I'm not quite sure how it happened either, but I ended up in Ohio last weekend, tracting for Obama, walking door to door in lower middle-class neighborhoods saying, "Hi! I'm a volunteer for the Obama campaign! May I ask if you're likely to vote in this year's election? I met all sorts of people, from a transvestite Obama supporter to a McCain supporter with a very large, and very fierce, dog, who managed to get its teeth on my arm just before its owner pulled it off. I got all sorts of answers, ranging from "Sorry, but my right to vote was revoked with my prison term" to "All that is disgusting! Get the hell off my porch!" I thought about referring that last person, a crochety old lady, to the missionaries--lady, I'm a Mormon, trust me, there are much more annoying reasons for me to be on your porch--but then refrained. What does it say about me that referring the missionaries is a form of vengeance?
The most interesting part about the weekend--well, besides seeing this glimpse of old industrial America, and besides getting to peek into every house on the block, and besides examining the inner workings of an Obama field office (hope! change! life-size cutouts of The Man himself!)--was the different reactions my dad and I got at our respective doors. He's 50ish, graying, and (comparatively) well-dressed, a Harvard economics professor who supports Obama partially as repentance for voting for Bush in 2000: when he shows up at your door with brochures, you listen. I'm 24 and look younger, dressed in jeans and Chacos, and fresh from California: when I show up at your door, you grumble about these darn kids and their Obamania. Or, in some cases, you spill your life story: the guy who was jumped in an alleyway, spent four months in a coma, and now can't hold a job because he still gets dizzy spells; the old black guy, a Greyhound employee for 27 years, who was told, after his five back surgeries and kidney surgery, that he wasn't eligible for Medicare; the woman who had just lost her job of 13 years the day before. What is to be done?
The best story, though, and the one that still makes me smile, took place in a mostly-white lower middle class neighborhood. Dad had just given an Obama sign to a guy whose 13 year old son was a big Obama supporter. A few minutes later, his neighbor, wearing torn jeans and a ratty T-shirt, with a broken-down truck on his front lawn, stuck his head out of his door and stared at the sign.
"Yo, Bill!" he shouted. "Do you really want a black guy to be president?"
The fellow with the sign was repairing his roof. He looked up. "Yup."
There was a long pause. Looooong.
"Me too," said the redneck. So we gave him a sign, placing it next to the truck.
I'll just finish by echoing him: me too.