Thursday, November 06, 2008

A Day After the Election

The business of NoCrowds is travel. But not today. On the day after the election, we stop for a moment, to reflect on what just happened.

The phone rings. It’s 6 am Wednesday morning in London. I answer because it might be one of the children in trouble. It is one of the children. He is screaming. “Mom, Mom can you hear me.” In the background, everyone is screaming. “I’m in front of the White House. The cops have shut down Pennsylvania Avenue. It’s CRAZY.”

I turn on the television and there they are. Thousands of jubilant college kids, celebrating. I am happy for my son. “Remember this moment, I shout down the line, and write it down.” Don’t worry Mom, I’ll send you something.” I know he won’t.

The rest of the day feels like a party. I am congratulated by everyone who hears my American accent. An English friend drops off some cupcakes (fairy cakes in the UK) with American flags on top. I think about Corrine, an African-American woman who did not live to see, as Thomas Friedman put it, that “on November 4, 2008 shortly after 11 pm Eastern time, the American Civil War ended.” I send an email to a political activist in the Green Party in southern California asking him how things look in Orange County.

His response comes back, and he clearly wants me to post it on NoCrowds. I don’t know what to do with it. The first time I read it, it seems awfully long. And yet, it is an American story about a dream for a better American future and so, on this day of all days, inspired by the notion that we can build a more perfect union, NoCrowds publishes the unedited (because I wouldn’t know where to begin):

My Day as a Green American
by Sandy Stiassni

As one who spent last week in a mostly awakened, alert posture, abbreviated by quick catnaps and momentary non-political diversions, I greeted the day after Election Day with profound relief, intermingled with wistfulness and hopeful expectation. As a politically active Green, my own perceptions differ in substance and kind from those of my elated Democrat and chastened Republican brethren.

We Greens believe in bottom-up grassroots democracy and community-based economics, which place us in a political jurisdiction even more remote than the most distant NoCrowds destination. Recitation of my past twenty-four hours in Orange County, California may offer your European and American NoCrowds readers a glimpse into the world of a newly-minted Green, and allow them to be transported to political Greenland; a quiet, undisturbed isle, truly distant from the madding crowd!

An intriguing, enigmatic, misunderstood part of Americans are the often naive, uninformed conformity with which we present ourselves to the world, which masks a rich diversity of ideologies, perceptions, purposes.

Election Day began in my own my two-car garage. My home’s one of hundreds of official Orange County polling places. I was greeted at 645am by a smiling team of volunteer poll workers, who allow me to cast the first vote. I worked my way through a plethora of national, state, local voting choices, press the electronic "Cast Vote" key, and proudly place my "I've Voted" sticker on my lapel. Today there's an amazingly long line of neighbors eager to cast their votes; this, in one of the top ten wealthiest precincts in Orange County.

My next Election Day job was an email to another Southern California Green. Like me, Santa Monica-based Mike Feinstein wants to grow Greens from a tiny fringe clique of semi-dysfunctional, aging, white, hippy males, to a robust, diverse, politically frothing caldron of forward-thinking, environmentally convicted, new-age activists. In a state with 15 million voters, Greens have but 160,000 registrants scattered across a majestic sovereign realm one-sixth the size of the entire 27 state European Union:

Good Morning Mike,

It's SHOW TIME! November 4, 2008!

It's a somewhat hollow performance for we Southern California Greens, with only three (3) local Green races; Tom Lash in 46th Congressional District, the erstwhile Jack Lindblad in 39th California Assembly District, and Linda Piera-Avila in Santa Monica City Council race. This, in an seemingly never-ending metropolis, which includes over 5 million voters, encompasses one of the largest urban fabrics in the world, and spans a humungous, staggering, environmentally significant, culturally diverse land mass.

But it's all good!

The small lessons we've learned in each of these small political campaigns, we'll refine and endlessly duplicate! I've particularly enjoyed watching Linda P-A's blossoming, who exhibits many of your clever, quiet political embellishments. The Greens are an interesting bunch! Everyone in Green circles seems to have an opinion about me, which runs the gamut from "Sandy's an articulate, Churchillian war-monger, probably a CIA plant." to, "Sandy, like Mahatma Gandhi, needs to work on his wardrobe!" In terms of my efforts to galvanize our miniscule political particle, it's more like herding cats. Sunday, I organized an outreach phone banking session to Orange County registered Greens to ask them to vote Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney and Tom Lash. There was much resentment and controversy over my cold-calling scripts, with several OC Greens mounting a silent protest by angrily staring at the rest of us making calls. I had to bring in 'scabs'--Progressive Democrats who love Cynthia--to 'break' the so-called strike!

Together, Mike, we'll permanently change the direction of this political party from an endless cycle of indifference, inaction, unproductive internal squabbling, to a perennially repetitive pattern of localized party recruitment, commitment and discipline, home-gown leaders poised for appointed, elected offices, and constant, community-based campaigns! Together we WILL make it happen!

Mike, maybe you can dial me into California Green Party Campaigns & Candidates Working Group meeting this January in The Bay Area.

Let's get together. Soon!


Sandy Stiassni

P.S. You'll just love Green prospective council candidate, Viviana Franko in Hawthorne. She even has Green eyes!

Having dispatched this message of hope and change, I move to my next Election Day assignment; to spice up a radio spot promoting our Green Party Presidential candidate. As we almost exclusively learn about U.S. elections from corporate-controlled American media--more focused to sell soap, sex, Hollywood celebrities than offer authentic news--truths about candidates, campaigns and political issues are an often an untold story. Six-term former Democrat Congresswoman, staunch back-bench Bush protestor, and the first women of color elected to Washington from the deep Southern state of Georgia, Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney is one such hidden news item.

Other than Senators McCain and Biden, Ms. McKinney has more national legislative experience than all other Presidential candidates combined! Yet, in true NoCrowds style, scarcely a mention of this charismatic, knowledgeable, Tufts-educated International Relations expert can be found in American media, other than an infamous, highly publicized incident, where Congresswoman McKinney was reported to have angrily slugged a Capitol Hill police officer who mistakenly (not!) confused her for a charwoman!

Today's broadest venue is KPFK 90.7, a small oasis of public radio on the left end of the FM dial, which stands out as one of a handful of LA public stations not peppered with incessant corporate sponsorship promos, a trend which undercuts the original idea of public radio being financed primarily by the public. Reduced contributions and listeners have whittled this station down to maybe 150,000 loyal, politically aware, influential Angelinos.

At noontime, comedian and Green party convert Roseanne Barr co-hosts a call-in Election Day show. It's been arranged for Cynthia McKinney to be introduced as a 'special radio guest'. After twenty-five dials into the radio phone line, I reach senior producer Christine Blosdale. "Are we all good, Christine?" I inquire, "Oh yeah," opines the overworked, underpaid producer, currently juggling a full panel of expectant call-ins. "We got Cynthia waiting in the wings. I'll bring you into the conversation only if Cynthia doesn't go on." I'm the back-up, the also-ran, the voice of last resort, to communicate the otherwise unheard Green message to Election Day listeners.

The Roseanne-Cynthia connection comes together as naturally as peas ‘n’ corn. Conversation seems as spontaneous and unrehearsed as girlfriends meeting at Nordstrom gushing over a Prada sale! Instead of promoting a consumerist agenda, though, the two discuss deepening troubles of American working people, the bleak economic forecast, and empty promises made by the two Big political parties. "A Green vote for Cynthia McKinney is what I'm gonna do," says Roseanne, "How about you, listeners?"

Another Election Day responsibility is GOTV, Get Out The Vote. As the fastest-growing, least experienced and often most interfered-with Orange County voters, Green Party members like me work hard to make sure Latinos, as a group, vote early and often. I meet with young political activist, Jeanette Vazquez, who grew up in Fullerton's barrio, and currently is the elected President of the 10,000 member Cypress College Associated Students.

Jeanette and I pick Knepp Avenue, composed of neat, post-war stucco bungalows and small apartment complexes, and go door-to-door to ensure residents Do Not Pass Go, Do Not Collect $200, but go to nearby Richman School polling place and re-elect Sharon Quirk Fullerton's Mayor, a dynamic Latina, and Jeanette's former 4th Grade teacher. People are cordial and receptive, even when Jeanette wags her finger at them and says, ¡Usted debe votar, o sea!

Another job is at Registrar of Voters as a Green Party Election Day observer. A fringe party like the Greens must define 'winning' on its own terms. Cynthia McKinney's Presidential goal is 5% of the national popular vote, which automatically places Greens on all 50 state ballots, offers Secret Service protection, and renders Greens a more potent force with which the other Big Parties must deal

In a rush to quickly certify the looming election outcome, sometimes Green votes are lost, unaccounted for, or occasionally suppressed by overzealous Registrars throughout the U.S. In our case, OC Registrar of Voters Neal Kelley is a sincere, though colorless functionary who blandly assures ALL votes will be counted, and encourages me to walk freely throughout the cavernous factory which collects, tabulates and issues Election Day results on the hundreds of races voted on by hundreds of thousands of Orange County voters. Color-coded workers quickly shuffle incoming paper votes and voting machines though an endless maze of chain-gangs, code-scanners and fast moving conveyers. I note high-decibel Hip-Hop tunes are the exact same music played by Guantanamo Bay interrogators to break down suspected terrorists.

The waning hours of my busy day as a Green activist raise another important question; do I gloat on our paltry outcomes with other Greens, or build bridges with progressives of other political stripes? If I decide to remain separately, defiantly Green, one choice is to attend a large virtual party by Bay-Area Green activist, Marnie Glickman, Executive Director of Green Change, Says Marnie, “Green Change is a community of people with Green values and a website to help people to create together, to solve problems, and to build a culture based on Green values. We provide information and articles to learn more about what it is to be Green, live Green, act Green, build new Green communities, and help one another."

I choose instead the beautiful villa of Kim and Brad Sanders, Democrat Party loyalists and strong fellow Sharon Quirk for City Council supporters. Nestled high upon a verdant Fullerton hillside, we politically elite activists casually sip white wines and nibble at finger foods with Sharon Quirk. Promptly at 930pm every evening, a beautiful fireworks canopy display from Disneyland explodes on the vista around us, located about 7 miles away. You know, I say to myself, life in the OC ain't so bad, at least not for me! Shortly afterward, Barack Obama’s declared Presidential winner and delivers a somber but moving Yes We Can tribute to his supporters.

America's Election Night 2008 showcased a nation unified by acclamation of Barack Obama, its first African American President. A short concession by a tired, aging Senator John McCain, was marked by conspicuous absence of innuendo, depth, rancor. Tears, emotional intoxication, adulation by millions of American voters are what we saw. It was far more encouraging, tho' less inspirational, than the blood, toil, tears and sweat offered the free world by Winston Churchill two generations ago.

As I drive home, in the wee hours of Wednesday morning, I reflect upon the amazing events I've witnessed, and the simple yet profound moments I experienced. I think back to A.A, Milne's "In the Dark", and its pertinence to my fledging efforts to become a true Green:

I’ve had my supper
And had my supper
And HAD my supper and all;
I’ve heard the story
Of Cinderella,
And how she went to the ball;
I’ve cleaned my teeth,
And I’ve said my prayers,
And I’ve cleaned them and said them right;
They’ve all of them
And kissed me lots,
They’ve all of them said “Goodnight.”

So - here I am in the dark alone,
There’s nobody here to see;
I think to myself, I play to myself;
Here I am in the dark alone;
What is it going to be?

I’m talking to a rabbit…
I’m talking to the sun…
I think I am a hundred…
I’m one.
I’m lying in a forest…
I’m lying in a cave…
I’m talking to a Dragon…

I’ll play a lot tomorrow…

I’ll think a lot tomorrow,,,

I’ll laugh…
A lot…

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