Monday, October 13, 2008

Beautiful Day

Last Friday, Barack Obama spoke at a rally in downtown Columbus, on the waterfront, at Genoa Park which is between the Center of Science and Industry and the banks of the Scioto River. I decided to go. The gates opened at 11; I made it downtown around 11:30, and imediately saw that I would have difficulty finding a place to park. Eventually I parked about a mile away and walked, part of the throng that seemd to be arriving from all directions and converging on the park. It took a good 35-40 minutes to get past the security gates and enter the park, which was crowded. As I got to the park’s entrance, U2's "Beautiful Day" – one of my favorite U2 songs -- was playing over the loudspeakers, and it was oh so appropriate, because in every respect it was a beautiful day. Sunny, not a cloud in the gorgeous blue sky, and all around me a diverse sea of humanity, a big smile on every face.

It was easily the most diverse crowd I have ever been a part of. Old and young, black and white, and asian and latino, gay and straight, poor, working class, middle class, upper middle class, school kids of all ages, union members, office workers from downtown. Obama volunteers passed out free water bottles to the crowd – standing in the sun for so long was beginning to bake people. At some point, I left the paved area to go stand in the grass under a tree.

There I saw what appeared (based on clothing) to be a poor black mother with a beautiful little boy in a stroller who took refuge in the shade offered by the tree. A few moments later, a fashionably dressed (upper middle-class?) white woman, pushing a stroller with a beautiful little girl, also parked under the tree. As the music played over the loudspeakers, the little boy and the little girl started playing together, and then the two mothers started dancing to each other, and it was such a beautiful sight. I saw old white people, older than McCain, applauding this black man running for president, in the midst of a bunch of young black men, dressed "gangsta" style, who moments before had been wildly cheering the white governor. All around me their were happy, joyous faces.

Obama gave a good speech, but I don't really remember what he said, I was too busy taking in the sight. The elderly black couple next to me made eye contact with me several times, and we just grinned at each other. A really old white guy who was there with a sweet little blond-haired 3 year old girl at one point looked at me and said, "there's no way McCain is beating *this* guy!" and laughed. Earlier in the line, as we snaked our way up to the security check point, a 9- or 10-year old black girl with her mother was visibly excited to see Obama, she kept going on and on about how excited she was and how there was no way she was gonna miss this rally. I saw white "trailer park"/typical Ohio redneck folk who brought their whole brood to the rally, and thought, as I saw them enthusiastically cheering Obama as he spoke, that this is truly a miracle.

I know in my head that Obama's election is not likely to change lots of things, and certainly not the fundamentals of this system, but in my heart it felt like his candidacy has already changed much.

After the rally, I, with several thousand others, marched across the street to Veterans Memorial, the early voting polling place for Franklin County, and cast my ballot for Obama. Intellectually I may have had some doubts and reservations, but in my heart it felt perfectly right. Afterwards, I walked around downtown for awhile before making my way to the parking garage where I’d left my car. I am not used to walking downtown and having black faces (or even white ones) smiling at me -- usually, folks downtown walk with their face to the ground, or staring ahead absent-mindedly. But not last Friday. Everyone walked with their heads held high, and everyone was looking at and smiling at everyone else. What a beautiful day it was!



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