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Election Day offering

At the polls this morning, I was standing in the cold line outside and slowly inching forward towards the doors to go stand in line inside. There was a group of 3 people struggling to put up an EZup in the dark, I’m guessing for a campaign table, but it was too early to tell.

Those of us in line watched them struggle, and one person commented under her breath that they needed to pull it out farther before trying to push up the top.  I noticed myself think, “they could use some help, and we’re all just standing here”.  I also noticed myself think, “I wonder which candidate they’re supporting”, before I called bullshit on myself and jogged over to offer the 13 seconds of 4th person help it took to get them past the awful stage of raising any EZup.

I took my place in line again, and we waited in the dark, taking shuffle steps forward towards the doors every 20 seconds, sharing space, sharing oxygen, sharing the experience of standing in line with our complex feelings about this day and this election, inching towards our chance to put our drop in the collective bucket of opinions… and the line was silent, each person in their own mental bubble.

Maybe the silence was just a symptom of a general feeling of dread weighing on all of us, no matter which side we’re on.  But I think it’s more than that, and I think it’s at the heart of our struggle as a country right now: we’re too comfortable in our isolation from each other.   It feels safer to keep to ourselves in a group of strangers, but actually it’s the most dangerous thing of all.  Connection is what keeps us safe.  Isolation breeds assumptions, fear, and mistrust.

So in addition to voting against a man who seems devoted to breeding fear and mistrust, my offering to humanity today was to connect with the strangers in line around me.  I asked if they had been to this polling place before (which almost sounded like a weird pickup line), and if the line was usually this long.  One woman said she hoped the line moved quickly, because she needed to get to work by 7.  I asked her where she worked, and we chatted about her job and what she liked about it.  Nothing very personal, and definitely not political.  But engaged.

This is my vision for how we move forward, no matter who gets elected today: connecting with the people around us, honoring each other as humans trying to live our lives.  Being curious, and listening, when we don’t understand.  Remembering that we’re sharing space, sharing oxygen, and sharing the experience of being complicated and imperfect humans.  I’m holding all of us with love today, as we shuffle forward together.

hello, my delightful and faithful readers. Apologies for the long time without a post — it’s been a full and busy time (isn’t it always?). I’m running off to a speaking gig for TOAST this morning (American University, get ready to have your socks knocked off). I’ll write brilliant responses to all of your insightful comments when I return.

Pax and I returned tonight to a somber and morose commune after a day of driving across the eastern half of the country. There’s a candlelight vigil tonight, and my play rehersal has been cancelled because no one is in the mood.

I’m glad I spent the day in the car, moving forward. We didn’t listen to the news; instead we talked about our anger and sadness and frustration, and also about possibility.

I’m sad, and not suprised. I’m sad that so many people in this country support a political ideal that’s rooted in oppression, and individual prosperity at the loss of wholistic health. This is clearly the current dominant culture of the United States, and it reconfirms my commitment to another way of living.

Pax and I had great plans for today’s blog entry, but seeing as it’s 1:23am and we’re scheduled to be at the polls in 5 short hours, we’re going to give the shortest brief, and leave you hanging until later.

We spent the day running around from place to place, looking for engaging work. We tried a canvassing training with the community group ACORN, which we left early because it didn’t feel like a fit for us. We popped into the Kerry/Edwards headquarters and quickly bailed, worked some with ACT again (more stickers on more fliers), and finally ended up at an “Election Protection” training for doing voter rights stuff at the polls tomorrow (today?). I’m sure we’ll have some great stories. We ended up the day back at the Kerry headquarters, where we turned on our “brilliant organizer” personas and took over a major, complicated, pain-in-the-ass project. And now we’re sleeping.

a quote from tonight’s dinner with my parents:
my mom: A toast! To John Kerry!
me: (wincing, then…) To political change!
Pax: To sending Bush back to Crawford Texas!

thus, the way we find agreement in my family on politics.

Big news of the day in Cincinnati: a US District judge has ruled that the “poll challengers” are unconstituational, and will be barred from the polling precincts across Ohio. The 3,600 Republican challengers were enlisted to question the qualifications of voters in heavily Democratic areas, and were to be especially concentrated in black neighborhoods. This form of legal harrasment has been stopped, thanks to judge Dlott.

Before Judge Dlott made her decision, she recieved unsolicited advice from the Justice Department. As the Cleveland Plain Dealer put it, “civil rights lawyers for the Bush administration’s Justice Department have notified a federal judge that they see no conflict with Republican plans to post thousands of partisan challengers in Ohio polling places on Election Day.” The case, brought forward by two Cincinnati activists, asserts that the peresence of challengers violates the U.S. Constitution and the 1965 Voting Rights Act because it targets black neighborhoods in Hamilton County.

This is great news — Pax and I spent much of yesterday talking with activists here about how to counteract the challengers’ hopes of making voting a hassle and creating long lines. We were working on the idea of “poll parties”, creating entertaining and inspiring events to engage voters while they were waiting in line, encouraging them not to cave to the desire of the challengers and stick it out through the long wait. We spent the early morning hours in bed brainstorming ideas and possibilities for making this happen, then went downstairs and read the news of the ruling. So it changes what we’re going to try to do tomorrow, and we aren’t yet sure what that looks like.

Having dispatched the Republican “poll watcher” threat, the biggest danger to election day turn out now seems to be rain. It’s raining now and weather reports for tomorrow show more rain. Reports from Florida are incredibly encouraging, though. Early voters have had to wait 5 hours in the rain – and voters across the state are waiting and all voting.

We’ve currently hooked into the local America Coming Together group, which is a part of the umbrella coalition America Votes. We got in late yesterday morning after driving all night (stopping somewhere in West Virginia for a short nap in a gas station parking lot). We swung up to the suburbs to visit my dad (who fed us homemade buttermilk pancakes with strawberries), and then out to my Grandmother’s nearby farm for a quick grandaughterly hello. (“She knows if she didn’t visit, her name would be mud”, she whispered to Pax) We finally got to the ACT office downtown around 1:30. We chose the right group to be involved with — they are incredibly organized and have a fantastic staff of activists. In comparison, we’ve heard from numerous volunteers that the local Kerry Campaign/Democratic Party efforts are highly disorganized. It’s a bit ironic that Kerry, who has repreatedly criticized Bush for “outsourcing” capturing Bin Laden, will be elected (if he is) by outsourced efforts of groups like ACT and America Votes.

As soon as we showed up we were given mulitple choices for plugging in, and we ended up stickering “Vote Today” flyers with precinct information, which will be hung on doors early tomorrow morning. We sat around with other volunteers from across the country, largely from California and New York. The out-of-towners outnumber the locals, 10 to 1. One of the larger presences here is the health care workers union from NYC, SEIU. This union is the largest part of the AFL-CIO (though they are talking about breaking with them, because they are not political enough). They are predominantly black, largely of Caribbean origin. Many of them have been working here for months, bringing valuable experience in grassroots organizing from their NYC campaigns.

There are so many volunteers here that ACT has been able to develop a dynamic, “multiple hit” strategy. They’ll put the “Vote Today” flyers on doors across the city tomorrow morning (which Pax continues to label while I type this). They’ll return at 10 AM to see if they’ve been removed, and if so, ask the residents if they’ve voted yet. If they haven’t voted, canvassers will return throughout the day until they get a “yes” answer. This type of repeated checking effort would have been impossible, if it were not for the incredible number of volunteers they have now.

more to come soon — time to stop writing and get on with making tomorrow a day of political change (within the standards of mainstream, at least. More radical change is still on they way…)

And we’re off… the Twin Oaks Halloween Party is still going strong, dance music blaring from Zhankoye all the way down to the courtyard. I’m drunk on Tequila and Pax is sober to drive to Ohio in half an hour. That’s right, in thirty short minutes we’ll be on the road to change the fate of the country, headed to “the Heart of it All” in Ohio, my home state and major battleground — or, to move away from militaristic language of the mainstream, major “point of interest” — for the upcoming presidential election.

For the Halloween party tonight I dressed up as American Democracy. I wore a red and white leotard with shiney blue tights, and I painted my face like a ghost. When we showed off our costumes in the annual “costume parade”, I said “Hi! I’m American Democracy! (cheerleader kick!) And I’m DEAD!” (more cheerleader kicks)

Now I’m headed to my room, to throw semi-respectable clothes (and my “American Democracy” costume) into a bag. Then we’ll jump in the car and head off… updates coming soon about what transpires.

I just found out that Georgie W. is going to be in Cincinnati tomorrow… look for pictures of me in my blue tights on the national news…

Pax and I are going to Ohio for the next three days to support voter rights and entertain them in long poll lines. I’ll be chronicling our adventures here, whenever I get a spare moment to breathe. Here’s an article that Pax wrote today about our intent and mission:

Malcom or Martin in Cincinnati?

Why I am going to Ohio

I found myself in a rage and I could not stop talking about it. I was upset with FOX News telling students in Arizona they would be arrested for voting outside their home state. I was sadded to learn that there was going to be no paper backup to most of the 50 million electronic votes. But what put me over the edge was when I heard 3600 “poll watchers” had been hired by the Republicans in Ohio to harrass minority voters and deminish their numbers. It is what the beginning of fascism looks like.

One of the Ecotopia Princinpals is that your visa for complaining is your willingness to do something to create change. I had to stop complaining and pack for a trip to “the heart of it all” (according to Ohio’s all-too-apt state motto).

This is my analysis of the election day and beyond. I think there are going to be riots in Cincinnati. Assuming the Republicans are smart and not worried about clean election ethics, the instruction they should be giving to at least some for the poll watchers is clear: Start trouble. Trouble at the polls means the flow of voting will be squeezed if not disrupted. The best case for the incubants would be small scuffles and disturbances, that don’t actually result in anything serious. They need just enough to get the police in, but no one gets hurt.

Cincinnati is a racially poloraized city which knows it is in the white hot center of this very close election. Black voters in the city have been more encouraged than ever before in their lives (there are reports of over 10,000 volunteers in Ohio alredy with more coming), and are understandably likely to respond adversely to being harrassed by poll challengers, especially when those challengers are distinctly absent in the polling locations of affluent whites. I think riots are a distinct possibility. If this happens, we will likely loose Ohio. If this happens, I hope it happens early enough in the day that it positively influences the voters in Western states which were supposed to go for Bush.

But rather than a path of violent resistance to white oppression, which might be advocated by Malcom X, the real power in Ohio is in the path of MLK. If we can be patient and non-violent, the votes are there to swing it blue. I’m going to Cincinnati to encourage and empower voters to stick out long lines, and thwart the effort to make voting too much of a hassle to bother doing. I envision cooperative sit-ins of voters in polling places, lively conversations in the voting lines, and theatrical performances (at legal distance from the poll) to reward and encourage people to wait it out for what might take a very long time with paid disrupters at work.

Regardless of who wins this election, we have a lot of work to do to move the country in a healthier, more sustainable direction. I’m going to Cincinnati because I’m certain that we’ll be more successful in that endeavor if Ohio voters are actually allowed to vote.

Paxus is an anarchist organizer, recently published in Paul Loeb’s The Impossible Will Take a Little While http://www.theimpossible.org. He does recruiting and marketing for income sharing intentional communities in Virginia. He will be traveling with TickledSpirit, a native Ohioan and former Cincinnati urban rights organizer from Twin Oaks Community. The trip will be chronicled on her blog Over the Edge, at trespass.motime.com. You can send much needed gas money (by PayPal) or greetings to paxuscalta@yahoo.com.

only one guess from my last post, and it’s not an apple. I thought about giving you one more try, but I’m guessing that your lack of response means that you really don’t care.

so, you give up? It’s a PEZ dispenser. A human PEZ dispenser… I’ll remember that visual for a while.

a new batch of visitors arrived on Friday (each month we have a group of visitors here for three weeks), and tonight we had a social gathering for them, to give them a chance to meet people. We played a fantastic game called “Hoopla” where the group had to guess a specific word based on one player describing it in a certain way (of the Cranium/Charades/Pictionary/Taboo variety). A moment I will remember for a long while is one visitor standing with her hands straight at her side, her head moving waaaaay back (eyes looking at the ceiling) and then forward again. A second visitor reached for her neck, pantomimed grabbing something, and then put it in his mouth and rubbed his belly, smiling. “Vampire!” we guessed… “Nope.” And then they did it again.

Any guesses? It’s a “thing”.

the Metaphysics of Duality
I posed for a 3 hour art class last night, which is a fantastic opportunity for metaphysical reflection. The body becomes merely an instrument, and the mind is free to wander with little outside stimulus. I wrote an email to Pax about it, and he promted even more reflection, which i liked, and wanted to share here. From the email:

> > I spent my three hours contemplating the importance
> > of the
> > differences between men and women (having the
> > differences
> > highlights the similarities, what it is to be human)
> > and deconstructing
> > the lyrics to “Phantom of the Opera” — there’s a
> > love letter to you in there somewhere.
>
> there you are in duality land again – talk with shayn
> about the differences and s/he will tell you about the
> blur which is gender. it is just lke this
> transendental right/wrong thing you are addicted to –
> give it up my love, it is a world of contradictions in
> which opposite things are both true and false in
> alternating moments.
> >

yes! It’s a continuum, constantly changing, duality and constancy existing together. The duality acknowledges the extremes (which are limitless), and reality exists somewhere between those poles, constantly shifting between them — I think the movement is in search of balance… maybe just in search of change. Understanding the nature of the poles can help in being more intentional about the change, or at least in understanding the journey more.