john kerry bumper stickers (4 and 8 years later)

Obama rally, UCLA
© 2008 erin dunigan. all rights reserved.

Granted, I was in somewhat of a fog.

When, in the fall of 2008, I tried to remember the US Presidential elections of 2004, I couldn’t seem to really recall them in much detail. How could that have been? I did vote – I remembered that much. But as for the event of the election and its aftermath, there seemed to be a void of any thoughts, feelings, or memories.

Then it occurred to me – of course I wasn’t very involved, wasn’t paying much attention to the national political situation – my dad had just passed away in September, and, that, combined with my own state of vocational and geographical limbo, was fairly all-consuming. Granted, I did know that George W Bush had won a second term – I wasn’t that blind to what was happening in the world around me. But, as I think about it, the fact didn’t much strike me one way or another. It just was. (Grief does have a way of numbing one to the world around.)

Which, perhaps, helps to explain my confusion when, weeks after the election, I saw a car with a John Kerry bumper sticker. I remember thinking to myself – and for some reason this memory is vivid – “Why haven’t they taken that bumper sticker off their car yet? The election is over. He lost. Why would you leave the sticker of a loser on your car?”

It is honestly what I thought. It is honestly what I wondered. Why would someone want to admit that they were for the ‘wrong’ side, the side that had lost, the side that was not going to be president for the next four years.

It is with that same sense of bewilderment that I look back on my 2004 self in some sense of shock. Really?! I really wondered that? For now, to me, it is a no-brainer. Of course that person would leave the bumper sticker on! Of course they were proud of their vote, unhappy with the election results, and fine for all the world to know.

But the me in 2004 was baffled by this. The me in 2004, I am beginning to realize, couldn’t understand that there might be a higher value than that of ‘winning.’

Why would you admit that you voted for a loser, I wondered. Shouldn’t you be ashamed that your candidate lost? Shouldn’t you go into hiding?

It is amazing what a difference eight – even four – years can make.

For I remember, in 2008, as I campaigned for Barack Obama in California, Texas and Nevada – and as I proudly displayed a sticker promoting that allegiance – that, were he to lose, not only would I not take the sticker off, but I would intentionally leave it on, as a proud statement of my defiance to the clearly misguided vote of my nation. It would not be the sticker of a ‘loser’ in my mind, but of one who strived valiantly for the ideals I held dear. I would not be ashamed to be identified with it, but proud that I had been on the ‘right’ side, even if the right side hadn’t prevailed.

So today, on November 7, 2012, some eight years later, if I encounter a vehicle proudly displaying a double R sticker, though I will breathe a sigh of relief that it was not the sticker of the ‘winner’ I will also remember John Kerry bumper stickers. I will remember my response – I will be reminded that within that RR vehicle is someone who cares deeply for his (or her) beliefs, was passionate enough about his candidate to proclaim it for all to see, and likely does not see the day-after sticker as the mark of a loser, but as the mark of one who should have won.

I will be reminded that, ultimately, it is not about ‘winners’ and ‘losers’ but about people who care deeply for their beliefs, are passionate about their country, and seek to contribute their energy and their passion to make it all that they hope it can be.

Which is perhaps why one particular line of the President’s acceptance speech last night stood out to me above all of the others – “Whether I earned your vote or not, I have listened to you and I have learned from you – and you have made me a better president.”

May it be so.

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