Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Politics Up Close and Personal

TBG asked me who was sponsoring the event as we drove down I-10 to the Convention Center.  I couldn't tell him.  All I knew was that when the tv told me that Mrs. Obama was coming to town I searched for tickets Michelle Tucson, clicked through and bought us two entry passes to the cheap seats.  Sponsorship never occured to me; I just wanted to be around her again.

I was on drugs heavily medicated when I first met Mrs. Obama.  It's one of the very few crystal clear moments of those early days after I was shot.  I remember her nail polish and her perfectly tailored skirt and sweater set but mostly I remember her arms.  This woman is a world class hugger and she comes with the right limbs for the task.  They are long and strong and powerful and got all the way around TBG at McKale Center later that evening.  "All the way around, Suz.... and I'm not a small guy," he reminded me last night. 

We paid a lot of money made a contribution for the privilege of sitting in the Leo Rich Theater and supporting the Democratic effort to get out the vote and re-elect the President.... at least that's what the invitation said.  In reality, we were paying to get close to Michelle.

I know. I know.  You think it's chutzpahdik presumptuous of me to use the first name of the First Lady. I thought about it and I disagree: the woman saw me in my nightgown, denizens.  If that doesn't qualify me for first names then what would?

Besides, we paid up to be in the auditorium and get our fix of Obama-ness; I'm considering it part of my therapy.  As my rehab takes a new and interesting turn, we find ourselves revisiting the emotional side of the trauma once again.  He's sneaking peeks at the DVR's trove of our interviews, reconnecting with the loss and the fear and the love.  The Obama's were definitely a part of the love, and the love is a much better place at which to come to rest.  I looked at the evening as a step toward healing.

Security would be tight, we were warned.  Bring no beverages, no large bags and don't forget your government issued identification.  The doors would open at 4 and close at 5:15; we were to be patient with the volunteers.  I put on dress-up sneakers with my business casual cotton skirt and blouse and packed the new Sara Paretsky hardback in my just-the-right-size purse.  I was prepared. 

The line moved smoothly and efficiently in the shade of three very large olive trees.  It took fifteen minutes or so to move from the end to the doorway, but those were very lovely fifteen minutes.  We were surrounded by like-minded people who were willing to put their money where their mouths were.  We could speak our politics aloud without risk of offending anyone within hearing distance.  Everyone was dressed just a little bit better than they might otherwise have been on a sunny Monday afternoon.  Only in Tucson, we agreed, would 96 feel balmy. Everyone had driven downtown with their car windows open, enjoying the breeze.

The Pima County Attorney hugged me and asked how I was doing.  Daniel Hernandez accepted my congratulations on his up-coming college graduation and took my signature on his petition to put Richard Carmona on the Democratic Senatorial ballot.  We couldn't sign for the nice man on the path because we didn't live in any of his relevant zip codes; it saddened us to pass up the opportunity to help a polite and charming person.  Gabby's office staff were there, and they re-introduced themselves and wished us well.  The couple in front of us, transplants from Colorado, had no idea why I was so popular, and we didn't have to share the details until the very end of our time together.

I was in a mini-whirlwind of celebrity, but it was all low-key and pleasant.  No one was frantic.  No one was rude.  There was no pushing, no sense of urgency, no worries.  That should have been a clue as to how the rest of the afternoon would progress.  We missed it as foreshadowing.  Big Time.

At 5:30, as promised, the event began.  Tucson's Mayor and Bert and Ernie's next-door-neighbor, Jonathan Rothschild, welcomed us with a speech lauding Mr. Obama's accomplishments and the benefits our community has received due to his largesse.  Certain phrases stood out -We should all play by the same rules, eg - and we wondered how much of the verbiage had been presented to him by the Democrats behind the event.  These kind of events were obviously going to be held in many towns all across the country; is there one speech read by every mayor, the details changing by location?  By the end of the evening, this seemed all too plausible.

We exchanged a glance.  This was a real political event.  TBG was annoyed; I was on-the-outside-looking-in.  As the local Democratic Party and those who've rung doorbells and answered phones were thanked, more than half the audience shared a self-congratulatory clapping of hands.  We were in the maw of the beast, and it was quite proud of itself.

There was a lot of stopping and starting during the program.  Chunks of time went unfilled.  I joined V.I. Warshawski in Chicago as TBG people-watched and tapped his foot.  Be patient with the volunteers had been in our instructions, I reminded him.  It was like telling a bird not to fly; some people are born impatient and he is first among them.  There was a campaign video, and then there was silence.  Raul Grijalva spoke, and then there was more silence. 

Calexico played a fairly long set and I reveled in the fact that I was at a private concert with 450 others in comfortable seats with a great view and terrific acoustics.  I felt even smugger later that evening on the phone when Big Cuter recognized Calexico as a KFOG band, KFOG being the adult alternative San Francisco radio station that replaced Chicago's WXRT for me when we relocated.  I added to my hipper-than-thou points by noting that I'd seen them several times this spring, and that his father had seen them, too.  They're our local band.  They played at Gabby and Mark's wedding.

It's the little things that get me through the week, denizens.  What can I say?  Impressing my kids makes me smile.

Calexico was followed by a lovely if lengthy introduction by an Hispanic/woman/veteran/college student.  She encompasses so many demographics. It's obvious that these Democrats know how to make a statement.  Her words were passionate, even though there were too many of them, and her points were well-taken. And then, as the Secret Service appeared all around us, she was engulfed in those terrific long arms of the First Lady. The audience leapt to its feet.

Michelle's hugging abilities were on stage for all to see.  I cried.

They were happy tears, for the most part.  I was delighted to be in the same room as the wife of the President of the United States.  That alone gave me goose bumps.  The fact that those same arms had been wrapped around me in my hospital bed, that I had shared conversation and smiles and condolences with the woman beaming back at me from behind the teleprompters, the fact that I had touched her and been touched - inside and out - by her was transformative.  I was standing a little bit taller and aching just a little bit less.

Mrs. Obama's speech was boilerplate, but she delivered it well.  She loves her husband, she's proud of her husband, and she's not averse to sharing those feelings. "I think our President is awesome!" or some variation thereon peppered her talk.  It's a pleasure to hear a wife kvell brag about her husband.  I sat a little closer to TBG and felt as smug as she does; we both picked good ones.

She was preaching to the choir and the choir was answering back.  There was call and response, there was the occasional Amen!, heads were nodding and applause interrupted her time and again.  Lily Ledbetter and DADT and three women on the Supreme Court brought almost as much noise as did bringing our troops home from war. 

Who are we as a country? 

Who do we want to be?

We are fighting for the world we want to leave for our children.

Those are the questions Michelle asked last night.  Everyone in the audience agreed on the answers.  We were already converted.  Last night, we were inspired.  It was hackneyed and choreographed and scripted and I didn't mind a bit.  It was politics, up close and personal.  I wouldn't want to live there, but it was quite a lovely visit.


  1. WOW! I almost feel like I was there. That was awesome! When Obama came to Leesburg in 2008, I was so thrilled to have been able to go to see him. It was like a big party. It was amazing and inspirational. I was pregnant too and I have pictures of me with my Obama shirt with my pregnant belly. The excitement we all felt was great. Everyone that came was there because they wanted to see him. And there's something to be said about being around like-minded people.

    I haven't had the pleasure of seeing Michelle Obama in person, but I've always admired her and she's someone I consider a terrific role-model for our children.

    Thanks for sharing such a great experience with the rest of us.

    Megan xxx

  2. So glad the sentiment, the emotion, the wonder came thru, Megan. I'd love to see that shot of you in your pregnant Obama gear.

  3. Did you ever receive the Luz de Vida compilation album? You should have, and Calexico is one of the bands on the album. You could point Big Cuter to for the download. If you didn't get the actual vinyl, or have more questions, if you still have Eric's number, give him a call about it.

  4. That's AWeSoMe!!!! I had a feeling you'd be there. She is a CLaSs AcT & you are LuCkY to know her. :)

  5. I would love to have been there to see and hear Mrs. Obama. Now I'm sorry that I didn't drive down from my city to the north. Thanks for your interesting perspective!


  6. That event sounds like just the ticket to cure what ails you. It sounded inspirational; I'm glad you had a wonderful evening!

  7. You are all so right - it was wonderful and perfect for me :)

  8. I hope Democrats all get the message as you have. We better work for this November election or so much we have valued will be gone-- and that's not fear talk. It's a fact. All you have to do is listen to the right wing talk for a few minutes to know it. I admire both the President and First Lady. Glad you supported them there.

  9. You are so right, Rain... this is not the time to be complacent!


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