Feeling the Bern

bernieselfie

We were hosting homeschool days at the Petroglyphs yesterday but Toria and I left Daryl and the staff in charge and went on a different field trip yesterday.

We carpooled with friends (one old, two new) to see Bernie Sanders in Sioux Falls.

He was not planning to stop in South Dakota this week but he announced on Tuesday that he would come.  He was scheduled to speak at 7:30, with doors opening at 5.  A friend of mine posted on Facebook that she was going and looking for company, and Daryl encouraged me to go.  I said yes, woke Toria, and told her the news.  A few hours later we were on the road, by way of Iowa to pick up another Bernie friend, and then stopping in Sioux Falls to pick up another.  By the time we got there via three states, it was around 5:30 and the line went far off into the distance.

One of the members of our party uses a wheelchair and she headed right to the officials in front of the building to ask where we should go.  Our party was ushered right through the doors and through security, where a volunteer pushed Deb’s wheelchair and led us right in and through the crowds.  I must admit that I felt guilty and lucky for their exceptional treatment of handicapped attendees and their parties, because we frankly would not have gotten in otherwise.  I didn’t even realize as it was happening what was going on, our friend was simply efficiently taken care of and they beckoned us to quickly follow.  Even the people waiting in line at the metal detectors just moved over as we came in.  Bernie supporters are a caring bunch.  I guess it sort of goes with the territory.

Thousands of people were unable to get in to see him.  Over 2,000 got in to see Bernie, but over 2,000 had to wait outside (I’m wondering if they were in overflow rooms with monitors, as it seemed afterwards that masses of people were coming from a different area than we were).  I assume that this was because they didn’t have security to control that large of a crowd, because there were additional walls they could have opened up to greatly increase capacity and they did not open them.  There were lots of secret service agents and local police, but since it was a last minute gig then I’m guessing they felt they could only guarantee his safety in that size of a space.

Because of this, it felt almost intimate in spite of being in a crowd of 2,000.  I’ve seen some of the crowds that have come to see Bernie, and we were in a room that could have held a (very) large wedding party to see Bernie Sanders.  It was surreal.

We got there at 5:30 and he wasn’t scheduled to speak until 7:30, so there was a lot of standing and waiting in what felt a lot like a mosh pit.  It was standing room only, other than the section for the disabled (they asked us to stand in a separate area from Deb once they got her in her spot, so wheelchairs and people who needed the ASL interpreter were all in one area to the left of the stage).

They had occasional speakers and entertainment as we waited, including a local band that played some fun songs and a phenomenal, moving performance by Native American dancers and musicians.  Several candidates and local politicians spoke also, with a focus on their collective message that they shared with Bernie.

Bernie was greeted with thunderous applause, of course, but also with a bit of annoyed booing when he accidentally called the town Sioux City (a city in Iowa) instead of Sioux Falls in his opening sentence.  🙂  I cringed and figured the local news would lead with that and not much else.  The crowd quickly forgave him and he proceeded to give an inspirational, thoughtful, passionate, intelligent speech about not only what he wanted to accomplish as president but how important the people were (not him) in effecting change and how important it was to change the current political rules and climate.

Look how close we were!

bernie

Among the issues he discussed were:

  • Injustices against Native Americans (he also met with Native Americans at the impoverished Pine Ridge reservation this week)
  • The importance of acknowledging and heading off climate change
  • Eliminating fracking and the dependency on fossil fuels
  • Creating jobs for all workers displaced by moving to clean energy
  • Taxing wall street speculation to fully fund free college education
  • Enacting legislation to allow all Americans to refinance existing student loans at the lowest available interest rates
  • Creating American jobs by rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure (bridges, roads, railway)
  • Creating paths for citizenship for immigrants
  • Taking care of disabled veterans (this was mentioned often)
  • Taking care of our elderly and ensuring that social security and medicare are protected
  • Establishing a $15 minimum wage
  • Ensuring that women finally get equal pay to men
  • Taking political power back from the very rich and putting it back in the hands of the people
  • Getting rid of Citizens United
  • Getting rid of tax loopholes that allow corporations to avoid paying taxes
  • Sending the message to American companies that they need to employ workers here in America and not take advantage of slave labor options in other countries or we will not buy their products here
  • Dealing with race inequality and issues for Latino and African American communities
  • Making companies provide a living wage for their employees so the American people no longer have to subsidize the billionaires
  • The importance in taking part in democracy
  • Using our money on building our country, not wars

Bernie talked a lot about the importance of thinking big and thinking outside of the box.  He also pointed out that no significant change has ever come from the top — it has always come from the bottom up.

He talked about the African Americans and their white allies who helped end slavery, often at the expense of their own lives.  He talked about the women and their male allies who helped get women our right to vote (pointing out that only a hundred years ago, women did not have that right).  He talked about women who went on hunger strikes, were jailed and who sometimes lost their lives to bringing about that change.

He said that if someone had told you 20 years ago that we’d have our first African American president in a few years, you would have said it was impossible.  He said if you’d said 10 years ago that we’d see gay marriage legal in every state in America by 2015, you’d say it wasn’t possible.  He said that five years ago, if someone said fast food workers would win the right to a $15 minimum wage in cities and states around the country this year, you’d say that was an impossible number.  He gave many examples like these of things that people thought were dreaming “too big” and we’ve made them happen.

And again and again, he said it was the people who did it.  When the crowd would shout, “Bernie, Bernie, Bernie…” he would smile and shake his finger and tell us, “No… You.”

All in all, it was a long, incredible experience.  I can’t speak to Victoria’s perception of it (though she is certainly a Bernie supporter and seemed to really love it) but she often just had a big smile on her face.  It was quite an experience for a kid who turned 18 just this month and will be voting for her first president this fall.

What a field trip.  🙂

(If anybody wants me to post a video clip or two, or more pictures, I took plenty.  This has taken a long time to write up and I have dinner to start and a dart game to play with my hubby, so I wasn’t going to add more unless anybody was actually interested!  Let me know if you’d like me to post them!)

 

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