Down here in Mobile, Alabama, there is such a strange atmosphere - everyone is unsure of the person next to them - and everyone is afraid to "come out" as liberal or conservative so most people I know take a very mealymouthed middle of the road approach. The events of this morning are just one more example of this phenomenon.
Because I'm less able to keep my opinons to myself, I tend to be the type that most of my friends avoid during times like this. Either they know as much as I do and don't want to reveal that, or they don't want to hear what I have to say. The fact that I've been working for the Obama for America group here in Mobile didn't surprise anyone, but the fact that I've been confidently smug for a good while has baffled many. The opportunity to see this operation from the perspective of a data coordinator for the Alabama organization, which has been putting all it's energy into the Florida effort for over a year, has given me a great sense of confidence that we can smile tomorrow morning.
I voted last Wednesday because I will be spending the final hours of this campaign working, either helping the phonebanks and the GOTV effort, or getting the data in and closing up the books for this season and preparing for the future. The fact that I see this campaign through the lens of someone who takes the long view is not surprising if you know the true story of Barack Obama and his history. Where I'm from, you always take the long view. Change is always a work in progress. We know that.
But there are too many people around here who believe in miracles. Too many people who have a false sense of entitlement. The biggest problem is the lack of an open dialogue where everyone can speak without being labeled, without recriminations, and without being silenced by those who are threatened by change.
I took time this morning to take my 93 year old next door neighbor to vote. He depends on a walker and has very little hearing left even with hearing aids. He is, however, much more keenly aware of the complexities of the world than he's usually given credit for. He has a tendency to voice the things he's heard on FOX news but if you question him, as I'm tempted to do, his real understanding belies the simplistic views of that station. So we get along fine for the most part. After he voted, we went to breakfast at the Whistle Stop, where Romney stood in the rain on a rainy morning and talked about cheesy grits.
One of the things that happened, unfortunately for the owner of that restaurant, was that business fell off for a good while and is still not completely back where it ought to be. The conversations are strained. The efforts to regain the reputation as a "great good place" where anyone and everyone could come in and be who they are, without feeling like they have to be silent for fear someone will take issue with their point of view.
This morning, I noticed an unusual cautiousness. There were a few blacks who came in, but mostly there were white patrons in the restaurant. The cook came out and greeted a patron, a friend of mine, actually, and said "So, did you go vote?" Yes, my friend said, carefully. "Well, you voted for Romney, right? Surely you couldn't have voted for Obama" this white cook said, wiping his hands on his apron. "My friend said, well, actually, "I voted for Obama." I didn't hear the whole exchange, because I already knew enough to know that my friend was a progressive and would never have voted for Romney anyway. He's a car buff, and I doubt that Romney would have gotten his vote no matter what.
But I was smiling because I've learned a bit about how we actually learn, and I know that the cook just learned a lesson that he couldn't have learned any other way. His assumption that the guy at the counter, a regular, someone he thought he could peg as a Republican, was actually an Obama supporter will be a lesson learned in a way that will more likely cause him to think than just to recoil.
I'm hoping that we can all come together after this. We have far more important things to worry about here in Alabama and in the rest of the world than whether we are all supporting the winning team, all members of the same club, all fond of the same food, and all in the same boat. We are. The sooner we remember that, the better off we'll all be. And I'll be glad when I can walk into the whistle stop and people will not shy away from speaking to me because they are afraid of the red, white and blue logo on my t-shirt.
I'm back at HQ and would love to have all the Mobile DK'ers come by here and say hello. Ask for Susan. Otherwise, I'll see you on the "other side".