(Note: Michael E Sparks is currently on the road interviewing Progressives while finishing up a self-published book entitle My Bernie Journey – A Behind the Scenes Look at the 2016 “Democratic” Primary and Beyond. He is also in the pre-production phase of filming a documentary on the subject.)
I am sitting somewhere in the hills of Asheville, North Carolina, having just met MJ Taylor. Even though we had never met before, I feel like I have known this amazing person my entire life.
Perhaps we became friends so quickly because we were able to skip the usual checks that humans subconsciously do upon meeting to insure that the new being before them is actually someone whom is safe and worthy of further exploration. Such scans are unneccessary, for my new friend is an avid Bernie Sanders supporter. And with this one distinction I know that I can rest assured that this is someone who I have many amazing things in common with. For merely by their love of Bernie Sanders, I can conclude that my new friend believes that all human beings are entitled to healthcare when they are sick and compassion at all times. I can safely assume that my new friend believes that it is better to pay extra to educate a child now than to incarcerate that child later. I know that my friend believes that there is hope for this damaged country and fragile world. And I know that my friend is hopeful, full of fight and has no intention of ever giving up.
By making the usual butt-sniffing obsolete, we hit the ground running and it feels like we have been friends for years. It feels like we haven’t seen each other for a while and that we are just catching up. This is a phenomenon I have experienced so often over the past couple of years that I have come to take it completely for granted. Even though I cannot tell you where I am exactly, having relied on GPS to guide me to my latest oasis in between long meditations of seemingly endless highways, I know exactly where I am.
I am home.
I was home two days ago when I pulled into Sam Ronan’s driveway outside Dayton and found that the man who created Our Voice and challenged the establishment to compete for the chair position of the DNC, was also a fellow nerd who shared many of my interests in geek-culture including PC gaming and hand painted Warhammer 40K figurines.
I was home on the streets of Columbus, Ohio where I got to speak with Maria Ferrara about our shared love of virtuoso guitar playing, before she outlined her well-educated views on the steps we need to take to reclaim our country from the corporations that control it. And yet again, I felt at home when Steve Steinmetz shared with me his observations regarding how the United States military commonly violates the very Constitution it is sworn to protect and then at the end of the interview casually mentioned that it happened to be his birthday.
The following morning, in Newark, Ohio, I found home in the words of Jen Kanagy who informed me that Bernie Sanders had inspired her to run for city council, because she recognized this as the best way to serve those in her community. And then again I was at home in the mountains of West Virginia as I listened to Erica Rusmisell tell me how Bernie Sanders had inspired her to overcome her anxiety and set up a support group for people in her community with mood-disorders.
And I was at home when a Facebook message popped up from Mia Irizarry that simply said “Gas money” and when I clicked the link $20 appeared on my debit card (I didn’t even know that was possible!!) and I choked back tears when Jim Cook, a man I’ve never met before, sent me $27 and said “This is to help you on your trip.” Those two messages literally paid for our journey from Ohio to North Carolina.
I have never known such kindness.
Everywhere we go the stories are the same, yet different. There is so much beauty and inspiration in the words and deeds of these heroic people that I find my own desire to make the world a better place refreshed and renewed.
One might ask what I hope to accomplish by driving from town to town and listening to people’s stories. On the surface it is to insure that when I finish my book, My Bernie Journey, that no viewpoints are left unspoken. Also, when I return home, I plan to practice some basic film-editing techniques on the footage that I have and I’ll make a couple of short films in preparation to make a full-length documentary later in the year.
But the deeper reasons I decided to pursue this project are gradually revealing themselves to me. I know that our movement suffered a terrible setback around this time last year and I have been watching some aspects of it push against the seams that were holding it together. The powers that be, in their subtle and pervasive ways, have been successful in getting us to take our eyes off the prize. The sideshow of our current “representation” in Washington produces enough tabloid garbage on a daily basis to provide a convenient distraction for disgruntled activists, while the corporate media bombards us with news that isn’t news in an attempt to convince us that what we experienced just a year ago was merely an anomaly and that we have no real power.
All they do is lie.
Back in Indiana, my heart raged against the dissolution of a movement that we put our literal blood, sweat and tears into, while my body sat still, feeling helpless, not knowing what to do next. So we decided to go speak with the people, not knowing what would be revealed in the process.
And we were scared.
We were scared of not having enough money to make the trip. We were scared of being stranded on the road. We were scared of people who were not sympathetic to our political ideology. And most of all we were scared to speak with people who are quite honestly heroes to us.
We were overwhelmed with fear.
Carrie and I took turns leaning on each other, reminding the other that there was something out there, something greater than what we could envision and telling each other that we need only to take the first step and things would fall in line.
And they have.
I do not know all that we will find on this journey, but I know that there is a brilliant and amazing story here. Upon returning home I will finish my book and listen carefully as to know what the next step is. Goals are in concrete. Plans are in sand. But I have a script. And it’s really good. I also have some crude drawings that I will have animated to fit into at least one documentary that begins at Occupy Wall Street and continues on into the current day Progressive movement. I believe that this is possibly the path that this will take, but every documentary film-maker I have had the pleasure of speaking with tells me that the story will write itself as long as you listen and pursue the journey.
So I’m out here.
Listening to the voice of The People.
You all have such beautiful voices.