Maria Shriver, first lady of California, has just taken a giant leap to the top of an ever-evolving list of people I admire. Days after her husband, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, endorsed Republican presidential candidate John McCain, I watched Maria take the stage at a political rally at UCLA and declare her support for Barack Obama. What a woman!
My stepfather and I used to argue politics all the time. It was fun for us, but it drove Mother nuts. I asked Mother point blank one time if she agreed with all of Daddy's political views. She said sometimes she did, sometimes she didn't, but in either case, she always told him she agreed with him. Then, she told me, when she went into the voting booth, she voted for the candidate she liked best.
The pressure on Maria Shriver to support the Republican Party or stay mum must have been substantial. Not from her husband, necessarily, but from her own knowledge that in speaking out she'd set herself up for censure from those who pull Republican Party strings. I'm sure that as I write this, there are men in suits gathering to discuss one specific agenda item: "How do you solve a problem like Maria?"
Nevertheless, there she was, her face bare of makeup, encouraging people not to be afraid to vote with their hearts, not to be afraid to take a stand. She was an unscheduled speaker. She had come, she said, after leaving with her daughter for an earlier, non-political event and realizing she needed to follow her heart to the rally at UCLA.
It's a moment I wouldn't have missed for the world. If you've noticed my absence from the blogosphere in the last few days, it's because I've been glued to the television set, flipping from one news channel to the other, listening for every word spoken by every candidate. Despite my best intentions, I've become a political junkie.
One of the things I've enjoyed most about blogging is the discovery of how much we are all alike, how much we have in common when it comes right down to our cares, our concerns, our hopes and dreams. In the blogosphere, it's our similarities, more than our differences, that draw us together. Distinctions such as gender, race, age, nationality, and sexual preference seem to blur when we read another blogger's words and recognize pieces of ourselves, our shared humanity.
Because I feel protective about those good feelings, I've never wanted to make this a political blog. In real life, I'll discuss politics with people I know well, people I trust, but certainly not with casual acquaintances. And I've never wanted my little corner of the Internet to be sullied by controversy. I still don't want that.
But today something changed for me. With the courage of her convictions, Maria Shriver stood up in front of the world and spoke her own mind. Having witnessed that moment, I can't, in good conscience, do less. So, with hope in my heart and a yearning for a leader who can inspire the best efforts of each of us, I'll stand up in the safety of this little blog and be counted as a vote for Barack Obama. If you haven't made up your minds yet, maybe you'll give him a second look.
Today, I'll put my trust in you, dear readers. I'll trust you to look into your own hearts, follow your own dreams and vote as you please. At the same time, I'll trust you not to leave comments telling me what's wrong with the candidate I like or what's wrong with me for making that choice. I'll trust you to understand that I don't even need your affirmation if you happen to agree with me. And if you choose to write about your political opinions on your own blog, I'll read whatever you have to say, give it thoughtful consideration, and still respect you in the morning.
In her speech today, Maria Shriver quoted a line from the Hopi Elders: "We are the ones we've been waiting for." Making a difference is up to us, isn't it? Follow your heart and vote for the candidate of your choice, and please don't let apathy or cynicism convince you your vote won't matter.