Sunday my daughter and I were in Columbus, Ohio canvassing for Bernie Sanders, when we received word that we had been asked to volunteer for a Sanders’ rally, where people had been lined up since 6:00 AM.
I really wanted to go.
I had seen Sanders speak before, but never in a place so large.
It was cold and raining and being that we were in a rural part of the Midwest, everyone we were meeting was Republican and many were hostile.
We were cold, wet and tired, but we made the trip to canvass, not to attend rallies.
I shared my reservations with the volunteer coordinator and she said
“You’ve worked hard. Reward yourself.”
Chloe and I went to the rally.
They gave us special passes and we got to go inside hours before the doors opened.
It was pretty exciting.
They trained us.
Our job was to assist the disabled Berners to their seats.
After a while people began to file in.
I made it my goal to smile at everyone.
We were on guard, because Donald Trump had issued a call to his followers to commit violence against Bernie Sanders’ supporters.
He had promised to pay the legal fees of anyone arrested while doing so.
For three hours we assisted people to their seats.
It was kind of a long walk, so I used the opportunity to speak with the people that we were seating.
They were all so grateful to be there.
A lady in a wheelchair started crying and said
“I’ve never been in a place with so much love before.”
An elderly couple told me that they had “waited their entire lives to vote for Bernie.”
A Sanders staffer was interviewing people.
Those who were “feelin the Bern” were given VIP bracelets, so they could sit behind Bernie and be on TV as he spoke.
She asked them a series of questions to screen them to make sure they were really Sanders’ fans.
She was concerned that Trump supporters would get on TV behind Bernie and cause a disruption.
The stadium was filled up and there were still lines as far as the eye could see in every direction.
Chloe and I were told that our work was done and that someone had saved two seats for us at the top of the section behind Bernie.
We were excited.
We went inside and listened to the opening speakers.
There was a rock concert type atmosphere to the place that exceeded anything I had ever been part of.
It was magical.
Finally Bernie came out and began speaking.
It was only then that I noticed a man several rows in front of me holding up a Donald Trump sign.
He would raise it so the camera would see, but then quickly hide it so that security wouldn’t notice.
I was at an angle, so I could see that he had a smirk on his face.
It was easy to see that he hated Bernie.
While Bernie talked about people being able to pay their bills, this man just stood there and shook his head.
While Bernie discussed institutional racism, the smirking man stood with his arms crossed and chuckled in a mocking manner.
The anger inside me grew.
To see the vast difference between Bernie Sanders, a titan of a man, who had overcome so much, only to devote his time on this Earth to helping others, contrasted with this smirking coward and his hateful sign, pushed me over the edge.
I began projecting all my prejudices onto him.
I imagined what the smirking man’s life must be like.
I imagined him being unaware of his white, cis-male privilege.
I imagined that he had tricked himself into believing that he was a self-made man, just the way his pathetic hero, Donald Trump had tricked himself into believing the same.
I imagined myself speaking with him.
In my mind we were arguing…
He was telling me how Sanders wants to give handouts to lazy people and I was unsuccessfully trying to illuminate him on how so much of what he thought was “self-made” was really just the product of being born with certain advantages that others do not have.
I was getting angrier thinking about the people who were standing out in the cold, to listen to Bernie’s voice of hope and how this guy was depriving one of those people from that opportunity.
I was getting angrier thinking about how he had lied to the Sanders’ staffer and tricked her with his dishonesty.
I considered for a second going up to him and saying
“I hear Donald Trump will cover your legal fees should you get arrested for bashing a Sanders’ supporter, but will he cover your hospital fees when a Sanders’ supporter knocks you the fuck out?”
I imagined myself hitting him right in his smirking face.
I knew I wasn’t really going to do this…
But I really wanted to.
I have learned to recognize the lies that anger will tell me.
I have learned to identify the deception my own mind is capable of.
I know that I represent Bernie Sanders as much as he represents me and I know that falling to such a level is never justifiable.
I reminded myself that this Trump supporter was a challenge to me and nothing more.
20,000 people were focused on a prophet who spoke truth less than 100 feet away and I was focused on an impotent idiot who was miserable and set on making others like himself.
And I was letting him win.
I gave myself a challenge.
The challenge was to not look at him again for the remainder of the rally.
The challenge was to forget him and to focus on Bernie’s message.
Bernie had moved on to talking about a woman’s right to choose.
It was only then that I realized that the man standing next to my daughter was also a Republican.
He too had his arms crossed and an ugly smirk.
He too was shaking his head after each thing Bernie said.
The man yelled at the top of his lungs…
“ALL LIVES MATTER!! INCLUDING UNBORN ONES!!”
Bernie said something else about women’s rights and the crowd erupted.
I screamed at the stage…
“A WOMAN’S RIGHT TO CONTROL HER UTERUS MATTERS!!!”
This angered the man next to Chloe and he turned his back to Bernie.
As we were at the very top of the bleachers, this meant that he was staring at a cement wall.
From the corner of my eye, I looked at him and saw him standing there with his arms crossed, staring at gray cement.
He reminded me of a little boy pouting, because he didn’t get his way.
He was in timeout.
As Bernie moved onto speaking out for LBGT+ rights, the man became even more infuriated.
I thought about how boring his life must be, if the best thing he had to do on a Sunday was to stand in the rain for hours, just so he could stare at a brick wall.
I thought about how it must be tough for him to watch the world slip away as America moves towards a more enlightened age.
I thought about how angry he would be when Bernie was elected and how he would be sitting on The Internet complaining about the “fucking lib-tards who had destroyed America.” when all the while we were out rebuilding it.
I grew tired of thinking about him…
I went back to listening to Bernie’s message of peace, love and prosperity.
All the anger left my body as I scanned the crowd, looking at the beautiful faces of those who support a candidate that many do not have the courage to support.
I saw black, white and Hispanic people.
I saw little kids with twinkling eyes.
I saw gay and straight united.
I saw thousands of people with more in common than they had differences.
I saw faith, hope and love.
To be a Bernie Sanders supporter is not like being the supporter of any other candidate.
We deal with discrimination every day of our lives.
It’s not just the uneducated stranger who doesn’t understand the difference between Democratic Socialism and Communism or the Trump supporter in his big, foreign oil guzzling truck who tries to intimidate us as we drive.
It’s the more subtle things that we have to overcome every second of every day.
It’s our own families judging us for being suddenly so political.
It’s the fact that we do for free what all the other candidates have paid staff to do.
It’s the fact that everywhere we go, we are told that we are wasting our time, by people who are brainwashed by corporate media.
It’s the overcoming of our own doubts when Bernie loses five states in one day and we are in tears and so despondent that our family members give us space for the evening.
It’s climbing a mountain and slipping and falling and being cold and sometimes forgetting, albeit momentarily, why we started the climb to begin with.
It’s being the kind of person who gets up off the ground again
Being a Bernie Sanders supporter isn’t at all like being a Hillary Clinton supporter.
The DNC handed the nomination to her.
Her Wall Street and Wal-Mart buddies pay for her private jet while we skip meals so Bernie can afford to fly coach.
They are on top of the mountain, laughing at us and spitting down upon us..
We are not like them at all.
We are not like the Trump supporters who think they are entitled to privilege because of the color of their skin.
We embrace while they divide.
We stand up for human rights, while they point their fingers of blame at those who are less fortunate.
We will not let our country continue down the road to corporate ruin with Mrs Clinton.
We will not let our country be taken over by the NAZI fascism of Donald Trump.
We will call every phone in America.
We will knock on every door.
We will talk to every friend and every stranger.
And when we are weary, we will find solace in each other.
We will deal with every ugly discrimination.
We will never give up or give in.
We have been made strong by our trials.
We have only just begun to fight.
Revolution was never meant to be easy.