The MOMocrats welcome guest poster Mary, from the great state of Nebraska, who blogs at The Eleventh.
I'm trying to understand people.
I'm trying to understand everyone, and I'm asking questions that do not bely my politics, in order to hear unguarded responses from people around me.
An elderly real estate agent in my office, a woman, was standing by the reception desk when we struck up a conversation. I casually asked her if she'd been watching the conventions and what she thought. She shook her head. "I don't know," she said. "I just don't think that Alaska woman is ready. I guess I'll just pray McCain stays healthy."
"Why not vote for Obama, then?" I asked her.
She widened her eyes. "Oh," she said, "I like him a lot. But I could never vote for a black. I just couldn't."
"Seriously?" I asked.
"Oh, yes." she said sadly. "I just couldn't."
I asked why not??
"Oh, I just couldn't do it. I couldn't." And she turned and walked slowly back to her office. I didn't know how to even respond.
I was at the coffee machine another day and I overheard two middle aged men talking in the computer room. "That Palin, she's a babe," one of them said.
I leaned around the corner. The guys, colleagues of mine, were men I'd joked with before. "She's pretty inexperienced," I said, my grin telling them I was ready to debate. One man smirked, but the other gave me a stony look, to my surprise. "I'd vote for anybody over that goddamn ni**er," he said.
I stepped into the room. "What?" I didn't even have the words to speak.
"You heard me."
"Yeah, I did. And that makes me really sad for you. You think Palin's better than Obama just because he's black?"
"It's good enough for me," he said, unfolding his newspaper.
"Jeez, you guys, that's just sickening."
Our state, to nobody's surprise, is expected to go to the Republicans. Many folks here think that campaigning is worthless if you are a Democrat, because the electoral votes won't go for Obama. But the Obama headquarters in nearby Omaha had a great grand opening last week, which was picketed by a virulent pro-life group waving placards and driving trucks plastered with the graphic images of aborted fetuses.
The former mayor of Omaha saw one of the protest trucks approaching a family with children, and stopped his car in front of it so it could not get any closer to the kids. He was given a citation for blocking traffic, but in news reports seemed unfazed.
Other signs of hope are around. I drive through neighborhoods with Obama signs in their yards. My niece is turning 18 in a week, and will be voting. I'm volunteering to help call voters in swing states, to write op-ed pieces, to do what I can to make a difference.
And on election day, I will drive to the polling place with my daughter, and take our pictures outside. I will take her with me into the voting booth and have her watch me fill out my ballot and turn it in. I want her to be there on that historic day, so that one day, God willing, I can tell her "See that picture? Remember that day?"
And she can tell her children "I went into the booth with my mom when she helped elect Barack Obama president."
Keep up the good fight. Keep going. Keep asking people, keep pushing for change.
This is for our families and our children. This is for all of us.
When not writing on her blog, The Eleventh, Mary works 50-60 hours a week to support a family that includes a daughter adopted from the broken Nebraska foster care system, a husband with a chronic illness and no medical insurance. She volunteers with a Christian youth retreat organization while maintaining a staunch pro-choice stance; she believes it's okay to listen to Led Zeppelin and contemporary Christian music. She believes that religion has hijacked Christianity and that the religious right has hijacked the American government. She also knows she is not alone, and wants everyone else like her to stand up, speak out, and be counted.