Sunday, October 5, 2008

Sunburned for Obama

It was sort of a political weekend for our little household. We spent the day today at the Obama rally at Asheville High School. We overslept a little this morning, then dashed off to the high school at 10:00AM for the 2:00PM speech. It was a huge crowd, estimated to be about 28,000, and Mr. Obama was a powerful and eloquent speaker. My only previous experience with this sort of thing was in college, when Heather and I stood in line for hours to hear Hillary speak. (That was back when Hill was campaigning for Bill, not the other way around.)

In our mad dash to the event, I neglected to apply sunscreen, which is a rare oversight for me. Usually, I have SPF 70 with me at all times. I am a fair-skinned, ruddy, freckly sort of fellow, and without protection, turn a brilliant shade of red, get all kinds of 4th-grade-level freckles and develop instant wrinkles. So after approximately six hours in the sun, I am now a bright red disaster. But, frankly, it was worth it. It felt like something historic was happening, and not just because Obama is the first presidential hopeful to visit Asheville since Nixon. It felt like change and hope and equality were actually within reach, actually possible.

However, I couldn't help but be acutely aware of my recent epiphany from my Oklahoma trip, when I realized that people long to be told only what they want to hear, whether from politicians or pop stars. I was definitely in a crowd that cheered at all the right places and booed whenever the bad guys were mentioned. People want to be told someone is going to look out for them and take care of them. To his credit, Obama warned that his campaign promises were not going to be easy to fulfill, and that vast, powerful and wealthy forces stand in the way. I appreciated the dose of reality, frankly. But still cheered along with everyone else. Obama's catchphrase is "Yes we can" and the crowd chanted it throughout his speech. "Yes we can! Yes we can!"

After the rally, the crowd of 28,000 was funneled through one set of stairs, so it was taking a while. Michael and I got separated, but I saw him make it up the stairs. Just after he ascended, a little old lady collapsed on the third or fourth step, thus bringing the exit to a halt for everyone. I confess that I found this a little annoying. She had plenty of opportunity to collapse before she got to the stairs. A nurse appeared from the crowd, the police rushed over. People handed over bottles of water and tissues to wipe her brow. The cop told her help was on the way, but she waved him off and said she could make it. So as the little old lady pulled herself to her feet and began climbing the stairs again, the crowd began chanting, "Yes you can! Yes you can!"

How could I stay mad at the little old lady after that? So, even while intoxicated with political promises, people still managed to be kind, generous and even funny. And that gave me more hope for humanity than a thousand speeches. Or maybe I was suffering from sunstroke.

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