Thursday, October 14, 2004

What Greenjay Sez

Seeing is Believing:
I was prepared to hear the same kind of FITB speeches that politicians all over the world use when they are trying to appeal to a wary, even hostile electorate. I was in Brazil just before their first democratic election after decades of rule by generals, and I have been in Mexico several times before, during and after their own presidential elections. Denver, like so many areas of the U.S., is shell-shocked from the last few years of economic decline and Republican blustering, and deeply ethnically divided. When it comes to any mention of the economy, or Iraq, or just about any other political touchpoint, most of the people I know from work, or in my neighborhood, instantly become right-wing Republican pod-people.

And this has definitely affected the way I live my life. For the past few years I have been careful to limit my political conversations to close family, or semi-anonymous Internet forums like Salon. I know that my opinions are unwelcome even among my friends, and equally important -- career suicide if I ever really spoke my mind among co-workers. I don't have any political bumper stickers, or cute T-shirts. It has been agony watching the events of the last few years unfold into a horror show of proto-fascism, and not feel free to say, or do, anything in public about my concerns over civil liberties, blatantly delusional economic policies, and the like. I simply did not feel like an American anymore, but instead began to see myself as a kind of exile-in-residence.

So there I sat on the bleachers, waiting for John Edwards and looking at the crowd. I saw little old ladies sitting next to pierced punks, entire families, Union members, college kids, executive suits, the works. Lots of military families, also. As I scanned the crowd looking for likely protesters, I was startled to see that everyone looked really comfortable and happy to be there, like it was a block party. And up until the speeches started, it seemed that everyone was yakking away with the people seated next to them, mostly perfect strangers.

After a certain amount of obligatory speeches and introductions of local candidates, Edwards arrived. And then the unthinkable happened-- I was enthralled, so completely mesmerized by the charm and humanity of the man that I almost forgot to take pictures. He spoke about the same things we have all been hearing in the news, and in the debates. It wasn't WHAT he said, but how. The gestures, the way he moved around the stage. The total concentration as he listened to the painful questions from the audience, and then responded thoughtfully to what they actually asked.

You can tell when you look at some kids that they are really special. I've seen it in children who excel, seemingly effortlessly, at a sport or an academic subject. You just know, looking at them, that the world will not be the same if they have the chance to attain their full potential.

John Edwards stuck me as one of those brilliant children all grown up, one of the rare ones who made it and gives all the rest of us the confidence to keep going. In the car, on the way home, it struck me. Today, for the first time in a very long time, I feel like there really is a place in this country for someone like me.

Dearest greenjay, we are legion.

YT believes.

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