When Armchair Actvism Isn't Enough

Oct 13, 2008

Yesterday, I put my time where my mouth is. I went to Pennsylvania and campaigned for Obama.

My day had an inauspicious beginning. A mentally disturbed woman tried to board the bus. She had an assistance dog with her, and loudly claimed to have diabetes and temporal lobe epilepsy. She also told everyone she would lift her top for the Obama cause. When they wouldn't let her get on the bus, she staged a civil disobedience sit-in in front of the bus.

The organizers had to call the police. The volunteers, me among them, sat on the chartered bus for forty-five minutes waiting for the cops to get her to move. It felt like being stalled on the runway waiting for takeoff. Finally, they got her to leave. The last we saw of her, she was headed uptown with her little dog, screaming about how she was going to sue everyone involved.

When we got to Jenkintown (a suburb of Philadelphia), we were given a walking-kit, and briefed on talking points. For a newbie like me and many others, the voluminous about of information imparted in the brief briefing couldn't possibly be properly absorbed. However, I had already made the choice to jump into the deep end of the pool. In other words, I'd gone well past the point of no return. They formed the carpools, and off we went to the destination written on each of our walking kits.

We were supposed to be matched up with locals who knew the area. There were too many volunteers and not enough cars. I ended up in a car with three other women. All of us were from New York, the driver having come on her own. We were also all newbies. Not one among the four of us had ever done this before. Talk about the blind leading the blind.

After about half an hour of driving around reading street signs, we found our assigned location. Although we were in the same neighborhood, we were all given different streets to canvas. My packet had twenty-three addresses on five different streets. Let me explain. This wasn't New York, with our wonderful equidistant grid in midtown. These were suburban streets, each stretching seemingly into infinity. Happy that I had worn comfortable shoes and commited to my cause, I set out, by myself, to knock on doors.

Many of the houses I passed had McCain/Palin signs in their yards. Thankfully, they weren't on my list. Out of the twenty-three houses I'd been assigned, thirteen didn't answer the door. Curious thing, there were cars in the long driveways and lights in the houses, but no one was home. Two people told me they'd decided, but refused to tell me who they'd chosen. One house had a big, mean dog. I noted that on the page and flagged it as inaccessable. I couldn't locate another address, and also flagged it as inaccessable. And six were enthusiastic Obama supporters. They made my day.

Oh yes, in trying to see the number on one of the houses, I tripped and fell flat. Skinned my knee, but no broken bones.

Bottom line, I humbly admit I'm not very good at this. I doubt I made much of a difference in the shade of blue Pennsylvaia is turning. The biggest difference I made is to me. I'm proud of supporting a candidate I believe in, however badly I did it. I'm proud I got off my butt and away from the computer. I did something, and that means something. And, I'm doing it again. On Sunday, the 26th, I'm going to Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. I'm not a greenhorn anymore. I know what I'm up against. I'll be better at it next time, and hopefully, my knee will be healed.

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