Monday, November 10, 2008


Last night, as I was walking home, I found this sign tossed in the garbage:

It was quite heartwarming, I must say, to see someone toss out their hard-earned fury with the trash. Indicators that we are at the end of a dark era abound, and for someone like me, who is having a lot of difficulty absorbing the magnitude of our accomplishment, gestures like the one made by my relieved lefty neighbor can be very helpful.

I say our accomplishment for two reasons. The first, and most poetic, is for the reemergence of the American Collective as a coalition of reasonable individuals. Ours is a country founded on angry action in the face of inept or immoral governance, and the size of our most recent refusal to fall prey to more inadequate leadership is inspiring.

The second reason why I take some ownership of the success of Obama's campaign is because I volunteered. Twice. The first, and undoubtedly more effectual of my volunteerships happened in Philly during the primary. I was in North Philly, an African American inner-city community, where I had a lot of interesting conversations. Here is the summary of my experience that I wrote in an email at the time:

One woman said to me, "I don't like that Hillary, she cries too much. She's always singing the blues." (I sort of loved the image of HRC leaning into the mic at a debate and busting out "My Man's Gone Now"). A lot of people were concerned for Obama's health, convinced he would be assassinated. I also talked to a lot of folks who had given up hope for their place in civic life. "We're lost up here," said a man I met in a laundromat while he sat on a table, sipping a beer. "Nobody even knows we're here." One guy I met in front of a church kept turning around to look at me as he was walking away. "You shouldn't get so worked up," he said, "You're only going to get disappointed." "Better to be disappointed and know you tried," I called back. He smiled wide at me, shook his head. "That was a low blow," he said. "I wasn't expecting you to say that!" I saw something in the smile...hope? It seemed like hope.
It was really wonderful to talk to people who had not decided, or hadn't given the primary too much thought. It was very empowering to be armed with such a positive message, to have such confidence in my candidate. There were plenty of people who paid a little attention and plenty of others who had latched onto only snippets of information garnered from who knows where. One crazed Hillary supporter in the laundromat screamed out, "He is in with Bush! Obama is in with Bush!" When I asked her where she learned that she just rolled her eyes and said, "TV." She didn't let her guard down very far, but I could detect a little shock in her eyes when I told her that Clinton had voted in support of the war in Iraq. And you should have heard the other folks in the place when I mentioned the war. "What are we doing over there?" the guy with the beer asked. "It's not our war!"
I also volunteered in Scranton before the general election. More on that to come...

No comments: