Monday, October 11, 2010

We Have Been Known to Rally

In a rally to support the Democratic candidates in the upcoming midterm election, yesterday The Roots opened for the President and Vice President right behind our house, in the playground of the school where I worked when we first moved to Philly. I’m not quite over the shock, still, of living someplace where such a thing could happen.

I’d originally planned to go to church and then join Amy in line, but I got antsy when I started seeing families getting in line with families of folding chairs already at 10:30 am (doors were at 3), so I went home and tried to get cute while Amy made us some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Yesterday was the most out that Amy and I have ever been here in our superchurchy neighborhood. Going to line up for a Democratic rally, it seemed more okay to hold hands than it usually does. We were also happy to sort of snuggle up in a sleepy way in the sun during the four hour wait.

The wait wasn’t too bad. We both brought reading material and were entertained by a the very excited group in front of us first naming TV shows and then having an awesome, awesome sing along.

Of course we signed up, in a wave of 2008 hopeandchange nostalgia, for some campaign work this month. (Politics, like baseball, are something I tend to mostly only notice in October…)

I liked how, when we got to the gate, the security guard was splitting people up by “families” to go in, whether they were actually families or not.

We found a spot about 30 feet from the stage where we could clearly see both the podium and The Roots’s instruments. After a few minutes, who should come over and stand in front of us but one Mr. Mark A, my favorite student from when I worked at Fulton. He was with two young family members who I think may’ve been dressed in purple for tolerance.

Ending up behind them, out of all the 18,000 people, made me feel like the Universe was telling me I’m forgiven for the past two years’ teaching mistakes, and am now free and clear to make some more. 

After this amazing kid’s rendition of The Star Spangled banner, a DJ who played such crowd pleasers as “It Takes Two” and “Poison” (Not to mention line dances we gamely tried to execute, despite the smooshed lack of space), here came The Roots.

They were amazing, of course, though I wish the crowd had been a little more willing to go bonkers with them.(Gratuitous aside: I never realized how hot The Roots are. Usually my Sunday forays into my hetero side begin and end with Mad Men…) Amy and I had debated whether “Dear God” was a politic song for them to sing…Amy won, I guess, cause they sang it. I was happy to sing “Why do haters separate us like we Siamese?” and the original Monsters of Folk lyrics: “I know I’m thinkin’ aloud, /But if your love’s still around/Why do we suffer?” along with 18,000 people. Pretty much makes up for missing church.

After The Roots and the actual 2010 candidates, Joe Biden introduced the President. They hugged for such a long time before the president began speaking.

The last time we saw Barack Obama speak, it was also right by my house—in Vernon Park on October 11, 2008, a few weeks before he won the election. It was a beautiful day then, too, and they kept playing that U2 “Beautiful Day” song that I begrudgingly ended up liking because it reminds me of campaign fun. I was in the middle of a race and class-struggle awakening and I really felt all the hopeandchange. I was pretty much drunk on it. We still have the flyer from that day along with other campaign ephemera on the wall.

Since that day, I’ve gotten more reticent and measured about working for change, and the nation and the president have been through a whole lot of shit. His voice has a nice pissed-off edge. He called out the Republicans on their nay-saying, rich people funding, education fucking-over: it was the most calling out that I have ever heard a democrat do.

If that speech that moved me so much in Vernon Park was the Meet the Beatles with all that exuberance, newness, and revelation, then the speech I heard yesterday is somewhere between Revolver and Abbey Road—edged, complex, and a little heartbroken. I loved it.

I didn’t love his getting-the-car-out-of-a-ditch metaphor, though. It reminded me of this household’s hopeless car years. Can’t argue with his “You put a car in “D” to move forward, in “R” to go backward” joke, though.

I can’t say that I fully believe in elections anymore. Ever since I found out that some of my students saw 2008 as a black versus white election, I’ve felt like things are so many years away from true justice and peace. But I do look forward to working on the Democrats' campaign this month. It just comes down to; it’s more fun than helplessness.

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