The large blue Obama 2012 sign out front makes finding the office easy. But the parking lot outside the Obama headquarters building in Asheville North Carolina is full and I have to drive around the block several times before spotting an empty parking space.
"You need to sign in," I'm told. “You should have a clip board,” a lady in a blue and white Obama for President t-shirt says. “Ink pens if you didn’t bring any with you, a packet with a list of names, street addresses that you will visit, a printed street map showing where the house is and instructions. Look over the packet and ask any questions you might have.”
Walking toward the voice, she hands me a clipboard.
“Where's the Coffee?” I ask.
The lady in the t-shirt smiles and points to the door that I entered. “Out the door you came through , the first left and the kitchen is all the way to the rear of the building.”
Back the way I came, through the door to the left and into another large room similar to the one I walked out of. While the first room is empty except for several tables and a few chairs, this room is filled with computers, monitors, phones, people and a large map of Asheville that hangs on the wall. I estimate at least a hundred people at 9am on a Saturday morning in November.
I walk through the crowd of people and locate the kitchen. There are no paper coffee cups and I’m told to take any cup from the dish drainer on the sink. Taking my cup of coffee and finding an empty chair, I look over my canvassing packet. There is a list with names, phone numbers and street addresses. The list is printed landscape and to the right of each name is a series of questions with a check box to the left of each question.
Questions like: Have you voted yet? If you haven’t voted will you vote for President Obama? Are you registered, do you know where to register and that you can register and vote on the same day? What is your level of support of President Obama? Do you need a ride to your voting location if your are voting on Tuesday?
I locate the map with street names like Sulphur Spring, Haywood, Lanvale, Clinton and Dunn. Each address is clearly marked on the map. I finish my coffee, rinse and place the cup back in the dish drainer.
The group of people assembled before me makes me wonder? Why are we here? Fairness? Responsibility? Because we want all Americans to pay their fair share of taxes? Gun Control? A woman’s right of choice? Perhaps because of Republican rhetoric about rape and women?
"The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president,” Mitch McConnell vowed in an interview he gave in October 2010. These words spoken by the Republican motivated me to contribute $1,500 to the Obama campaign, spend this last weekend in October knocking on doors and contributing endless hours writing short blogs and comments on the internet. My single most important goal for 2012 is to do everything I can to make Mitch fail in HIS most important goal.
"My religion defines who I am,” says Joe Biden, “and I've been a practicing Catholic my whole life. And has particularly informed my social doctrine ... With regard to abortion, I accept my church's position on abortion as a ... doctrine. Life begins at conception in the church's judgment. I accept it in my personal life.
"But I refuse to impose it on equally devout Christians and Muslims and Jews, and I just refuse to impose that on others, unlike my friend here, the congressman. I do not believe that we have a right to tell ... women they can't control their body."
Every American has the right to believe whatever they chose, but NO American has a mandate, or responsibility to encourage or force that belief on any other American. If you want to pray at the football game, or before meetings or any public gathering then do so. Perform whatever ritual necessary and pray. Nothing stops you from doing so. But don’t force me to do so. One of the wonderful gifts of America is that Religion has been muzzled.
You might however, want to acknowledge the words of Jesus:
“But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”
Republicans defend the rights of a fetus, but once the fetus becomes a flesh and bone human and makes a mistake in life, the Republican who defends the fetus is on the front line demanding the flesh and blood human be fried in the chair. Or when the fetus requires help or some form of monetary support, Republicans abandon the fetus. The Republican argument would be more persuasive if Republicans didn’t abandon the flesh and blood human. If you save a fetus, you are responsible for the future of the fetus.
“Engage the person who comes to the door but don’t become argumentative if the person begins to argue.” I hear a voice say as I reenter the first room. “You have many doors to knock on and you can’t waste time arguing.”
“What about dogs in fenced yards?” a volunteer ask.
“Don’t enter yards that are fenced especially if there is a dog. Hang one of the flyers we give you on the fence. Don’t leave anything in the mail box.”
“Are there anymore questions?” “If not then you are free to go.”
Clip board in hand and ink pens in pocket, the 30 or so volunteers walk out the door. I parked several blocks away because of the turnout. I unlock my car, place everything inside and pull my cell phone from my coat pocket.
“This is Stan.” I say when my call is answered. “I’m calling to check on Blue. He had Anterior cruciate ligament surgery on Thursday." The voice on the other end tells me that she will check. Several minutes later the voice returns to tell me that Blue is doing fine. He is resting. The surgery went well. I thank the voice and tell her I will pick Blue up Monday morning.
Blue is my Siberian Husky. When I get home each evening, Blue is the first dog of three to greet me at the back door. Not so much because he loves me more than the other two, but because he wants in the house more. On the Monday before my planned trip to Asheville North Carolina, there is no Blue at the back door.
I flip the light switch for the back porch light and see Blue lying at the far end of the porch. As I approach he rises from the porch floor and I see he has his left leg tucked up closely to his stomach. He limps toward me and I know immediately this is no simple sprain. I will have to take him to the vet in the morning.
Blue had surgery just two weeks before to have a large tumor removed that hung between his rear legs. He will have to have surgery again I am certain. Like it or not, I am now responsible for every facet of his life.
Morning comes and I know it will not be easy getting Blue into the Jeep Cherokee I drive. I have a sloped drive way so I back the Jeep into the drive and the height that Blue will have to engage is reduced by half. I get him into the Jeep with no complications and drive to the vet. I fill out all the paperwork and leave him for the day.
I place my phone back into my coat pocket and climb into my Honda Civic. I take the clip board and chose the first house I will visit. I type the address into my GPS street finder and directions to the house are returned in seconds.
The neighborhood I will canvas is like my own in Tennessee. A mature neighborhood with established character. Many of the homes are in need of some repair. I notice there are more Obama yard signs than in my neighborhood, although in 2008 there were hundreds that dotted the yards were I live, but in 2012 not so many.
I park, and some what nervously get out of the car. I walk to the front door and knock. No one comes to the door. I knock a second time and wait. The door opens and standing in front of me is a young woman with a small child in her arms.
“Hello,” I say. “I’m a volunteer with the Obama campaign. I’m from Tennessee and I’m knocking on doors to make sure that everyone who supports the President votes.” I decide not to conform fully to the talking points provided.
“I haven’t voted yet.” the young woman replies. “I will vote on Tuesday. My polling location is across the street at the Vance school.”
I ask her if she could vote early and tell her that she can vote early at the West Asheville Library, but that today is the last day to vote early before election day on Tuesday.
“If I vote early,” she tells me, “I’ll have to drive to the Asheville library, but if I wait until Tuesday, all I have to do is walk across the street.”
“I understand,” I say. “Makes sense. But please be sure to vote on Tuesday. The President needs your vote.”
“I will,” she says, and closes the door.
I look at the map on my clip board. There are two more houses on this street. I count more than 50 houses on my list. Better get moving.
The day went much as at the house with the young mother. Knocking on the door and a short conversation. Many of my knocks solicited no response either because the person didn’t come to the door or was not at home. I make the appropriate notation on my form and move onto the next house.
As I walk down the streets, I’m sometimes greeted with the barking of the family dog. In one fenced yard is a small white terrier. As I approach the yard the small dog barks excitedly, running in and out of the doggie door on the back door of the house. Up the street several houses, two Australian Cattle dogs begin to bark. Back and forth they run eagerly along the fence.
A lady comes out of her house to quieten the two cattle dogs. I mark the house with the small terrier as “unavailable’ and walk toward the house with the barking cattle dogs. I have an Australian Shepherd and because of matting, I have her groomed short twice a year. Australian Cattle dogs are short haired and would not require this grooming.
I want to talk to the lady about her dogs. “Australian Cattle Dogs,” I say. She glances at me nervously. “Yes,” she replies. “Both are rescue dogs. I’ve only had the small brown and white dog with the docked tail a few weeks.
“I wouldn’t have docked the dog’s tail, I don’t believe a dog’s tail should be cut off simply to make it look a certain way.”
“I have an Australian Shepherd," I say, "and their tails are docked because the tail tends to matt terribly. I have Lakoda, my Aussie groomed short twice a year because she matts so badly.
“There is a specific breed of the Australian Cattle Dog, the Australian Stumpy Tail Cattle Dog that is bred with a shortened tail. I’m no authority on the breed, but your dog’s tail may not have been docked, but is natural.”
The two dogs have stopped barking and sit at the feet of the lady. Both are handsome cattle dogs and when my responsibility to Lakoda and Blue has ended, I will consider such a dog. I mention that I’m from Tennessee and that I’m here to knock on doors for the Obama campaign.
“I voted for Mitt,” she says. More to keep me from wasting my time than to inform me about her vote I think.
“I think the American people need to support whoever wins, and I will,” reaching down to rub the brown and white stubby tailed cattle dog’s head.
Because of time considerations I don’t want to take the conversation further. I wish her a good day and walk away to locate my next house and vote for President Obama.