A Future To Believe In

I have always considered myself an independent voter. Maybe it was the way I was raised, maybe it's an analog to how I feel about religion, but having a two-party system in America is far too black and white for a nation as diverse as ours. I simply cannot, and will not, blindly follow a political party based on the candidate of their choosing if that candidate does not match my personal views, and I don't think anyone should feel that form of obligation to a party. I prefer to follow individuals who demonstrate passion towards the working class backbone of the nation and are front runners for ideas that promote the progress of human rights and equality.

I don't feel like I need to go into my personal views on specific social or fiscal policies for you to quickly realize why Bernie Sanders is my candidate, but I want to spend a few minutes explaining to you the context of what truly impresses me about this man. He does what he can to stay above reproach and not fall into the political jabs and high-school antics of the popularity contest the GOP is presently running. He likes to talk about actual topics that are important instead of the size of his competitions hands. He continues to deliver a positive message to combat a negative situation that middle-class Americans have found themselves in. To bring the statement to its core meaning, I will simply say this. Bernie Sanders cares about me, and Bernie Sanders cares about you.

The past year for me has been a roller coaster of hopefulness and fear between candidates Bernie Sanders and Donald Drumpf. You may not necessarily have an opinion on Bernie Sanders, but I think it is fairly safe to say that everyone in the United States has made an opinion about Drumpf, regardless of a positive or negative nature. To simplify another statement, the fleeting thought of a Donald Drumpf presidency genuinely terrifies me to my core. For some back story, when I was 18, I tattooed a Star of David on the inside of my arm. It had nothing to do with Judaism, I am not of Jewish ancestry, and I always get weird looks from people when they ask if I'm Jewish and I tell them no. I've never really gone into it with strangers because it's a very personal tattoo, but I think this is an appropriate venue and time to elaborate.

In all of the topics that I had in high school, WW2 was the topic that interested me the most. I got the tattoo as an ongoing reminder that, even after the world battled on a previously unprecedented scale, and the axis of evil had been destroyed, racism, bigotry, and genocide as fundamental beliefs had not. Even worse, in the decade since getting that tattoo, the global state of affairs is even more tense and even more strained. Wars have broken out over race, nationality, religious ideology, and we have a presidential candidate who time and time again will play on the fears of Americans that are still recovering years after a devastating economic collapse. "Make America Great Again"  is what he says over and over again, as though America at some point in recent history stopped being great. For those who paid attention in history, you will understand how this is playing out in a similar fashion that Adolf Hitler used to rally Germans to join his cause. Hitler was using the fears of Germans following their economic collapse post-WW1 to build his army and following. He promised to rebuild Germany, bring jobs, segregate, and to make Germany great again.

I loathe/hate/detest/whatever-word-you-would-like-to-insert for my utter contempt towards the comparison of political figures to Hitler. I typically dismiss it as sensationalism that has been directed towards both republican and democrats alike, and I truly think that comparing any modern day leader to a man responsible for the genocide of over 6 million people should be used sparingly, if at all. This video does a pretty good job at providing me an exception to my rule

This is why I'm worried for America, and as I currently write this down, Donald Drumpf is leading the republican party with 680 delegates.

Enter, Bernie Sanders. If you skipped the 20 minute video above, please watch the 9 minute video below.

This is a man who has had a message that has stayed consistent longer than I have been alive. His message is hopeful. His message is one that empowers the common man and removes my fear for the future. This is what I want the American Dream to reflect & I hope that you agree.

Those of you who follow The Barber Story know my financial situation, and you know I don't have a lot of disposable income to donate to anything outside of my regular utility obligations. It sucks, but it's where I'm at until my clientele becomes large enough to be comfortable again, so I know it's a temporary season in my life.  But what I do have is time. I have time, a voice, passion, and a desire to see the next 8 years be filled with hope instead of fear. So I emailed the campaign and asked how I could volunteer.

Sunday afternoon, I get to the arena about 15 minutes before they requested the volunteers to show up. It starts out small with about 5 people walking around asking if we were in the right place until finally we get a group of about 100 people that have taken time out of their lives for something bigger than themselves. We get divided into groups based on how we will be helping and I go with the group dealing with lines. I wanted this specifically for the opportunity to be engaged with as many people as I possibly could. So around 20 of us split off to find how we will be helping.

Monday morning comes and the doors are opening at 9 am. All of the volunteers had been asked to meet up at 8:15 at the 2nd gate entrance, but while I was getting ready for the day I get a text from DeVino telling me that the line started hours prior. I ask Hailie to drop me off because I assumed there wouldn't be a parking spot. Not only was I right, I was super correct. Traffic was so bad on campus next to the arena that it was easier to just get out of the driver seat in the middle of a lull, and have Hailie not deal with any of it. We fire drilled by the student union building, Hailie jumped in the driver seat and went back home while I walked the rest of the way to the rally alongside dozens of other people walking the same direction. Then I see the line.........

All of a sudden, a rush of excitement just overwhelmed me. There are a TON of people here, all from different backgrounds and walks of life, and they have come together to an event that was paid for by supporters like themselves. A campaign of the people, by the people, for the people. This is beyond exciting, this is jubilance. 

I make it to the front of the line where I see some old friends from Maximus who I haven't seen since sending my grand exodus email, and they told me they had been waiting since 6am to be one of the first people in. That's dedication, and that's exactly what I wanted to see at an event like this. I couldn't talk much, though, I had work to do, and I saw the rest of the volunteers meeting up at the entrance.

I'm given a tablet, I download a QR code reader for my phone and off I go.

"Can I help you get checked in?" "Are you caucusing tomorrow?" "Are you voting for Bernie?"

For 3 hours I was talking to people outside, walking back and forth, watching as my phone's battery quickly depleted from 97% to 14% as I pulled it out every time to scan QR codes of people saying they will be caucusing for Bernie on 3/22.

The speech starts at noon, and sometime around 11:15 I'm given my wristband for seating behind the stage, and all of the volunteers go in to be searched by secret service and see just how packed it is for the first time.

As volunteers, we all were able to see the empty arena the prior day, we all saw the insane line that morning, we saw the line continue being an obscene length as new people would replace those that had already entered the arena, and now, we finally get to see the event for ourselves.

People continued to pour in behind us, but I found myself on the ground floor looking up at what the campaign had created in one of the most red states in the union. The ground floor and lower sections were packed. I found DeVino and Matt on the ground level, and they had been given wristbands by a staffer to stand behind the stage alongside me. Hell yes, this is the perfect followup to Stronzo goes to the Governor's Ball

After waiting 30 minutes, we start the slow shuffle to the side stage as they allow us to our area in preparation for the event to begin. Once we get seated, we have one of the best views of the crowd in the building, and we watch as all of the vacant seats fill. Being on stage, everybody is looking at us, and volunteers in the seats start getting the entire audience rallied with chants of support, and a wave that circled the arena more than 15 consecutive times. After what seems like an eternity, it's finally noon, and Susan Sarandon walks out on the stage to introduce the man himself. 

If you didn't have an opportunity to be there, a full version of the speech is available online. My ugly mug can sometimes be seen in the top left corner, and kept getting text messages from friends "I CAN SEE YOU AT THE RALLY!!!!"

The air was electric with enthusiasm. It was about 1:30 when we finally left the stage, and by that point my back was sore from standing for five hours, with that final hour standing on aluminum stadium bleachers that had been swaying from everyone trying to move ever so slightly in an effort to prevent their knees from locking up. I hadn't eaten since the day prior because I woke up too late to grab breakfast, and I quit drinking coffee five days ago. I was running on fumes and determination, and it was the most fun I've had in three weeks.

I get home at 3:00 and I passed the hell out from exhaustion. When I finally woke up, I started sorting my pictures from the day and getting my blog outlined. I emailed the pictures to myself, and there was another e-mail in my inbox from the Bernie Sanders campaign.

Can you volunteer for the caucus on 3/22? Absolutely I can.

Today is the Idaho Democratic Caucus. This is important beyond important. This is going to be one of the largest caucuses in the nation. This is the day that citizens in a red state can voice who they want to be as the national candidate. In doing this, it provides the opportunity to collaborate with citizens in blue states to ensure a national victory for this campaign. I have never attended a caucus before, but that isn't even remotely close to a reason to not be involved. I will learn, I will help, and I will fight for social justice through the ways I know how, with my words and my actions.

If you need any help finding where you are able to caucus, please feel free to message me through any form of social media you can find me. All of the caucus locations by county can also be easily found on the Idaho Democrats website. As for me, I will be at the Ada County Caucus tomorrow evening, so be on the lookout for me. With your help, we can help Bernie create  a future to believe in.