Observations on the world today.

Sunday, September 05, 2004

Rally In My Valley 

Last evening, I took my two oldest kids to the Kerry rally. I wanted to take all three, but circumstances prevented me from taking my youngest daughter.

It was hot. We arrived at three o’clock and were ordered to stand in a line based on the color of ticket we held. Apparently, white ticket holders were considered fringe. I had gotten my tickets on the Internet, so my ticket was a white ticket. Others had gotten theirs directly from Jefferson County democratic headquarters or from the business owned by the chairman of the county democratic party.

As a consequence. We ended up waiting with the Kerry protesters who had come from Franciscan University with their "You Can’t Be Catholic and Pro-Abortion" signs. At one point, the Franciscan kids handed out apples to curry favor with the hungry masses of Kerry supporters. This led me to quip to those around me not to eat the forbidden fruit. I think the biblical allusion escaped the Charismatics. - Well, probably it didn’t, but they generously let it slide.

At about four-thirty or so the rain started. It was annoying at first, but when it passed, it actually served to make the day much more agreeable temperature-wise. Anyway, it was pouring buckets when we made it through the security perimeter and into the rally site. Once inside, we were once again marginalized by the color of our tickets. We were instructed to move to the left, which led us to the holding pen which they had designated for the not-so-silent minority. At first, since I had become so accustomed to seeing their faces, I didn’t make the connection, but then I noticed a gentleman on the other side of the barrier (a railing) who was trying to coerce the unreceptive assembled to purchase his "Asses of Evil" pins. It was then that I realized where we were.

I turned to my daughter and said, "Whoops, we don’t want to be here," and we started out. At that point, a gentleman noticed me and in a conspiratorial tone whispered, "Kerry supporter?" I said yes, and he slipped me three blue tickets.


We shimmied out of the holding pen and made our way into the daylight. Literally as well as figuratively, as it was at that point that the rain had begun to subside. At this point, I should also note that the holding pen was also the only location at the rally with actual seats. If we democrats were going to treat them as pariah, at least we were going to make them comfortable pariah.

As we entered the pro-Kerry world for the first time that afternoon, I was told that I would have to surrender my sign. I had a simple cardboard Kerry/Edwards placard which I had bought for $5 and which I had hoped to take home and place in my front lawn. But it was a small price to pay for the chance to get closer - not for my sake; but for the kids. However, soon after we arrived inside. My son noticed a young girl holding a handmade sign on blue cardboard. He pointed it out to me wondering why she was allowed to have a sign. I looked and noticed that she was holding it close to the vest - actually close to her lap. And I then noticed that her sign was doubled over to keep anyone from reading it, but I clearly saw letters from the word "ABORTION" flick in an unguarded moment as she readjusted for comfort.

I excused myself and found a volunteer. "Excuse me," I said. "When I came in they told me that I was not allowed to bring in an outside sign." I was told that it was true, and proceeded to tell him about the agitators. He followed me to them, and I had them ejected.

My son was disgusted. Not by them, but by me. "All’s fair in love and war and politics," I explained, but he was having none of it.

"They should be allowed to be heard," he said.

"Not here. Not today," I explained. But to be honest, he had a point. Which is all moot anyway, because cooler heads prevailed, and within minutes they had returned - signs in hand. And it turns out the rule was bogus anyway; because a few minutes later, union members and Kerry volunteers were handing out free signs to anyone who wanted one. We were given one that said "Believe in America." I think possibly, the real reason for the rule was to keep the sea of signs uniform. It probably is less distracting for the cameras that way. Unfortunately, it is also less personal.

Soon - after one false alarm - Kerry had arrived. His bus pulled in to the blaring sounds of John Mellencamp. I forget which song. I know for sure it wasn’t Authority Song. Mr. Kerry was accompanied by John Glen and Dennis Kucinich as well as Ted Strickland. Edwards was absent. Strickland and Glen both spoke. For some reason, Kucinich was no where near the microphone.

At about twenty after six, John Kerry began to speak. He began by running off some things he’d been told about Steubenville "the city of murals." "Home of the Big Red," he said. "One of the winningest football teams in all of Ohio." He then noted that it was also the home of Dean Martin and home of Naples (a local Italian restaurant). "I hear they make the best meatball sub around," Kerry said. To which I loudly quipped, "Capri’s not bad." Capri is another local Italian sandwich shop. A few people in ear shot of me laughed.

There was one other moment where I tried to make a sort-of-joke, but it fell like a rock. Kerry was talking about how Bush had been against steel tariffs, but had then been for them and then against them again. He was clearly speaking the part of the speech tailored for this valley. So during a dramatic pause, I began waving my arm and shouting "flip!" (arm waved to one side) "flop!" (arm waved to the other side.) It was an effort to use the divisive gesture invented by Bush supporters and employed during Cheney’s vitriolic speech against them. But the crowd either didn’t catch on -or they hadn’t seen the GOP convention. At any rate, it didn’t work and only embarrassed my daughter.

For much of the speech, I held my daughter on one shoulder so she could better see the celebrities and better wave our placard. But she is eleven and is just heavy enough that I was about to suffer an aneurysm from having her thighs cutting off the flow of blood to my brain, so I had to set her down.

Anyway, those are all my rally stories. It was a lot of fun. My daughter actually enjoyed it, and even helped in the chanting of "Ker-ry! Ker-ry!" My son - not so much.


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