a study in contrasts

One of the great things about NaBloPoMo is that there isn’t enough time to leave an entry at the top of the page waiting for more snarky comments. So! Moving on!

Today is Election Day, and since I voted over a week ago, this morning I headed off to my local Obama campaign office to volunteer. Originally they told me that I was going to be making calls, but when I arrived, they said that they needed more people to do neighborhood canvassing, which is what I did on Saturday. I had worn comfortable shoes and felt up for it, so sure, why not? Whatever way I can help out is fine with me. I joined up with a team – an older man who said he had bad knees but was willing to drive, and another much older lady (around 80-ish), who said she was volunteering so she wouldn’t be sitting at home staring at the TV and worrying all day. Boy, could I ever relate to that. (Seriously, CNN is on as I type. Cate is napping so I’m enjoying my break from Noggin.)

The difference in my experience between Saturday and today was absolutely astounding. I don’t even know exactly how to describe this, but it was truly profound.

Saturday: It was a beautiful sunny day, and the neighborhood that I was assigned to was predominantly white and upper-class (some Asian and Indian mixed in, but for the most part it was Caucasian Central). We were smack in the middle of suburbia; an upscale mall was nearby, a Whole Foods, several well-manicured green spaces, local parks, etc. It was posh, to say the least. The houses were close enough together that usually the driver would park and the other three volunteers in the car would fan out and go to a nearby house. No one ever had to walk far from the car to the assigned house and back. The people we met were generally polite, but some of them were a little icy and very rarely seemed enthusiastic about our presence.

Today: The weather was cold, gray, and rainy. The area we were assigned to was very rural; most of the roads were gravel, not paved. Instead of McMansions in suburbia, I was knocking on the doors of run-down, delapidated mobile homes, most of which had chickens and turkeys running around loose in their front yards. Think of every stereotype you know about poor, rural, Southern life, then multiply it times ten. I’d seen places like this from the highway before, but I’d never been in it. I’d never walked up those muddy driveways, shooing the hens out of my way as I went, and knocked on the doors. I was almost attacked by a watchdog who clearly believed that all unknown visitors had bad intentions. The residents we met were almost 100% African-American.

The people I met today were generally friendlier than the ones I met on Saturday. Perhaps being in such a remote area, they haven’t been targeted by as many political campaigns this year; maybe it was Election Day Fever, who knows. People seemed excited, even if they were just informing me that they’d participated in early voting. However, many people seemed taken aback to see me – a 30-something, suburban-mom-looking, white woman – as the representative from the Obama campaign that was there to speak with them. Lois, the older lady I was working with, got even more shocked reactions than I did. But then, why would you expect a frail little old lady to come out advocating for the more progressive candidate? The surprised reactions made total sense to us. I don’t know if I’ve ever felt quite so insanely overprivileged and blessed in my entire life.

It just struck me how very different these two worlds are, how very different these people are, how very different their issues and concerns must be, and yet the two groups have both come to Barack Obama as the candidate that best represents them. I love that I had the opportunity to see the diversity firsthand.

I don’t know if I’ll be able to stay awake until they get the election results announced tonight, but I’m going to try. I have a feeling that if I decide to crash early, I’ll be needing a Tylenol PM to settle myself down and turn my brain off so that I can sleep.

SIDE NOTE: I shouldn’t have to add this on my blog entries, but apparently it’s necessary. You’re totally allowed to disagree with my viewpoints, but respect for others is requested – nay, demanded. Nasty, hateful comments will be deleted. Thank you.

3 thoughts on “a study in contrasts

  1. I’m so proud of you that you are doing so much for this campaign. I loved reading about the neighborhoods you visited. Even if people were a bit icy, they were probably just fatigued from so much contact by the candidates. Rural people probably don’t get canvassed much.

    Our apartment was visited not once, but twice. I would guess that our house was not visited at all (well, actually, the construction vehicles would deter any canvasser).

  2. Cindy, I am so proud of the work y’all did in North Carolina. Elizabeth Dole lost, praise be. After the hate campaign she ran, I couldn’t be happier. Good job. Here’s hoping this turns out to be an Obama landslide.

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