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Thursday, February 21, 2008
11:02 AM


Seeing Is Believing?

 

FYI: My seat was not next to Jesus; it's just that I sat behind the press, and they were blocking...zoom can only do so much (apparently).

Before I actually stepped inside of the Toyota Center, I already had it in my mind how I would detail my experience seeing Barack Obama in person. I knew I would talk about feeling inspired. I had the idea that I would rush back to my computer to paint a picture of a sea of people from different walks of life, all coming together to here a message themed on unity. I thought I might even share something about being caught up in the moment.

And then I woke up.

While I did enjoy being there, for the majority of the time I was at the rally, I kept thinking to myself, “I pay way too much attention.”

To stump speeches. To propaganda. To the entire political process. Politics is politics no matter the anomaly of a candidate actually seeming genuine.

Waiting for Obama to appear on stage was interesting to say the least. Before anyone was allowed in the venue, we were reminded that signs are not allowed. That’s probably because the campaign already had homemade signs for people.

“Students for Obama.”

“Texans for Obama.”

“Obama ’08.”

Each campaign-produced poster offered a slogan in different handwriting to give off authenticity. If you are wondering, each sign was decorated in red, white, and blue --- of course.

Is this what happens when the revolution is televised? I suppose it makes sense, given that some attention whoring heckler could break out a sign with all types of vulgarities. Still, I’m a First Amendment fiend, so you can understand my skepticism.

Then came the waiting game.

Early on, a band dressed in ridiculous sequin jackets (watch out, Tina Knowles) appeared on stage to sing a bunch of cover songs. I’m not hating: If people like it, I try to not frown visibly at it. This is the time where I decided to eat my overpriced (and wack) chicken strips and watch a gang of people rush to buy beer. As I chewed on nonsense, old people got up to dance to every cover performed. You know you can’t tell them anything. If they had played “I.N.D.E.P.E.N.D.E.N.T.” maybe I would’ve jigged, but no, I kept it cool.

After a good hour the band left. People became restless soon after. When people get restless, they do whatever they can to amuse themselves. Which lead to the wave starting about 50-11 different times. After a while, I suppose organizers began to notice the obvious (people were bored), so the event formally began.

The first person to hit the stage to speak was a stay-at-home mom discussing her journey of leaving her comfort zone to fight for something she believed in. Very nice.

After that handlers skillfully reminded us about the complicated Texas primary system in which we have both a primary and a caucus. Understanding that people are not up for pulling double duty on Election Day, the campaign has designed a plan around the theme of the Texas two step. The plan encourages Obama supporters to participate in early voting and on March 04 - the actual election day - show up at the end of primary voting to participate in the caucus.

In Texas, they distribute delegates through the primary and the caucus, hence the Obama campaign’s emphasis on supporters participating in both. If you’re wondering: No, I don’t think our system makes any sense either. I actually find the entire Democratic nomination process to be archaic and in need of a major overhaul. But hey, at least Obama’s camp has studied the system and planned accordingly.

Following that voter instruction, the staff members decided to engage everyone in a chant off.

“Fired up and ready to go!”

“Obama…08!”

“Yes we can!”

I’m not really much of a chanter, much less an orchestrated mass hysteria participator; I’m more of a I’ll clap when the mood compels me to person.

It’s not that I think I’m above chanting, it’s just that I might be country, but I’m not really a loud person, so I doubt you’ll hear me anyway unless I’m angry.

Anyway, if anyone here knows an Obama staff member, pass this message along: “YES WE CAN!” is the only chant that works.

When the chant leader yelled, “Si, se puede” old people were yelling, “Si some ready.” When they tried to rhyme the Obama name with sooner or greater (yeah, I couldn’t make it out), I heard confused people yell, “Obama, wait later.” At that point you started to wonder if you were at a Slick Willie chill session.

I think Obama needs to find a new hypeman.

Finally, the man himself hit the stage. This is where the comment about me paying too much attention weighs in. It was a good speech, but much of what he’s talked about, I’ve heard before in other speeches. That’s not to discredit him, because I know how it works: You find those working talking points and you drive them home - especially when your event is broadcasted. I did notice he started to be somewhat more specific about matters of policy, but for the most part, I’ve heard everything already.

That didn’t take away from the thrill of being there and seeing not only a gifted orator, but the person who could be our next President.

I think the most interesting thing about the event was the responses of he drew out of people.

“Amen.”

“Well.”

“Say that.”

“That’s right.”

“Yeah!”

The friend I came out with was really energetic, somewhat atypical for her. Someone else I knew there said his words brought her to tears. It started to feel like I was listening to more than just a stump speech. It was like a sermon and the event, not a political rally, but something out of a megachurch. The thought seemed somewhat surreal to me, but watching 19,000 people scream and chant with so much fervor about a political candidate reminded me that everyone’s enthusiasm was authentic even if his campaign posters weren’t; his words planned, but their reactions, spontaneous; and those dreams – both his and theirs – come from a sincere place .

By the end of the night I realized that while I didn’t catch the Obama-ghost, I still have the spirit. The event was politics as usual, but the candidate and the movement behind him are everything but.

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