Friday, November 7, 2008

99.44% Pure Democracy

99.44% Pure Democracy

©Doug Evans 2008 (729 words)

For the Glenwood Post Independent

On November 3, 2008, the day before Vote Day in America, my intuition led me to rush down to Obama HQ in Glenwood Springs, to volunteer for standing in the middle of the busiest intersection in the City, Grand and Sixth, at the Bridge. I felt I had to do something different from phone-banking, canvassing, and walking downtown in Obama regalia, and “dancing in the streets” with my Obama/Biden Yard Sign fit the bill! Full of joy and fervor, having chosen to believe the President-Elect would win in a blue-state landslide a month earlier, centered in Colorado, this sign-dance would not only be good exercise, practicing The Stroll and the Cha-Cha and The Frug in traffic, but, also, maybe one of my former students from CMC might decide for the Dems because of my example. I’d also carried a “Vote, Please” sign in downtown Glenwood on Election Day, 1976, for Jimmy Carter: it felt like a way to get out the vote and integrate parts of my life, as well.

When I got to the Bridge at the 4:30 rush hour, two other Obama supporters stood with their signs, so my dance floor shrank a little, but the company was great. We really got it together as a chant team out there, yelling “President Obama, For 8 Great Years,” while I twirled and whirled and boogied—There were even some ballet leaps, at the start!—shaking my power-stick-sign at passing motorists like a Ute Shaman on the warpath for “Liberty and Justice for All.” It was, as they say in London, “quite brilliant!” Horns were honked, more often than not; thumbs went up as much as down; I only saw a few middle fingers, which made me laugh. I honestly have not had such fun since I played Sancho Panza in “Man of La Mancha," singing about impossible dreams!

Then, the rest of the world intruded on my patriotic-trance-dance.

From out of the “Road to Nowhere,” as if by magic, 20 men, women and children appeared along the edges of the intersection, carrying McCain/Palin cardboard signs, soon flooding the island in the middle and all the other corners with ardent Republicanism.

“Uh-Oh,” I thought, “this could get ugly.” So, this crazy-minded-wise-old-dancin'-fool began to laugh at the top of my diminished lungs, just giggling hysterically at the comedy life was showing rather than dwell on potential tragedy. It was—and it became even more so—a laugh riot, for some time, out there in front of the Hotel Colorado, with everyone having chuckle fits of excitement. I’ve been told many times that my laugh is infectious, especially by directors of comic plays who want me in their audiences, so maybe my giggle made a difference. At any rate, we were all most civil and joyful, for two hours of red-white-and-blue; some of the kids broke away from their Moms and picked up Obama signs, balancing the ratio; four passing Glenwood High students also got into the spirit with more OBAMA placards, doing their patriotic duty with gothic flair; and every car honked for one or the other candidate, so I’m sure the Valley echoed all the way to Carbondale. It must’ve sounded in Glenwood Park like the world’s longest wedding caravan!

Reporters and photographers then showed up to make us part of the City’s visual history, and-- Goodness Gracious!—I ended up looking stern and somewhat patriarchal, probably because my back hurt, on the front page of the Post on Election Day! Now, I guess I really am a star, though I wish the photo showed me giggling: that’s what I’ll remember. And this: All of us had the thrill of participatory democracy in action. All of us felt “special.” All of us knew we were witnessing a unity of purpose above partisan division: we were all there To Get Out The Vote for America.

What a great lesson for all those young kids holding signs with us older patriots! People who are divided over issues or candidates or campaigns can still be united by our common values of fair play, free speech, and respect for law and order. We could’ve been clubbing each other with our signs! In other places in the world, that would've happened. Instead, we participated in a Happy Birthday Party for a New America, Proudly Walking Its Talk. Perhaps, I should rent myself out as the happiest dancing clown.

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