To My Grandsons Ethan and Theo, this one was for you and your future
In a film there would be a panning shot, a 360 degrees camera shot taking in the masses at McCormick Convention Center on Tuesday night, November 6th--Election Day 2012. To my left are rows of network big shots doing their stand ups with the stage behind them. All about me are masses of people. Young people, giggly with joy. Old people like myself, enthused and hopeful. All sorts of people in variety of hues, the religions and non-religions, the straight and gay and trans-sexual, all of us with POVs as diverse as nature's pallet.
I've seen the future and its a gorgeous patchwork of humanity. How ever did I get so bloody fortunate to land in the middle of it?
It began the week before, actually the weekend before the week before. Returning from canvasing in Wisconsin, my husband Gary tossed a fishing line into the sea that passes for my mind. "You know, they need volunteers at the Obama re-election office."
"SO?" I curtly respond, "I don't do phone calls. You know that." Given I don't like strangers to call me--are you listening DO NOT CALL list which is transgressed daily, why would I hypocritically call others?
"I know, " he said with a Cheshire smile. "But they do need computer data input...."
Oh boy. NOW he got me. Just me, the keyboard and earphones to listen to either music or my always amusing WCPT-AM 820 talk radio. Stephanie Miller and Ed Schultz and Thom Hartmann to talk me through the hours of tedious data input. Rocky Mountain Mike, to amuse my hours. I went down to 218 S. Wabash.
After a 15-minute training by the remarkably patient Kate Samuels, another volunteer named Charles and I were assigned data. To take about 1800 pieces of Illinois volunteer data and link it to another database. Each one had to be done individually--a job that took about 9 steps per data cell. It wasn't for wusses. This was serious touch-type stuff.
So it began that daily I began to do some, then more when my co-worker didn't come back to input data. I did it remotely or in the office, it didn't matter. After Chicago Humanities Festival events. I'd enter the office, spy an empty laptop or rev-up my standing desktop computer at home, all I needed was internet access and I could do my assignment. And did it I did. Hours and hours of click-click-click.
I like to think I helped get Senate-elect Donnelly elected over "you've-got-to-be-kidding" MCP Mourdock. That his name is a homophone for the dark-side evil one, Darth Rupert Murdoch--only makes it sweeter.
So that is how I scored the one-of-10,000 tickets to the Obama Election gathering. Gary got his by talking, over and over and over either face to face canvassing or over the phone, encouraging Obama supporters to actually VOTE. We got those tickets the old fashioned way, by volunteering to work for what we believed in. Is anything more American Betsy Ross?
The question was on Election night, when to go? Early and stand about forever, or later and risk the big WHOO HOO? We left about 8 PM, pulling on winter-ish rain gear (no umbrellas allowed in the room tonight), to walk the 4 blocks to McCormick. Living near to Soldier Field and McCormick has its drawbacks and its privileges.
Arriving at McCormick it was an easy in with a guard carefully looking at each invitation, ours encased in a plastic sheath with a lanyard that hung about our necks. It was a bit like a big concert event, with people happily wending their way down the snaking line. Disney without the Disney requisite smiling--these people weren't commanded to be delighted and hopeful, they just were. A bit down the line a sign appeared to offer $3 coat check and/or $4 package check. "Briefcases?" asked an attendant. No packages inside the venue. No food, no drink, etc. Clearly all to keep us safe.
Next came security, easier than TSA at any airport in the USA. My Obama button earrings passed the muster without removal with a wave of the wand. We were IN. There before us was a smiling neighbor, the ever delightful Tina Feldstein and her fellow member of the PDNA Board (Prairie District Neighborhood Alliance.) Hugs all around, you take my photo and I'll take yours--and off we were all off to the Big Room. Down a passageway with giant FORWARD banners overhead. Just before the Big Room were a plethora of water jugs with triangle paper cups, got to keep us supporters hydrated.
We entered the Big Room. A large room, well this is a convention center. Darkish, but not too for 60 plus eyes, there was a band playing the best of that was noisy but not too noisy. We made our way, like some sort of religious pilgrimage toward the nearest jumbotron. Six channels--including Rupert Murdoch's FOX--were up there. Occasionally one channel would call a state, and get full use of the jumbotron--as the attendees either cheered loudly or booed quietly. Don't boo, I thought. Organize and lobby friends, family and strangers on the train.
Strangers accosted each other with a "Have you heard about fill-in-the-blank?" The Pledge of Allegiance was said and a rather boisterous prayer, that some opted out of without issue from others. Any one remember that bit about separation of church and state except me? Okay, this wasn't really state event--but yet it was, electing a head of state of the entire country. With a reported 20% of Americans polled claiming no religion, when will we give this exclusionary tradition up?
A wonderfully heart felt Star Spangled Banner was sung and the event was officially on. We waited, with time not hanging on our hands. Too much social media to play with. Blogs to write (Bon Bini Ya'll), Twitter (@sherlockianone), texts to and from friends--three of whom live in very blue states while supporting Obama. This is what comes of an electoral college system--akin to running a 21st century with whale oil, we split each other into us and them.
Before my cell needed to change batteries, the CNN Projection came up.
"CNN projects Pres. Obama wins re-election."
The crowd roared its approval. Tweets came in to my phone saying you could hear it outside the Convention Center at homes in the South Loop. Hugs and tears with family, hugs with strangers. High-fiving and relief swept the crowd. It was then that security began to allow a limited number of people into the area nearby the stage. Seeing it open, I grabbed my husband's hand and said, "GO!"
Security was great, admonishing us to go SLOW...not wanting a rush. We may be a mixed bag of liberals and progressives, but we also are rule followers who paid attention to follow the rules. No pushing, no shoving, no ME firsters. And it was then that the tables were turned.
We were in a rope line. As attendees walked quickly past us to the stage, I saw the mass of media jammed to the fence on our left. Cameras, lights and notebooks in hand, all plead with attendees. "What do you think?"
I thought of my niece Cassi (who is with CBS) and her husband Zack (who is with MSNBC), so we slowed down to talk to them. With a fully bilingual husband, he sought out Spanish speakers but found more English speakers than one would expect. The media we spoke were from: Norway, CNN Chile, Brazil, Germany, Finland, New Zealand, Japan, Portugal, Britain, Canada, France and numerous more. At least a couple of dozen faces asked long and short questions. Looking off while my husband was responding to one journalist, I saw a familiar logo. BBC World Service.
Approaching the young woman holding the microphone, I burbled how they were a favorite of mine and that I had (truthfully) been listening to BBC World Service only hours before while coming home on CTA bus 4 from the Loop, using TuneIn Radio, a free app that allows users to listen to the world electronically. Answering her questions I did a shout out to almost 6-year-old Ethan and 2.5-year-old Theo in Esher UK.
Approaching midnight, after days of limited sleep and hyper energy burn--we were pooped, so left. Governor Romney still having not conceded despite all major media outlets--including FOX saying, Obama won, we figured we'd been in Grant Park 2008. We'd met President Obama at the Bud Billiken Parade in 2008, encouraging him to run way back then.
Walking down the stair at McCormick we ran into other neighbors, Bob and Marie Christian, with whom we walked home. More hugs and goodbyes and we were home. In time to rehydrate, whoo-hooing takes a LOT out of one--we were able to watch President Obama's speech in the comfort of our jammies.
Eight years ago a neighbor, a Bush supporter, came up to me the morning after Bush won. "Nah-nah-nah-nah-nah..." she smirked childhood sing-song into my sad face. A sad commentary of a FOX News, GOP politics of division. No division this morning for me.
I'm writing this for my grandsons who live in England and are legally, both British and USA citizens. Their mom, our daughter Jennie, was born in Canada so has that and USA citizenship. Almost 20 years lived abroad we all know, that like the US doesn't have red and blue states--the world doesn't have any dotted lines separating people. Humans invent those.
We'd better work together or nature will conspire to take us all out. Climate change isn't imaginary. It's a financial drain. Working together isn't weakness, but strength. Immigration is everyone's problem and solution too.
It takes a strong leader to work together. So the US Congress--especially those on the right who are already saying they will NOT work with Democrats--had better do so, or get out of the Congress. You aren't doing the job of the nation or your constituents sitting under lleig lights kvetching to FOX night after night.
To paraphrase Ben Franklin. Either we work together, or we tear ourselves apart. The problems won't wait. And as was on display last night--the world is watching us.
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