I’ll start at the end…
Hundreds of bedraggled, beautiful, tired, disappointed people waiting in the hot subway station late in the evening.
We are craning our necks and squinting our eyes into the darkness of an endless tunnel, searching for the light.
There are so many people, but we are all really just one.
Berners of every size, shape and color – young and old, fit and crippled, straight and gay. Some have tattoos with neon hair, while others look like your grandfather. We all have the same dreams. As if all of us had jut run a marathon, we are all exhausted.
All are holding signs buckled and wilting just like their faces, which clearly reflect their doused feelings.
All of the signs have something to do with Bernie.
The subway arrives and a collective sigh of relief is audible throughout the broiling station. Then the subway pulls in. We stand motionless as the doors open and the cool air streams into our faces. There are already hundreds of passengers seated. They are dressed in crisp, ironed clothes, their shoes are remarkably scuffed or crusted with mud. They have not walked miles through FDR Park. They have been inside the Wells Fargo Stadium. Lanyards dangle from their necks holding a variety of laminated passes known as “credentials”.
These are Hillary delegates. They are tired also and they’re trying to get home just like us.
We stare at each other with a mixture of distrust and horror.
Some of them begin to text each other – refusing to break the awkward silence.
Scornful glances continue until the subway stops at City Hall and I gratefully disembark into the steamy Philadelphia night. I walk by people sleeping on the sidewalks, curled up on storefronts. They are motionless, they could be dead, there is no way to tell.
I march on, a continuation of the massive protest I just left in my wake, thousands of bodies surging against SWAT vehicles, a brigade of police on motorcycles, bicycles and horses.
The police were actually as well behaved as the protesters. There was no violence, no force just basic crowd assessment. I never saw a situation reel out of control.
What I did see was this. An entire segment of our society whose needs and basic human rights will continue to be ignored. I bore witness to a charade called Democracy.
After walking to my friend’s apartment I collapse into a deep slumber.
At some point in the night I awake and my face is drenched. I initially thought that the air conditioning had gone off and I was covered in sweat, then I realized the rest of me was dry. My face was wet because I had been crying in my sleep.
That hasn’t happened to me since I was a little kid. It’s hard to say what I was crying about but it made me think of a friend’s Facebook post I had read earlier in the evening. She is a Hillary supporter, and as she was watching the roll-call, she noticed that Bernie supporters were crying. Hence she posted, “why are they crying”?
It was an honest question. She was truly perplexed. She didn’t realize that before Bernie, we had no one and nothing to believe in. We had become accustomed and complacent in our suppression. We had no common language to discuss social evolution. We had no hope and then suddenly we did. We woke up. We suddenly realized how foolish we were to think that even a group of 13 million people could usurp a political machine that is designed to annihilate any such upward momentum.
That realization did not feel good, in fact it made me want to cry even in my sleep.
The day before yesterday had been a real eye-opener. A cloud of innocence enveloped me as I sped towards the convention center assuming I would be able to pay for a ticket and walk inside like a sporting event or U2 concert. Secret service agents stopped me at the gate and asked to see my credentials. I didn’t have any yet I told them and they kindly agreed to allow me to park in the media lot anyway. They directed me to the shuttle area where I was told I would not be able to board a shuttle without credentials. The alternative was for me to walk approximately two miles in the blistering sun. So when no one was looking, I approached the shuttle, saw that the driver was absent, walked up the steps and sat myself down behind a gaggle of Chick A Fil employees.
The shuttle driver boarded the vehicle and drove us directly to the entrance of the Wells Fargo Center. When I reached the first security checkpoint I spun a similar tale of credentials that were on the way to me but I had not received yet. One of the guards chuckled and said without credentials there is no way on earth that I could get into that building. They offered no suggestions or alternatives just steely glances that advised me to leave while I still had the chance. Luckily I spoke to one of the drivers of the golf carts that were shuttling delegates around. They told me how to get out of the gated area and into FDR Park which is where all of the un-credentialed souls had gathered.
Upon arriving at the park I understood that this convention was all about exclusion and elitism. It felt ironic that the Democrats have been demanding unity from a group of people that they had erected an ironclad fence against.
Immediately upon entering the confines of the park, I felt more at ease. The vibe was relaxed and peaceful. That very morning I have been approached on Facebook by someone at MangoFeed who asked if I would be willing to live stream my experiences at the convention. This gave me a clearly defined purpose and it allowed me to boldly speak to people about their experiences. There were people playing music, there were people giving away food and water, there were people blowing giant bubbles and others hanging out by their tents. I interviewed men, women and children. Those videos can be seen on MangoFeed.
The day culminated with me scoring a front row seat under a tent with Dr. Cornell West and Dr. Jill Stein. As soon as Jill finished speaking, the sky opened up, lightening jolted through the air and the rains came. It took me an hour walking in the pouring rain to get to my car which I had so proudly stashed in the media lot.
Day one was a long strange trip filled with hope.
There was tension in the air on day two, as if everyone was bracing for that final blow that was going to knock us off our horse of high hopes and back into those pre-Bernie doldrums. We were right to feel that way.
Reports began to filter into the park about Bernie volunteers being ejected from the Wells Fargo Center. Rumor had it that Bernie Delegates were told to give up their Bernie signs and were handed Hillary signs instead. When it was finally time, we all gathered in FDR Park to stare at the big screens while the final rollcall unfolded before us. We listened as each state boasted about their merits and then gave a final count of their delegate’s choices.
Each of the announcers referred to Hillary as the next president of the United States of America. Then, Bernie appeared on the screen. A roar of appreciation emerged from the crowd that had gathered on the grass even though we knew that this particular road had come to an end. He gracefully handed her his delegate’s votes, followed by another halfhearted endorsement. Then, he disappeared.
Just then information hit the park that a big group of Bernie delegates had walked out. We then began the search to find them and sit with them in solidarity. This was the catalyst for the massive protest that ensued which you probably didn’t see on the mainstream media.
Immediately I received a FB message from an avid Hillary
“Hillary is the Democratic nominee.”
“I heard,” was my reply. “I’m standing here with a whole lot of people who aren’t too happy about it.”
Her response was, “You’ve got to admit that Bernie was given a lot of respect during roll call.
“It’s true,” I messaged. “Imagine if he had been given that same respect throughout this entire campaign.”
Well, that did not happen and so we will never know. Which is why I will continue to march and fight for the ultimate human right, respect.