Friday, 10 August 2012

My Obama Birthplace Adventure

posted 8/10/1982 by the Salt City Sinner

I am not the world's biggest Barack Obama supporter; let's just put it that way.

While the Romney people would have an easier time squeezing farm-fresh goat's milk from a largish chunk of obsidian than winning my vote, I'm not at all pleased with some facets of Obama's tenure thus far. In particular, his cabinet full of Goldman Sachs alumni and his quite astonishingly murderous foreign policy puzzle and distress me.

It was an unexpected opportunity, then, that this week I was given the opportunity to return to my ancestral spawning grounds to see Obama speak at a rally in Grand Junction, Colorado - the town where I was born (30 years ago today, as a matter of fact!).

Grand Junction is a beautiful city located in the western slope region of Colorado, right near the Continental Divide. Colorado is a vital swing state during this year's election, and the energy boom and bust in western Colorado was hard on Grand Junction, the Great Recession even harder. It's a perfect place, in other words, for an Obama rally.

Grand Junction and the mesa for which Mesa County is named
Early this week, I was pretty torn - I'm not a cheering, sign-waving fan of any elected official these days (although, as I said, I'll cop to being a big-time Obama fan back in 2008).

I made up my mind to go anyway, because hey, I've never seen a president in person, let alone one that I voted for. Pondering this afterwards, I asked my radical / anarchist / system critic friends if they would have attended. I got some interesting replies:

I would go just because I think it's a really interesting experience. Not just to see the candidates, but also to see the general group mentality. What they are cheering, what they are booing, how many of them are standing in complete and total awe. 
-- Ashley Loya

I don't mind seeing people speak. I always figure it's an opportunity to potentially ponder something new if they say something insightful. Then again, I wouldn't go out of my way to go to one of these events. Obama is a very powerful speaker and I like hearing powerful speeches because they light a fire in my tummy. I also think it's important to know what other people are talking about or listening to in order to frame our language to reflect those salient talking points. 
-- Deb Henry

I think that I wouldn't go. My main reason is that I find speaking engagements of an electoral political nature to be rhetoric and nothing more. Basically, they are organized to build up energy around making sure that the establishment candidates for political office keep that office and the attendant power that perpetuates this sick system. 
-- Aren Hansen

I would not attend. I hate crowds unless they have fists in the sky to rage against the machine -- Obama is part of that machine. I would get too dispirited to be around so many people who have not yet lost hope in hopeless things. 
-- Jesse Fruhwirth

I would go and I have gone to many different political events in the past. I like having the opportunity to talk with the people attending more than actually watching a speech. 
-- Mark Hilgenberg

I wouldn't go unless it was a protest or something. 2 big reasons: 
1) Obama is an imperialist war criminal and pro-capitalist. he is ramping up u.s. imperialism and he is building a police state internally. His policies run counter to everything anti-authoritarians are about. He is consolidating economic power to the financial elite and accumulating political power away from the masses as well. 
2) Another reason is that I can't stand to be around people who support Obama's presidency. Especially in the uncritical 'my-brain-is-a-reflection-of-pentagon-propaganda-and-the-corporate-media way that 98% of Obama fans show support. 
-- R.K.
Personally, my quandary was made easier by the fact that A.) Obama was speaking in the town where I was hatched and B.) while I'm not an avid supporter, I do recognize that his presidency is historic, and that while I disagree very strongly with some of his policies, I like him personally and think he does have some genuine empathy for voters (and some really, really terrible advisers).

Despite my friend's radical/lefty dig at Obama supporters above, I have found Obama people (on the whole) to be bright, compassionate, motivated people. The right-wing anti-Obama insurgency, on the other hand, is largely fueled by fear, hate, xenophobia, outright ignorance, and/or apparent mental illness.

Just look at the popularity of doughy authoritarian monster Joe Arpaio in Tea Party circles, or the prevalence of conspiracy theories regarding Obama's birthplace, college records, biological father, etc. etc. - I guarantee that if you read the enormously popular crypto-fascist website WND for one week, you will have a better understanding of the conservative id in America and will recoil in horror. They are scary people.

Anyway, there were three Obama people in the vehicle with me as we left Salt Lake City at about 7:30 AM on Wednesday morning.

For the 5 1/2 hour drive to Grand Junction, I quietly listened (for the most part) to their enthusiastic pro-Obama sentiments, and I have to say, it was fairly heartening stuff. Are they slightly naive? Maybe. Are they "my-brain-is-a-reflection-of-pentagon-propaganda-and-the-corporate-media" thinkers? No, not at all.

We rolled into Grand Junction around 1:30 PM, and brother, it was HOT. Mid-morning, the temperature was in the high 80s to the low 90s: by the time we piled out on the Western Slope, it was at least 100 and climbing.

The line was unbelievable:

Not to bag on Organizing For America (Obama's campaign machine) or give fodder to Romney et. al., but the good people in Grand Junction's office seem like they could use a tiny bit more organization. My little group of travelers were signed up for will call tickets in thanks to the canvassing efforts of the aforementioned three Obama supporters...

...but we were given the run-around regarding which line we should be in, etc.

We got straightened out pretty quickly, and soon were taking our seats in the high school auditorium where the President was scheduled to speak.

The place was packed.

Probably four hundred people (or more) crushed themselves like Styrofoam peanuts into the auditorium, which was sweltering, but still cooler than the sun-baked line outside, where temperatures were hitting 108 degrees (113 on the pavement). Music circulated through the loudspeakers - the playlist was heavy on Bruce Springsteen, U2, and classic R&B, with a festive sprinkling of Arcade Fire. We were about 30 feet away from the stage.

Several speakers preceded Obama, including Senator Mike Bennet (D-CO, d-lightful), an awesome fellow that my sister calls "one of America's best-kept political secrets."

Finally, the President emerged from backstage, and the house went f***ing NUTS.

Here's something interesting about Barack H. Obama - and mind you, this is coming purely from an American electoral political perspective, and not some ideologically pure framework - he is simultaneously a master of his craft and, it seems, genuinely filled with compassion for and love of his constituents.

He's a charming, gifted man from modest circumstances (pretty much the Anti-Romney) and I wish like hell that his policies were about 35 - 40 degrees further leftwards so that I could enthusiastically and unreservedly support him as a president and a candidate.

Obama's speech was not overlong, and he hit all the key notes for Colorado. His support for American jobs:

Mittens' abomination of a tax plan, etc. etc.

Obama stoked the crowd to a fever pitch (one of his most effective rhetorical flourishes: "If you believe in me like I believe in you, we will work together!"), and left on a tidal wave of applause, shaking hands with a big grin as he slowly made his way around the platform, through a curtain and off on his way to speak in Pueblo the next day.

Curious about the rabid right's presence at the rally? So was I!

A huge and overpowering throng of six people showed up to protest Obama (plus two quiet lefty protesters concerned with environmental issues - Ken Salazar, who is a premium jackass, was at the rally but did not speak):

My feelings for Obama are a mixed bag. Obama is a very intelligent man, and a calculating centrist - he seems to be constantly in mid-triangulation, with each policy decision generating an endless cascade of "yes, BUT..."s.

I'll give you one brief example: Obama's immigration policy.

Obama has deported more undocumented immigrants than any president in history.
--yes, BUT... a higher percentage of them (55%) than in a decade were convicted criminals.

Obama announced that his administration would unilaterally stop the deportation of undocumented immigrants who meet the DREAM Act criteria.
- yes, BUT... those criteria are severely watered down compared to true amnesty or the original DREAM Act standards.

You get the picture.

The way I see it, the "vote for" "don't vote for" question with Obama breaks into two separate questions.

The first question is whether you reject the idea of voting in it's entirety, like most of my anarchist/Marxist/radical friends do. To these people, the question of "Pepsi vs. Coke" is offensive enough that they skip out on the restaurant entirely and/or want to burn it to the ground.

The second question is whether you would really like to eat in the aforementioned metaphorical restaurant, but don't like Pepsi OR Coke, and choose to loudly bitch and moan that they don't have your preferred artisanal herbal tea. The ballot I cast for Ralph Nader in 2000 would be an example of this.

I plan on voting for Barack Obama in November - not because I like him (I do) or because I think he's perfect (I don't) or even necessarily in the same ballpark as perfect (again, I don't). I will vote for him because the people - on the left AND the right - who tell you "there's no difference between the two candidates," or "it doesn't matter who you vote for" have their heads so far up their @sses that it's a wonder they even know that an election is going on.

While pieces of legislation like the Affordable Care Act are a huge scream from perfect, the are at least a (baby) step in the right direction. As far as I can tell, I can vote for Obama, and still be loudly critical of some of his policies - indeed, I will be in the hopes that I (well I and a bunch of others like me) can drag him to the left. Obama may be a centrist, but Mitt Romney - a terrifying enough prospect as president - has decided to dive as far and as hard into the fever swamps as he can.

Mittens has done this to please the increasingly nihilistic and terrifying GOP base (has there ever been a base so, well...base?), thus ensuring that his presidency would represent a scorched-Earth campaign of horrors that I don't want to contemplate. I've noticed that it seems to be the people with the least at stake - those on the right or the left who have already checked out of the American democratic process - who always dredge up this "no difference" $h!t.

When we pulled out of Grand Junction, overcooked and drenched in sweat, it was around 5:30. A few hours later (thank the mighty and invisible frost demons for air conditioning) the temperature finally dropped into the high 80s for the remainder of the drive home.

All told, I had spent eleven hours in the car and four hours (mostly waiting) at the rally. All told, it was nice to see the president, and nice to see the place I was born welcome him with open arms.


  1. Awesomely put. This echoes my sentiments about the whole thing perfectly.

  2. very well written and reasoned Charles...