Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Day 236- An Experiment (part 2)

Dear Mr. President,

Today I spent 5 hours standing on the corner of 4th and Pine in downtown, with a sign encouraging people to support Park 51. I had fun. I met a number of interesting people. I heard more 9/11 conspiracy theories than I previously knew existed. One woman suggested I breathe in Christ and stop worshipping Satan. A couple of people got angry enough to curse me out for what my sign said. Part of my message was for you; it said "Dear Mr. President, don't back down!" This got some surprising responses. One woman told me she was happy to see that I still had faith in you. One man said he didn't think you had the strength to stand up to the right. Mostly people just smiled and said "thank you."

I'm not sure that I changed any minds. The ones who wanted to argue usually didn't stop to talk things over. A few people weren't aware of the controversy and listened to me patiently. But I think it would be disingenuous to say that I was out there for them. What made the day great were all of the people who already agreed with me. As strangers, we keep our politics secret, we rarely recognize these important beliefs and values in others. Having it out in public for any one to see means that for 5 hours today I, and those people who saw their own views in what I was saying, felt connected. Even in a country controlled by Democrats, liberals don't always feel like we're part of a larger group. The taking heads on TV, the values proclaimed by many politicians, even the constraints of polite conversation often make it seem like we're the outsiders. I finally get the purpose of these demonstrations- it isn't to change minds, it's to let our allies know that they do not stand alone.

Besides dramatically increasing my chances of getting skin cancer, I don't think I did any one any harm. If I made any one's day just a little bit better, that's great, but I'm certainly convinced this did a world of good for me. I wasn't hiding behind my computer screen, I wasn't shying away from the ones who got angry or from their arguments. I felt confident in what I believe and what I was standing for. Several people suggested that I needed to be part of a group or organization, but I think that I work best when I don't have to worry about representing any one but myself.

Anyway, Mr. President, the only thing I can offer you today is the same boost I got from every shy smile, every thumbs up and high five, every thank you and every stranger who said keep it up, sister. That small promise that however hard the work has become, you don't do it alone, and you don't do it in vain.

So thank you, Mr. President. Keep up the good work. I think that you're brave, and I'm glad that you're doing so much for this country. It makes me hopeful. I don't always agree with you, but I hope you know you're not alone.

Respectfully yours,


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