Saturday, March 12, 2016

Um, I felt the Bern.

I'm entering new territory here:  telling you about my experience at a political rally. It's new for me because when I was an officer in The Salvation Army (clergy), I was not allowed to express my views politically through social media. So as a disclaimer, these views here are my own and should in no way reflect those of my family or my denomination. Also, this is mostly talking about my experience at the rally, not necessarily about why you should vote for Bernie Sanders.

This morning I got an email from the Bernie Sanders campaign, stating that he was going to be at a rally on the Missouri State Campus in Springfield, Missouri, which is only about 1 hour north of me. I have never gone on purpose to a political rally before. One was held at my college at Asbury for George H. W. Bush. I remember that being a surreal place where strategically placed people were in the audience, chanting "four more years" at weird moments.

However, this year was different. The email said the doors would open up at 4:00 PM. So I showed up at 3:00 PM. I didn't have a Bernie Sanders pin or shirt, so I wore my shirt from the Christian Left. More than one person asked me if I had started the Christian Left. (I felt that was a very nice compliment, by the way!) The shirt is awesome, too, and has a great message.

Waiting in line, I certainly felt my age. I was one of the oldest people there. Most of them were from the college, but I did meet a retired coast guard sailor. Still, everyone was extremely nice and well-mannered. There were no counter-protests, nobody from the Trump or Cruz campaigns to disrupt the meeting, either. Still, people chatted with me as if they had known me for years. I enjoyed that very much.

I was up in the "mosh pit," in the standing room area, which was closest to the podium. Then we waited. We waited a good, long time. Finally, the event began. Tulsi Gabbard, congresswoman from Hawaii and a veteran of the Iraq War, gave the first introduction, followed by several others.

OK. Yes, this is cheesy. I'll admit it.

Then Bernie Sanders spoke and the crowd went wild. Those of you who know me, know that I normally am not a crowd-follower. When there is corporate worship and people are told to raise their hands, I refuse. So I listened and took notes, applauding when I agreed with what was said.

What did I learn? Bernie Sanders is substantive in his speeches. He covered so many different areas of American life and didn't leave anything out.

This is what he covered:
  • Oligarchy - 1/10% of 1% of our nation has the same amount of wealth as the bottom 90%.
  • Economy
  • Our broken criminal justice system
  • The failed Wall Street Bailout
  • Hillary Clinton's speeches, where she earned $225,000 per speech
  • NAFTA, TPP Trade Agreeements
  • Free College Education/Student Loan Crisis
  • Equal Pay for Women
  • Drug Addiction being a mental health problem, not a criminal problem
  • Mental Health and having better access to mental health medication
  • Taking marijuana off of the controlled substance list
  • Improving Immigration Standards and protecting the undocumented who are being used as virtual slave labor here
  • Improving the lives of Native Americans
  • Addressing Climate Change and emphasizing that we humans are the cause of the more devastating effects
  • Our nation's infrastructure is terrible, as evidenced by the Flint Water Crisis
  • Healthcare in the United States is still problematic and needs to be moved to a single-payer system.

I won't go through all of those points, but needless to say, he was quite detailed in how he would approach each issue. (Also, as a side note, there was a wonderful woman, translating American Sign Language for the Hearing Impaired. What was remarkable was this woman only had the use of one hand.)

ASL Translator

However, what impressed me the most about Bernie Sanders, were the things I found out about him that night. Many people are aware of the 4 young girls who were murdered in a church through a bomb in Birmingham, Alabama. This act galvanized the Civil Rights Movement, which Bernie Sanders was a part of then. Bernie said that what was not commonly known, was that this bombing was the 14th bombing that happened in Birmingham. It took that many bombings to happen before people cried "Enough!"

Some of my favorite quotes from the evening:

"Think outside of the box. Think outside of the status quo." - In response to those who say we cannot make such big changes in healthcare, the environment, infrastructure, etc. What is commonplace now (integrated schools and same-sex marriage), was unthinkable several years ago.

"A great nation is judged by how we treat the weakest and most vulnerable."

I was tweeting some of these things during the rally. To that last quote, I knew people who were pro-life would raise objections. Bernie Sanders advocates for a woman's right to choose.

My caveat:  I am also pro-life. I do not believe that abortion solves problems; however, in all of the years we have been electing so-called "pro-life" candidates to office, abortion is still legal and is still happening. We need to address why women are resorting to abortions and not make it illegal. In all honesty, are we willing to pay young women's medical costs, education, and other bills while she carries and unwanted pregnancy? More often than not, the poor cannot afford any more children. Once we address that terrible inequality, only then will abortions decrease.

It is to Christian Evangelicals' detriment that they have become a one-issue voting bloc. Just because someone is pro-life, doesn't make them a good politician. I could also say, just because someone is a neurosurgeon or a business mogul, does not make him/her fit to be president, no matter how "pro-life" s/he is.

After the rally was over (and listening to Disco Inferno ad infinitum), we got to meet and greet Bernie and that is where I felt the Bern. (I shook his hand!)

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