Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I'm No Superman

Let me relay a story about lessons learned.

Election night 2006. RenCen in Detroit. Early in the evening, before the polls closed. The crowd consisted of media gathering their creds and setting up their equipment, and a bunch of folks in their nice clothes, milling about, drinking, talking. The conversations consisted of what I’ve come to call “a reading of the resumes”; who they knew, who they blew, what they were hoping to get after this evening was over.

None of this really registered with me; I was plain exhausted after nine months of being on an emotional roller coaster, exhausted from knocking myself out on the keyboard 12 hours a day, exhausted from spending the last few days of that campaign on the edge of my seat, exhausted from the night before when I attended an amazing, awesome rally that had me so pumped I couldn’t hardly sleep… anyway, I was in a daze. It was like something out of a dream.

Eight o’clock. The polls close. I was standing in a crowd of these resume’ people, gathered around a TV that was broadcasting WDIV- and they called it instantly; a landslide for Granholm. Head rush. Did I hear right? Was this happening? It was. It was over. It was finally over.

Now, anyone that was around back then and remembers how deeply emotionally invested I was in that election can imagine how I wanted to react next. I didn’t know whether to cry, scream, dance, run down the halls yelling “WE WON”, fall face first on the floor, or what. Maybe all of the above, all at once.

But as I looked around, I stifled that emotion. What stopped me? The lack of reaction from the resume’ people. Sure, they were smiling, I know they were happy, but overall it seemed not to matter to them, really. Maybe they already knew it was in the bag, smart enough not to listen to Ed Sarpolus. I don’t know. It seemed to not be of concern to them because they were so into themselves. They went back to talking about who they knew, who they blew, and what job they were shooting for in the great political machine in Lansing.

There is nothing wrong with that of course. It’s networking, socializing, recommended by all the experts. More power to them. But for me, I was so happy when the regular people got there a little later, the people who had worked the polls, the real foot soldiers, the real fans.

The regular people. The people who believed. They weren’t there to get something for themselves; they were there because they really loved this governor, this party, the ideals it represented, the defeat of the forces of evil. They really believed in what they were doing. They laughed, they smiled, they cheered, they were loud. They were so happy.

It was only then I felt comfortable. I don't know if the resume' people ever got comfortable. They scattered in the crowd. I caught glimpses of them here and there, maybe they relaxed as the evening wore on.

Now, thanks to two wonderful women earlier in the night at the media table, who called out to me as I was walking by with my camera and gave me a press pass, I got to stand 10 feet away from a very tired Jennifer Granholm as she gave her victory speech- and the look on that woman’s face, underneath the exhaustion, was true happiness as well. I have pictures, but I don’t need them. I will never forget it. It was magic. I was so happy. I cried on the way home a couple of times, finally free to express how I felt.

Why do I tell this story?

Because that night was the epitome for me of that whole year, of this whole scene, of learning about the mindset of the people that surround “activism” and the political machine, of hiding my emotions and taking a bullet for the resume’ people so I wouldn’t cause any trouble for them- but I guess I didn’t learn my lesson.

In time, I moved on. Still, I naively trusted. I thought if I was honest about who I was, why I did what I did, and treated people with respect, “bad things” wouldn’t happen to me again. I went about my own way, and did my own thing, hooked up with some like-minded souls, found a measure of success. The resume’ people had already found theirs, so they would be happy for me, right?

I was so wrong. So, so wrong. I have finally learned that if you don’t serve the resume’ people, they will cut your throat for you. Working to put a buck in their pocket or advance their careers? They love ya, but they are sycophants. Working for the cause? We’ll take that for our own and applaud you are the surface, but underground we’ll chastise you because it wasn’t done in our name. Working to save your own life? Your fair game to be savaged. Repeatedly. Don’t try to walk away. We will keep bringing it up. And it's not your opinions that take the beating, it's who you are.

It has taken the heart out of me, and heart was all I had, and I don’t know how to get past it. And if I don’t get past it, I lose everything.

I’m painting with a broad brush, of course. There are some resume’ people who are really cool. There are some regular people who are real jerks. And a very strange confluence of events has left me feeling very alone in this world; the arm, the weather, the lack of communication, the goddamn primary… all coming down at once.

I'm totally burned out right now.

Special thanks goes out to those “regular people” who are trying to help me through this. You know who you are.

I hope I make it back.