Posted by: Amie | October 12, 2008

My friends, I’m Still Voting for “That One:” Obama Rally in Indianapolis

Yesterday my friends C. and K. and I suited up in pro-Obama gear we’d created ourselves from white t-shirts and Sharpies. We loaded into my car and traveled an hour south to Indianapolis.

We arrived several hours early, but hundreds of cars still blocked out the pavement as we were ushered into our own spot. We parked the car and walked towards what seemed a never-ending line of bodies snaking through the buildings and gates. We walked a good ten minutes before we ever even saw the line, and continued on to find our place in it another ten. All along the way volunteers (like ourselves) handed out tickets and information for those interested in investing time for the Obama campaign. People shouted from the sides hawking anything from Obama/Biden ’08 buttons to funny hats created from insulation foam.

Funny hat man

Funny hat man

We eventually found our way the end of the line only to continue walking very quickly in the direction from which we had just come. Though we’re all Hoosiers (people originally from Indiana)* and used to sh*itty weather our state generally has to offer, we were still in disbelief that it had been such lovely weather for a week only to unleash cold breezes accompanied by buckets of mist dumped on our heads with each gust on the only day any of us had ventured outside in a while.

As we neared the grandstands, the volunteers began shouting “PLEASE MOVE THE LINE!” over and over again. We didn’t understand this as we were already in a trot and there were still three hours before the event was slated to begin, but we complied and shuffled along as fast we could. As we neared the line of guards with guns and blue rubber gloves, I noticed a ridiculously large amount of umbrellas piled along the walkway.  We were instructed to turn all cameras and other electronic devices on, and a guard told a man, when asked what to do with his umbrella, “Put it over there or in the trash. You’re not allowed in with it.” Expecting to watch him throw a huge fit, the man, probably in his early fifties in designer slacks and tasseled shoes simply sat the umbrella in a pile and moved through the metal detector without a fuss. Another lady was told she was not allowed to take a full perfume bottle inside, so she calmly sat it aside in hopes it would still be there when she got back. I was shocked that neither complained. They were so determined to set their eyes on the one who gives hope to them that they were willing to risk losing personal possessions.I don’t know why, but I was really moved by them.

Since we were campaign volunteers, we held bright orange tickets while most of the spectators held white. Green tickets were issued to media, politicians and other VIPs. We were escorted through a gate according to ticket color. Our section happened to be stage right, ground level, and only a few yards away from where Senator Obama would be speaking. We like three pre-teens at a Hannah Montana concert. It was ridiculous.

We had a view of the stage, grandstands, the obligatory human backdrop that every candidate and every rally has with token members of society: a few blacks, a few whites, a veteran or two, college kids, retirees, people in uniform, military personnel and, of course, some other Democratic politicians.

the crowd

the crowd

People began to crowd in and push their way closer and closer to the front only to realize their efforts were futile as people who had been waiting for hours were unwilling to give up their spot, and more people were pouring in from outside. As you become pressed up against total strangers, in order to break the awkwardness of the situation, one begins a conversation. Our conversation buddies were a young African-American professional woman, two upper-income bracket ladies, and a white, professional man. S. was the one who talked the most.

She told us that she and her husband are in the upper bracket of income and gladly welcome the taxes “for the rich” that Obama proposes.  She said she’s been a Republican her whole life but can’t stand the idea of another coming into power.

As she talked I felt so inspired. S. was an educator and her husband an entrepreneur. They weren’t born rich, they worked to get it, and slowly they’ve watched their assets dwindle. She told us of how she voted for Bush and how she felt cheated and her whole attitude, like mine, toward her own country had changed over the last few years. She said her husband is sick, and she now fears that they will lose everything as her son is still in college and they still have mortgage to pay.

V. talked about what life was like growing up in a city as a black girl and working her way into school and earning her own money to purchase a house and found herself financially. Now her investments, due the economy, are worthless.

M. (also Republican-turned-Obamican) talked about how she has four children and she feels like she’s drowning in a bad mortgage trying to help her husband pay the way for all of them.

I felt so connected to people that before, I would have had nothing in common. We were each representing our own demographic category, yet we all felt the same way. I couldn’t believe how much the country had changed seeing it represented before me: former Bush supporters now rallying for the first man of race to come into office. I felt, for the first time in a while, hopeful about our country. We continued to talk and get to know each other as we stood in the mist and tried to ignore that our feet were covered in mud.

C., Me, and S.)

muddy feet: (clockwise from top: C., Me, and S.)

We heard cheers from the grandstands, and we hoped that our waiting had finally come to fruition, but it was only the ABC World News bus approaching to set up camp. As I felt my back begin to cramp, suddenly I had white ticket envy. I could have been sitting upon my fat, pregnant duff this whole time rather than pretending to be tough, but I stuck it out anyway, bending over from time to time to relieve my back pain.

Eventually Evan Bayh came to address the group and introduce Senator Obama. He spoke about bringing his sons to witness history, as his father, Birch Bayh had done years ago.

Senator Evan Bayh

Senator Evan Bayh

And things finally got underway.

I will never forget the anticipation that swept over the crowd as we watched and waited to see the first glimpse of who, we hope, will become our next president. Thousands of people suddenly fell silent and aimed cameras and camera phones in the direction of the stage. It was a heavy presence of excitement and hope as everyone waited. Though I couldn’t see much (as I was vertically challenged in a sea of tall people), I caught sight of Secret Service and guards pouring out of the entrance way, and finally Senator Obama. The crowd roared as he walked around shaking hands with the human backdrop.

Shaking hands

Shaking hands

As he began to speak about the economy, I felt a sense of calmness in the crowd. Everyone just felt like what he said was exactly what we needed – like chicken soup when you have a cold. I heard someone say, “We miss being patriotic.”

At that moment, I heard a man behind me start screaming, “COMMUNIST! SOCIALIST! ABORTIONIST! TERRORIST!”  I turned to see a man in his late forties in a blue jacket and McCain/Palin hat. Everyone began to shh him and tell him to “SHUT UP!” rather forcefully, but he continued. A man around his age with his young daughter next to him turned to him and grabbed him by his jacket. I was horrified as I saw the crazed look in his face. We all froze as we watched, hoping he wouldn’t give him a well-deserved punch in the face as we knew Secret Service would descend upon them in minutes. The protester began to spout reasons why Obama was horrible and McCain is Jesus incarnate, and I didn’t catch everything of what the father said over top of him, but most of what I caught was this: “I guess you really don’t know what it’s like to come home from your second job of the day to this beautiful face (and pointed to his daughter) and still have to tell her, “I’m sorry, honey. We’ll have to leave our home because mommy and daddy can’t afford our house any more.” You would never understand.” There was desperation in his voice. He was shaking and his face was red. He was about to cry. He was clinging to what little hope he had left, and that’s why he was there that day.

M. started in on the heckler. “MCSAME!” she yelled over his Republican rhetoric. For a moment I was embarrassed to be from Indiana, until the rest of the crowd began to chant, “THROW HIM OUT! THROW HIM OUT!” as they pointed to alert Secret Service of the threat.

McCain/Palin protester pointed out by crowd

McCain/Palin protester pointed out by crowd

He then took off his hat, listened to the speech with a cocky, McCain-esque grin on his face, and eventually made his way to the exit gate.

The Senator wrapped up his speech right as I didn’t think I could handle much more. My spine was about to snap in half and I was dehydrated, I couldn’t breathe and the bellybean was none too happy either. I had to get out of there. I looked around again before we scuttled to the exit gate. I knew I had to get out before I fell flat on my face in the mud, but I didn’t want to leave. It may have been the fact that I was extremely tired and emotional, but tears welled in my eyes. I had found thousands of people who feel just like me. I had made friends I’d only get to tell people about – never see again. I felt at home. I felt hopeful.

We trudged back to our cars and decided to have lunch at the Cheesecake Factory though we were covered in mud. We thought we’d solicit a few stares, but were happy to see that a lot of the people in the restaurant were also at the rally as they too were mud-caked and sporting Obama gear. We finished our lunches topped off with cheesecakes, and spent the rest of the afternoon telling each other about our favorite parts of witnessing history.

For Senator Obama’s full address in Indianapolis:

*(Note: If you’re from Indiana or have spent any length of time here, you’ll eventually realize why you should never plan anything outdoors. It will be ungodly hot, ungodly cold, rainy, snowy, icy, windy, or all of the above in a rotating sequence all day long. No joke.)

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Responses

  1. awesome post honey, what a great example of the reunification of our country.

  2. Wow! Amazing post. Thanks for sharing… I’m jealous as hell that I don’t live in a state where the big guns come… we got Hillary once, but that was REALLY early in the campaign, and I don’t care much about her.

    Obama Mamas rule!


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