The view from Indianapolis | Bleader

The view from Indianapolis

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Longtime Reader contributor Ed Zotti writes:

My wife and I spent Monday campaigning for Obama in Indianapolis, thinking that with Illinois a lock we should bring the sweet light of civilization to the Hoosiers. Like all Chicagoans we tend of think of Indiana as a rustic backwater, and nothing you see on brief encounter with Indy causes you to revise that opinion. The city covers an enormous geographical area, stemming from consolidation of the city with surrounding Marion county in 1970; sizable parts of the city are still rural, and the Obama field office we worked out of for part of the day was in an old farm house. Creeping suburbanization will eventually obliterate all this, I know, but for the present it can be quite charming, never more so than yesterday, a brilliant warm day with the trees in full color and a noisy carpet of leaves underfoot. We had an easy job. We had braced ourselves to knock on doors and face down embittered McCain diehards who were packing in canned tuna and road flares for the coming race war. But all the organizers wanted us to do in the early part of the day was hang here's-where-to-vote-for-Obama signs on doorknobs. We were pleased to find that our few encounters with the opposition fully reinforced the stereotyped view we had of it. At the entry to a low-rise apartment building we encountered an elderly man, informed him we were with the Obama campaign - a pleasant thing to be able to say, like announcing you'd been sent by Michael the archangel - and asked if he was a supporter. No, he said, he was for McCain, then muttered: "Obama gets his money from the Arabs." He refused to allow us into the building to hang our signs. Naturally we felt the thrill of having encountered blind ignorance up close, knowing that it was small of us to think this and that Obama himself would probably have made some effort to bridge the gap because he's a better person than we are, which isn't something one routinely finds oneself thinking of politicians. Anyway we had a lot of signs to hang and so just wished the old man a good day and went on our way.

By midafternoon we'd finished everything the farmhouse field office had for us to do, so we drove to a different office at a Ramada Inn, which had one precinct's worth of signs left to distribute. They wanted us to knock on doors this time, although even then the lists we were given supposedly included only supporters. The apartment complex, a sprawling affair built around a string of lagoons that was intended to look like a fishing village, was a little seedy, with stained carpet and flickering fluorescent hall lights; the residents to the extent we could judge were mostly working class, some non-citizens, students, and so on. Perhaps for that reason the place was a hotbed of Obama sentiment, except for the elderly woman who told us she wasn't a supporter of Obama, she was a supporter of Jesus Christ, a dichotomy we didn't think it wise to explore. More commonly the response was along the lines of not merely yeah I'm for Obama but hell yeah, said with a slightly incredulous expression (I'm thinking of one young black woman in particular), as though we were asking whether she preferred a bubble bath to a root canal. We felt buoyant on the drive home, thinking we had done the Lord's work. But the mood was tempered when I stopped at the Jewel to buy milk and the Hispanic kid who was bagging noticed the Obama sticker on my shirt and asked whether I thought he would win. Hope so, I said, whereupon the kid remarked, in the matter-of-fact but commonly encountered tone that chills everyone who hears it, well, I think he'll get shot. 

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