that when you agree to help those who are least advantaged, you put your heart into that work, and that it sometimes feels a lot like patriotism, this work of upholding the Constitution.

I met more non-US citizens last year than ever before in my life. And the most consistent thing they expressed to me was just how lucky I am to have been born in the United States. "A lucky accident," they said, as they struggled to find employers who would sponsor their green cards, help them to stay in this country. "Yes," I said, finally understanding, "a lucky accident."

Last week when I was listening to Barack Obama speak to the nation, I found myself thinking, "this, this is what it means to be patriotic." Here is man who understands this country. Here is someone who respects and loves this nation and sees just how amazing an opportunity we have just by the lucky accident of living here.

How democratic are we, then? How much can we change by the power of our vote? Well, everything, of course. We can change everything. Our most powerful living documents allow us to continue to create and mold this amazing nation in which we live. It is up to us, to the lucky citizens of this country, to make it better, to form a more perfect union, to establish justice, to secure the blessings of liberty. In short, if you don't already plan to do so, VOTE on November 4, 2008. And if you want to see real changes in the way that this country is run, Vote for Change, Vote for Hope, vote for Barack Obama.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Does he Like Me, Like Me, or Does he Just Like Me?

As you're probably all aware, I heart Barack Obama. I heart him so much that way back when I was still visiting other countries, I signed up to receive emails from the campaign. So for the past couple of months, I've been getting emails asking me to contribute $5 by midnight, or watch an inspirational video, or re-consider my feelings for Hilary Clinton. I've done my part dutifully and with excitement for the future that I feel like I'm a part of. Really! So it shouldn't surprise you that when I got an email telling me that I could get a text message from Barack Obama, I was all in. I mean, me! A text message! From Barack Obama himself! The email said that I'd be among the first to know who Barack picked as his vice president. So I signed up. See, I'm the kind of girl who WANTS to be the first to know.

On Friday night, it became clear that the news was imminent. Barack had picked his VP! And I was going to be among the first to know! So I waited, cell phone at the ready, for my text message. I had a cocktail with my cell phone in my pocket so that I'd feel it if I got the text. No need; no text. I ate dinner with my cell phone next to my fork. No text. I was starting to get worried. I mean, maybe Barack doesn't care for me the way that I care for him. I drove with my cell phone in my hand. Nothing. Where WAS he? What was he doing? Why was he ignoring me? I brushed my teeth and hopefully checked my phone, just in case I'd missed his text while I was washing my face. Still nothing. And then I started to blame myself. Maybe I didn't give my $5 quickly enough. Maybe he doubted my dedication to his cause. Maybe, oh no, maybe he didn't really believe me when I said that I DO think he's change I can believe in. So, heart-broken and forlorn, with nary a text message in sight, I went to sleep.

But at 3:14am, my phone buzzed. Quietly at first, and then louder, because that's how I have the setting on my cell phone. And when I checked the message, rubbing sleep out of my eyes to read it, there it was: "Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee." I smiled at my phone, content in the knowledge that Barack still knows how much I appreciate all that he's already done for this country, and all that he has yet to do. And then I went to sleep, thinking about what a great team JObama is going to be.*

* "JObama" is a registered trademark of Matt's brain, because he is the genius that came up with that name.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

The Inevitable Big Mac Attack

There's something about spending a significant amount of time away from home that makes you CRAVE foods from home that you don't normally eat. One night Lizzi and I spent an entire evening fantasizing about what fast food hamburger we would eat first when we got home: McDonald's? Burger King? Wendy's? In the end, it didn't really matter. We just wanted something familiar. So when we stopped in Bangkok, we satisfied our cravings with cheeseburgers, chicken McNuggets, and sodas that seemed as big as oil barrels.

But when we reached New Delhi, it was different. We weren't necessarily craving food from home, but there was something about New Delhi that screamed foreign, even alien, to me. Even before we'd left for the trip, we'd heard that McDonald's in India were something to be seen, so when we came across one on our walk back to our hostel, we couldn't resist. McDonald's in India is like Chuck-E-Cheese here in the U.S. It's pure spectacle! Everything is bright and shiny; families are there for their big dining-out night. It's chaos, but in a good way.

So we dove right in, ruining the dinner we'd planned with a McVeggie Burger and a McAloo Tiki Burger. Yeah, it's a little different, but I now can't help passing a McDonald's in Boston without wondering if they've got a McCurry Happy Meal.

date night in delhi

why don't we have this here

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Where Did She Go?

Hey everybody, it's me, Matt. You don't hear from me much anymore, but I'm still around. However, today I'm hear to say that Lizzi finished the bar on Thursday and immediately found her way to another bar for some simple celebration. Ironically, the name of that bar is the 21st Amendment. Incredibly appropriate for a Constitutional law geek like Lizzi.

More importantly, after the bar, Lizzi needed some well-deserved downtime. So she and Steph packed up some sundresses, swimsuits, and sunblock and jetted off to the Bahamas early yesterday morning for a much-deserved beach vacation. She'll be back soon, I promise.