Wednesday, November 7, 2012

I Was Part of the Solution

You know that old saying, that you can be part of the problem or part of the solution?  I've been guilty of the former my share of the time, but I'm trying to address that. I'm the least political member of a fairly idealistic and opinionated family, and I've avoided politics because of an aversion to the dinner-table warfare conversation that many people seem to enjoy. So while I've voted in every presidential election since I've been eligible, I've often taken a pass on the more minor races.

Three things happened to change that. First, we moved to California, where every citizen in the state is invited to decide dozens of issues every go-round through propositions and initiatives. Fellow Easterners, it's crazy - they send you a booklet the size of a Sears catalog in the weeks leading up to the election describing each one with purple and often misleading language supplied by lobbyists and zealots from each side, and then it's up to you to sleuth around and figure out what the heck is really going on. Like there might be Proposition 32 to Not Kill Puppies and then you find out you're really voting to put high-test lines through your neighbor's backyard.

Second, i somehow raised a daughter who passionately wants to change everything for the better, and is willing to run for office and serve to make it happen. She spent much of the last few months campaigning for a young, idealistic candidate in our neck of the woods. How can I let her down by not paying attention?

And third, I moved to Oakland. Enough said!

Last night I helped out in the returns center in a school in the middle of Oakland. From 8pm until after 11pm, about 20 of us waited in a dark parking lot for cars bearing clerks and inspectors from our precincts to drive up. I was the clipboard person - my job was to get them to sign that they had brought their ballots and equipment. We all pitched in to unload the duffle bags and boxes full of printers, scanners, tape, extra ballots, and so forth onto a waiting truck, and then volunteers drove the ballots to the courthouse. I talked to everyone. Early in the evening when it became clear that Obama had won, there was such an expression of joy that I felt lifted to be part of it. In the blocks around us, we could hear shouting and fireworks going off. Cars would drive by and holler out "Obamaaaaaaaa!!!!!" at us. There was exactly one grumpy person the whole evening, and we all felt sorry for her.

I drove a young woman home who wants to be a journalist. We had a good talk. Turns out we were both there for the same reason: we wanted to understand how the process worked and be a roll-up-your-sleeves part of it. I'll definitely do it again next time.

images courtesy of Oakland Local and The Oakland Press.