Yes, I went to see Sarah Palin here in Springfield last Friday. It was fun, to tell the truth. I rode my bike to Bass Pro Shop from my house – about a 45 minute ride – chained my bike to a street sign and walked around the block, through the parking lot of a next door shopping center, and almost ¾ of the way around the next block to get to the end of the line.
Standing in line for a couple of hours with Palin supporters was an interesting experience. I overheard most of the standard Republican talking points, plus a lot of the misinformation spread by those viral emails, but there were a few notable comments. Like the guy who would “really like to see his birth certificate” just to make sure Obama is really a U.S. citizen, or the guy whose solution to the gambling thing is to just get “the poor people” to make better decisions with their money, or the lady who said of Obama that you could put lipstick on a donkey but he would still be an ass. But mostly it was just people standing in line, chatting about small talk and trying to stay warm.
After a couple hours, the line began to move steadily and we filed into the area through a gauntlet of security people from several different agencies. No metal detectors or individual searches, though. I made my way into a spot where a 6’2” person might stand on tiptoe and periodically catch a glimpse of the stage. There was as gospel quartet singing at the time. They were followed by a glimpse of a guy who might have been Kenny Hulsof, then representative Roy Blunt delivered a standard stump speech, then there was a long pause … and we kind of started shuffling around. Finally a voice announced, “Ladies and gentlemen, here she is – Naomi Judd.”
The whole crowd kind of chuckled because the build up had prepared us for Palin, but we got Naomi Judd instead. I was actually kind of surprised by what she said, because she talked about her own personal sorrow that Sarah Palin was being criticized so much by so many people. About how unfair it is that “because she is a woman” she is being held to a different standard of scrutiny. Which was odd because I kind of thought the McCain campaign was trying to stay away from the whole “victim” topic. But there it was, and it got a big crowd response.
Well, then Naomi introduced Palin and she came out with her two daughters, who sat on the stage with Naomi Judd as their mom talked. She was really upbeat and had a lot of energy, apologizing for keeping us waiting because she didn’t want to leave Bass Pro Shop which reminded her of home. In her speech, she really didn’t say anything new, though she focused a lot on her passion for families with children with special needs. Mostly though it was just the routine stuff.
I noticed that by far the strongest reactions came when she talked about spreading the wealth. The crowd was very energetic, with “boos” and “no way” and a lot of other negative stuff all around me. It was very strong, the energy was very high – probably the most intense moment of her speech.
We are doing a series at church about discipleship that uses this scripture as a part of the foundation:
2 Corinthians 8:13-15 - I do not mean that there should be relief for others and pressure on you, but it is a question of a fair balance between your present abundance and their need, so that their abundance may be for your need, in order that there may be a fair balance. As it is written,‘The one who had much did not have too much, and the one who had little did not have too little.’
…and so I’ve been thinking a lot about sharing the wealth. Now, far be it from me to proof-text something like that, but I do think it is kind of a foundational idea in scripture – it is the basis of a lot more than just this one passage. So I am a bit confused about how some people are reconciling these ideas – on the one hand the scriptural admonition to share resources with one’s neighbor, and on the other hand the apparent aversion to doing so.
(I’m sure that someone reading this can leave a comment to help me to figure it out. And I’m not trying to stir up anything, I honestly just want to know the reasoning here.)
So anyway, she spoke for a half an hour or so, and it was pretty exciting. I saw John McCain in 2000 when he stopped at a small rally in the parking lot of a Wal-Mart in Galesburg, Illinois. And it was exciting then, too. It is exciting to participate in the process of government. We live in one of the few countries in the world where the people are free to do so, and it is a shame that many U.S. citizens take that fact for granted.
That’s one of the coolest things about the whole Obama-meets-“Joe the Plumber” incident, an idea that gets overlooked in the campaign rhetoric. A U.S. Senator, running for president, took the time to stop and talk to an ordinary citizen. It was not a passing comment, but a real conversation about real concerns. It was not a supporter, either, but a man with whom the candidate disagreed, and they said so. An ordinary person expressed disagreement with a sitting Senator and presidential candidate, out in the open, on the street in front of TV cameras and other witnesses, for a significant amount of time.
That is truly amazing, when you really think about it. And that’s why I went to see Sarah Palin – not that I support her or not but that I support the process in which she is participating. The people we vote for and the issues we vote on really do impact our lives, and it is very important that all of us participate, learning as much as we can about each candidate and each issue, and voting thoughtfully and intelligently.
So when she got done speaking, the rally was over. Palin walked off the stage and shook hands with the people who had the advance tickets up front, but most of us in the crowd kind of just wandered off. I hiked back to where my bike was and pedaled back home again. Nothing that happened Friday is going to change the way I vote next week, but it was still pretty cool to be there.