I apologize to those who follow me on social media.
I’ve been pretty angry lately.
My grief stages seem to have no particular order and every time I think I have worked out one, it comes back again, stronger than before.
I’m still trying to make sense of this journey.
I remember May of 2015, sprinting excitedly towards my girlfriend’s house.
I felt like a little kid, I was so excited.
She answered the door and I exclaimed..
“There’s this guy. He’s a Senator from Vermont. He’s amazing. I signed this petition last year, asking him to run for President and today he announced that he was going to run.”
We drank our coffee and I told Carrie what little bit I knew about him at the time.
I told her about his career fighting for social justice and some of the platforms he was running on.
I remember saying…
“We have one year to tell everyone in the country about him. Everyone who hears about him will vote for him.”
Although I was a political activist at the time, I never really paid attention to candidates.
I voted a straight Democratic ticket and invested most of my time on issues.
As the parent of a daughter who is very active in the LBGT+ community, in a state where Mike Pence is the governor, I spent a lot of my activist time working on equality issues.
I had never been excited about a candidate before, but Bernie Sanders lit a fire under me.
I agreed completely with every one of his platforms and I had already seen the videos of him speaking to empty rooms and defending gays on the Senate floor.
I told Carrie that I was going to dedicate the next year of my life to getting this great man elected.
“Bernie Sanders is on the right side of every single issue that I’ve spent my life fighting for” I said.
I went to the website and signed up to volunteer.
I went to a meeting.
There was someone there selling shirts and handouts that had Bernie’s platforms on them.
I bought a shirt.
It said “Ask Me About Bernie” on both sides.
I went to a street festival that weekend and wore the shirt.
Nobody knew who Bernie was.
People kept asking me about the shirt and I would hand them a flyer.
I was incredibly afraid that people would ask me questions, because I knew that I was not knowledgeable enough to answer most of them.
There were two separate Republicans who cornered me that evening.
They asked me a lot of questions in a very hostile way.
I had to admit to both of them that I did not know these answers.
I wrote down their questions and took their phone numbers.
I went home and looked up the answers.
I called both of them the next day.
One said “Fuck off, Commie!!” and hung up the phone.
The other sat down with me and we talked.
He ended up voting for Bernie.
I’m still friends with him to this day.
I was abused as a child and as a result, I have struggled with some pretty severe social anxiety issues as an adult.
There were several years, where I only left the house to go to my job and I kept myself completely isolated otherwise.
I saw a series of therapists.
All of them helped me immensely.
Thanks to my children being born and complications with the mother, that resulted in me raising them alone, I had gotten used to living outside my comfort zone.
I would get them signed up for school and take them to their friend’s birthday parties and all the things you have to do in order to appear to be a fully functioning adult, but I would do these things while having severe panic attacks.
I kept the attacks hidden.
I didn’t want my children to grow up anxious.
But part of keeping them a secret was to stay away from people as much as I possibly could, so when Bernie Sanders started his presidential run, I knew right away that this was going to be a YUGE challenge for me.
What I didn’t know is that 15 months later, much of my anxiety would be alleviated by the experiences I had while volunteering for this great man.
I had no way of anticipating that I was about to embark upon a journey that would introduce me to thousands of Americans who loved their country and wanted to make it a better place to live.
As I was standing in the middle of FDR park in Philadelphia, just a month ago, after Bernie had been cheated out of the Democratic nomination…
As I was standing there watching hundreds of people crying..
While tears streamed down my own cheeks, I actually had the thought..
“I never thought I could feel so comfortable in a crowd this large.”
Carrie is an artist and she is always heading out to some festival or another.
Definitely not my scene, but I started tagging along and wearing my Bernie shirt.
Each week, I was more and more prepared for the questions people would ask me.
Living in Indiana, I would get a lot of angry Trump voters coming at me.
Many of them were incredibly hostile.
Maybe I shouldn’t tell you this, but I would sit in the parking lot before I would go into these festivals and smoke pot, which seems insane, because marijuana really aggravates my anxiety and causes me tremendous paranoia.
But it also accentuates my empathy and I found that it helped me listen to people and get past their hostility and really feel what they were saying.
So these Trump voters would come at me with all this hostility and I would be feeling completely paranoid.
But I was able to work through that and feel their fear and have empathy for them.
I gave up on any idea of converting them and just started listening.
As a result, many of them would vent for a minute and once they realized that I actually cared about them, they would start to ask me questions.
I was able to have really deep connections with the voters in my city and made friends with people who I would have stereotyped and ignored previously.
Walls started coming down around my heart.
I started to feel more confident.
Then the guy from the national campaign came in.
It was a Wednesday night and I was already exhausted.
There was a Bernie meeting with a guy from the national headquarters.
I kept falling asleep during the meeting.
The movement had grown and there were about 100 people there, when just a few months before there had only been 10-15.
The meeting was in regards to getting Bernie Sanders on the ballot in Indiana.
He told us that we had to collect 500 signatures in each Congressional district, but that he preferred that we collect 1000, because Indiana was not excited about having a Socialist on the ballot and that they would do anything they could to disqualify the signatures.
He started asking if there were any volunteers and gradually people agreed to take on certain districts.
I kept dozing off.
Between snoozes, I noticed that he kept talking about district 5.
“So no one wants to take district 5?” the guy asked.
Some important looking guy in a suit said..
“There are some challenges with that district. It’s all Republican and it’s rural. There are vast distances between the houses and they don’t take kindly to Socialism.”
I raised my hand..
“So what happens if we are unable to collect the 1000 signatures from that district?”
The guy said
“Then Bernie is not on the ballot in Indiana and he will automatically forfeit this state and have reduced chances of becoming president.”
I raised my hand again.
“You have another question?” the guy asked.
“No.” I said “I am raising my hand to volunteer to get the signatures for district 5.”
Everyone in the place turned to look at me.
I assembled a team and we headed out to district 5.
It was not easy.
The mere mention of Bernie Sanders caused these wealthy Republicans to become hostile.
We were called lots of names and threatened in various ways.
One guy, who informed me that he was a county chair said..
“I hate Socialism and I LOVE The Constitution. I particularly love The Second Amendment. Do you know what I mean when I say that?”
When he walked away I turned to my daughter and said
“Those people would own slaves if it were still legal.”
They were seriously scary people and refused to sign our ballot initiative.
They were openly hostile to us.
Finally I came up with an idea.
I started saying
“Excuse me. Do you have 30 seconds to keep Hillary Clinton out of the White House?”
People would stop and laugh.
I would then make the point that “Bernie may be a Socialist, but he’s still better than Hillary.” and then I would add that “The one thing I respect about Republicans is that they believe in real democracy and that ALL people deserve the right to run for office.”
This locked them in and they started reluctantly signing.
Then Cherish (far left in the picture) started going in public places and collecting signatures until they kicked her out.
She did this over and over again.
She was a machine.
She wouldn’t stop.
She got kicked out of every place in the district.
But we got the signatures and Bernie won Indiana!!
“We need to go to Iowa.” I said, walking into the bedroom where Carrie was folding clothes.
“Okay.” she said.
Carrie knows me and she knows how I fear new places.
She also knows that I hate driving long distances.
For me to say that we needed to go to Iowa, was similar to me saying that we should build a rocket and head to Europa.
“It’s a very tight race there. I need to get there and help however I can. If you can’t get off work, I understand, but I need to go. If we win Iowa and New Hampshire we can build momentum. Iowa is the key to the entire race.”
The next morning we loaded up the kids and headed out.
When we arrived at the campaign center they told us that Bernie was across the street about to speak.
We went into a small room.
About 600 people were packed in.
I didn’t even know Bernie was in Iowa and suddenly, unexpectedly, here he was speaking to me in a small room.
Afterwards Bernie headed for the exit while people pushed through to try to shake his hand.
I was just a few feet away from him, but I didn’t want to cut in front of anyone.
Instead I had my daughter walk up to the podium and I snapped this picture.
When I started writing this, I thought that I was going to write a short synopsis of the highlights of the past 15 months.
I decided to write it because I wanted to stop talking about politics in theoretical terms and share a personal story, because I feel like our movement has really lost direction over the last couple of months and I was hoping maybe that humanizing it some might help somehow.
But I can’t do it.
I look at my word count and it says I am already at 2000.
I was about to start into the story of how my son got very sick on our way home from Iowa and how our journey there, in effect, saved his life.
I wanted to talk about how I got to be in charge of helping the handicapped to their seats in Columbus, Ohio at a Bernie rally with 18,500 people and how their stories touched me so much.
I wanted to talk about how my daughter and I became so good as a canvassing team, that we were able to flip people to Bernie using methods that we invented from trial and error.
But, I know you are busy.
I know you don’t have time to read an entire book on your phone or laptop screen right now, so I will just obliterate the fourth wall and wrap this up.
I wanted to share some measure of myself today, in hopes that maybe it would help me to get grounded in gratitude for the incredible journey that we have all been on and also so that maybe we could facilitate some healing.
I don’t want to tell people that they should get over their anger.
Everyone has their own grief timeline.
I’m not even close to getting over mine and I knew that this was over since we were cheated in New York.
I just hope that when the anger goes away, people don’t just give up and walk away bitter, having learned all the wrong lessons.
I am extremely sad about the events that lead us to this moment.
But I am also gradually rediscovering the hope and gratitude I had a year ago.
I know so many of you personally and many who I only know virtually I still count among my best friends.
You sacrificed so much and I feel your pain.
I really want to thank you for everything you have done for this movement of revolution and compassion.
I want to thank you for what you have done for me personally.
Those of you who extended your homes to me and my family so that we could go out and canvass in your area…
I cannot tell you what that means to me.
We honestly were so broke that we didn’t even have the money for a hotel half the time, so we literally could not have had this journey without you.
For those of you who have taken the time to send me your personal stories, please know that I have read every single one of them and have discussed them with my family, often breaking down into tears while doing so.
I can’t tell you the healing that your passion and kindness has given me.
I am ten times the man I was a year ago, thanks to you.
I know how hard it was to donate to the campaign, when you were trying to figure out how you were going to pay your electric bill.
Thank you for doing that.
I know hard it was to get over your fear and phone-bank.
Thank you so much for doing that, as well.
I know it is a scary thing to knock on a stranger’s door, having no idea what their reaction will be.
You are absolutely my hero for doing this.
I know these are dark times.
I know that it is extremely hard to make sense of how millions of people could try so hard, only to get so close and be cheated.
It’s completely natural to want to just give up after this, but don’t.
In time, you will see that we achieved far more than we realized.
Thank you from my whole heart.
I love you all.