Monday, November 06, 2006

Go Vote

Last night I went to the Claire McCaskill rally in Forest Park at the World's Fair Pavillion, but like most people I know, I went to see Barack Obama. In a nation so cynical about politics and so beaten down by recent policy, he seems like the one shining beacon we have urging us forward.

I. Waiting.
It seemed like a great afternoon to hit a rally, a Sunday in autumn, leaves on the ground. There was hot chocolate and coffee, kids running and climbing on things and dogs barking and being lead around. Black, white, young, old, students, hipsters, families-- it seemed somehow like America should look. People were in suits and Sunday best, in jeans; old women rode up on bikes in helmets and the volunteers wore their standard uniform of fleece jackets with khaki pants (why is that standard garb?). Democracy was the agenda, and there was a strange fashion to that as well. The "democracy for sale" camp was selling shirts and buttons (with a portion of the proceeds going to the campaigns, though it felt more like souvenirs from a football game to me). There were people in stars and stripes top hats, and an unfortunate array of fleece stars and stripes scarves. I just watched the crowd as I waited, alone in the cold, the rally starting an hour and a half late. It was a big group, well over a thousand, and given that we all stood there in the cold and into the darkness, the crowd seemed a good number, and in good spirits. There was an optimism, but also a strange determination that felt more like confidence. This did not seem like the pie-in-the-sky democrats gathering that I have seen in other election years. This seemed like a group of people who thought something new was about to happen. It wasn't about promises, it seemed, but about commitment.

II. I ran into several people whom I work with, all more or less by coincidence, but it seemed to lend some credence to our business being rather political and indeed, rather democrat-centered. Steve walked around, hat and overcoat on, trying to figure out who was spinning the records, and trying to figure out a better person to program the music. Katie asked me if I had ever been to a Republican rally, as she wondered what those looked like in terms of diversity. Listening to the terrible music and waiting, we discussed the invariable merits of Rock the Vote.

III. I Want Charlie Dooley To Be My New Best Friend
The rally got under way with an all-star list of Missouri dems-- Jean Carnahan, Russ Carnahan, Maida Coleman, Charley Dooley... Several spoke, but then Charlie Dooley blew me away. Listening to him is like listening to the gospel in church. I find myself somewhat spellbound. His words had a richness, a realness, and a passion to them. He was not giving a speech, he was speaking, and it seemed a stark contrast to so many political functions. Last night was the second time in a week I have heard Charlie Dooley speak. (A week ago, I heard him speak at the STILL dinner, and his message was that we need to help our children get an education so they can come back and bring that knowledge back to their communities, and so they can help create jobs to continually retain our talented young minds in our city... Hooray for that message!). Last night, as County Exec. Dooley spoke, he was funny and real, telling us what a great lookin' audience we were, and then... some not so great looking. He told us it was okay though because the ugly votes count as much as the pretty votes. It was in that joke that he seemed to shine through. In politics, we are all equal, and we all count. He urged us to be counted, and I loved listening to him. It was the first time I wanted to live in the County, just so he could represent me.

III. Barack Obama Can Tell a Story
Claire McCaskill spoke, and despite the rally point being to support her, last night was really about change. Obama got straight to the point with a great phrase, saying it was time we "vanquished" the politics of fear in our country. It seemed like a Jedi word, and I commented to Steve perhaps the Force would be with us; Steve commented Obama was the next JFK. There is always an energy to Obama, but an honesty. He told stories of being tired, and then told stories of people continuing onward and moving forward. He gave us the narrative of America, beginning with something like, "Our nation began with a ragtag group of thirteen colonies who wanted to beat down the most powerful country in the world." Such a simple statement struck me. We all know where we came from, but we forget at times what we have accomplished. He continued his American tale telling the audience how we set out with these ideas to create a completely new government, how we had a vision. It's that kind of talk, those images of a common history, those reminders of how we are the same, of how we are unified-- it's those things that make me excited about where we might go next, about what American might become again in my lifetime.

Obama talked about the blight of slavery as our "original sin", and I have to say, it was the most amazing thing to see a nationally prominent politician, one who is so dynamic and respected, and one who is not white, stand at that podium and talk about our future.

People were there to support McCaskill. And they were there to get information out about the issues. They were there to remind us how important Missouri is in this election. But I couldn't help thinking we were also all there to support this man whom we would so like to see become the next President of the United States. We were there to support his ideas and take them up as our own when we go out and vote on Tuesday.

IV. So go vote. It's that simple. Just go vote. And make everyone else you know vote. Drive someone to the polls. Cover their shift if they are late to work. Let someone out early. Go vote. Talk about politics. And then see how much a single vote counts. Over and over in the last few years, we have seen that each vote counts. This election is no different. We may not be voting for a president, but we are voting for the people who will fight for us everyday, for those who will shape and create the laws that govern us. We are voting for the people who will either give us freedoms and responsibilities, or we are voting for those who will take those things away. We are still that same nation Obama spoke of; don't let the government take that away. The erosion of America has happened long enough. Vote.

For more information on local STL elections, candidates and issues, check out the Arch City Chronicle and Pub Def. (link at right)

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