When I was a kid, I loved the Fourth of July. I would get all dressed up in crazy costumes, entirely in red, white, and blue, march in my neighborhood parade, and despite the blistering heat melting my flag face paint, I would have a blast.
When I became a teenager, all that stopped. Not because of teenage rebellion, not because I was about to start high school and was therefore too cool to march in the neighborhood parade. I stopped enjoying the Fourth of July then because the year I turned thirteen was the year George W. Bush was elected president. I haven't felt patriotic since.
I gave up marching in parades and started marching in protests. When I went abroad, I felt ashamed to say I was American. My cynicism about our government grew so much that I didn't think we would ever have a trustworthy leader again.
Until now. Today, there is a glimmer of hope in me. It's gotten under my skin and now it's the night before the election and I'm so excited I can't sleep.
I'm anxious too, of course. The cynic that grew in me during those identity-forming teenage years, the skeptical side of me that has all but completely taken over during the Bush administration, is telling me not to get my hopes up, that polls can be wrong and elections can be rigged. But there's a little part of me, some last ounce of national pride crawling out of the wreckage of these last eight years, that is finally starting to believe that maybe, for the first time in my adult life, this country will have real leadership from a president I like, and more importantly, a president I trust. Maybe I won't need to be ashamed of my country anymore. Maybe I will finally have a reason to be patriotic again.