Some observations on stepping out onto the grassroots of politics. This is not about why we support Obama - that's been covered eloquently and debated fully on this site and others. This diary is about the act of standing up, how its scary, but so moving to see so many regular folks engaged and stepping out.
We brought our kids to the Harrisburg, Pennsylvania St. Patrick's Day parade on Saturday. We had decided to attend the parade to support the Harrisburg for Obama parade effort. There were no advertised big names expected to attend our parade. Hillary and Ed were in Pittsburgh, some Kennedys in Scranton. Not sure who was in Philly.
But the kids were excited (a parade!!!), the day gorgeous and the general mood festive in anticipation of the revelry to come at the several Irish pubs along the route down 2nd Street. The crowd a mix of the 20 and 30 somethings with their green mardi gras beads and plastic green hats, the older Irish American ladies and gents, the families like us and the local Harrisburgers of all ages, races, shapes and sizes.
We got to the Obama Harrisburg HQ about an hour and a half before the scheduled start of the parade and it was full of people, most like us, tentative in our public display of support and excitement, and desire to do something to help. We nervously asked for some signs and stickers and signed up to bring food next week. Then we relaxed and got our faces painted (well two of us anyway . . .) and our youngest was interviewed by someone with a fancy video camera, who asked whether she was "for Obama" to which she responded: "FOUR AND A HALF!!!!"
Realizing we had a lot of time on our hands we walked back down the parade route to put some things back in the car.
And I realized at that point that I felt both exhilarated and vulnerable. We had stepped over that line. The cat was out of the bag. We were out in public on the streets of Harrisburg, with "Obama" on our shirts, hats and cheeks and signs in our hands. And we would eventually see people we work with and know. For regular folks, especially when you are told every day on the news and in the morning papers that you are in the minority for whom you support, its a big deal to cross that line. In Central Pennsylvania - we have been told we are the minority over and over and over. "Pennsylvania's like Ohio." "Hillary's ahead by 20 points." "The people of Pennsylvania aren't ready to vote for a black man."
But as we walked the streets of Harrisburg before the parade with all our Obama gear, we were stopped repeatedly by people wanting to know where we got the signs and sticker buttons - by young, old, male, female, black and white. We stopped for lunch and were greeted warmly by the restaurant crew - now our kids are cute - but it was more than that. And as we were leaving the waiter smiled and as an aside, but looking us straight in the eye, said he liked our signs. Same thing at the donut shop when the man behind the counter wouldn't let my son and I pay for our donuts. It was an unspoken acknowledgment - an unspoken expression of solidarity. And I realized that those green O'bama signs were everywhere and people with Obama signs and buttons and shirts and hats were everywhere - we saw them all up and down 2nd street - and homemade signs in the windows.
The Hillary crowd came through the parade first and they had a big group. Before the parade their group stayed together and near their HQ. Surprisingly, they were booed (and there were gestures accompanying the boos) when they got to the point where we were watching, which was near the Hillary HQ, and next to one of the packed Irish pubs. As a parent especially, this was unsettling - and we talked with our kids, who were confused about what to do, since we're for Obama, about the booing not being OK. And that the great thing about our country is that you are allowed to vote for whomever you want, and its OK to disagree, but not OK to act like a bully.
Not knowing when and whether the Obama crowd had made it into the parade, we then waited anxiously - enjoying the unicycle group and middle school bands and an awesome percussion group. When the Obama group rounded the corner of Walnut and 2nd though - it was electric. Cheers and chants and Harris Wofford at the front. The energy was inspiring. And it wasn't just the Obama group in the parade chanting and cheering.
After reading Kos's post about the roots of this blog, I decided to write this diary, because the thing that moved me most about the parade was the sense that like us, on Saturday, lots of regular folks were crossing over that line and standing up in public and stating in the face of cynicism and "conventional wisdom" that we in Pennsylvania do want change and we do have hope. Stepping out and declaring: Yes We Can!
Here's a video slideshow of the day: