Wednesday, November 5, 2008

What I saw at Grant Park last night.

Last night, at Grant Park in Chicago, I witnessed the real promise of a nation like America electing a long-oppressed minority to its highest office.

Hundreds of thousands of people, from every walk of life, of literally every race and creed imaginable, came together for a moment of celebration, joy, and catharsis. I cried two or three times.

I wish that everyone on the planet could feel what I felt at Grant Park last night, when this enormous mass of people put aside their petty differences, and celebrated a hard-fought victory that was forged by a common cause. I nearly teared up several times today, just going about my business as usual, as I remembered the way I felt last night. It was probably the most powerful thing I have ever witnessed in my 31 years.

Perhaps my favorite moment of the night was during the "exodus" away from Grant Park:

It was late - around 11:40ish or so. Hundreds of thousands of people left en masse once Obama's speech was over. Everyone had to get home and think about going to work tomorrow.

As this enormous group started plodding as quickly as such a giant crowd allows (which isn't too fast) I was almost afraid for a minute. I'm thinking: "Uh oh . . . everyone's leaving all at once, and it's a massive crush of people." I held on to my Jasmine's hand so I wouldn't lose her, and plodded slowly foot by foot along with the rest. My fears quickly dissipated. Everyone was in such a wonderful, awestruck mood. Despite all of our differences, there was no pushing, no shoving, and no rudeness.

Adams Street had been barricaded to separate the park from the curb & street. I didn't realize this at first. All I could see was that, up ahead, a lot of people seemed to have stopped, or to be moving particularly slowly.

As I got closer, I finally saw that the barricades on Adams were concrete, and probably three and a half feet tall. A huge crush of people, who had not necessarily followed the pre-ordained route, ended up hoisting themselves up and over the concrete barricade to get to get to the street.

What moved me was that there was no pushing, no shoving, no rudeness, and nothing but friendly help all around. Everyone helped each other calmly, and easily over the barricades. The elderly, or those smaller in stature, needed a lift from the strangers around them to get over the barricade.

And they got it - no problems, everyone being friendly, and no one even seeming the least bit irritated by the hassle. Everyone helped each other out, and we all got up and over the barricade, without the slightest hint of a problem.

I've heard from others who were there, and I know from the news reports . . there was not a single violent incident, or arrest, at the Obama rally last night in Chicago. THAT is amazing. Even at your average baseball game, there is usually at least one violent incident, or arrest. The stakes here were a million times higher, the crowd at least quadruple what you'd see at a packed ballgame, the differences among the crowd spanning every conceivable fault-line of human diversity.

But it came off flawlessly. That is what humanity can achieve, when we all believe in something together.


dirtball said...

Well said, Dave. Thanks for sharing. I'm glad a moment like that represents the ideal we've all been envisioning for this long time. Here's hoping we can carry the energy forward to tangibly boost our country out of the rut and on to the greatness "that is its promise". Anything is possible.

Downtown Dave said...

Thanks Dirtball. I'm generally a lefty/progressive first and a Democrat a distant second. I voted Green in a bunch of local elections, but what I saw at Grant Park last night really moved me, and I had to get it out.

justin reed said...

well said my friend. I experienced all of that grace and beautiful humanity as well.

Many moments of emotion nearly overpowering me were felt in the last 48 hours...often times just as witness to the profound power of the day for our black brothers and sisters...while this be our generations civil rights statement?

it feels like that...

Downtown Dave said...

Interesting, J . . . I felt that the racial element was less evident last Tuesday night. Intellectually I'm well aware that it was the commitment and power of many black Americans who made President-Elect Barack Obama a reality.
But it wasn't only black Americans who got Obama elected. It was blacks, white liberals & moderates, & Hispanics who got this man elected. The diversity of the crowd was intensely amazing, but I still felt that the common purpose overshadowed all racial divides.