Monday, October 6, 2008

Politics and Sleeping Bags

"Bring a sleeping bag and a hearty spirit," the memo says. Sure to the spirit part. The sleeping bag? I don't think so. The memo, written by twenty-somethings, showed up in the email boxes of four women old enough to be their mothers - me and my friends who, in response, are about to set out to register voters for a week in Ohio. The occasion is "Golden Week," a week in early October during which it is possible for Ohioans to register to vote and to vote on the same day. Our posse is eager to help our chosen candidate, but there are limits. Even though the organization we'll be working with has offered to find housing for all the volunteers, my friends and I are well past the age when sleeping on the floor is a viable alternative. We will spring for hotel rooms, instead.

I am reminded of a time when a certain level of roughing it seemed an important part of any political event. It was one of the big marches on Washington to protest the Vietnam War, and I went with friends then, too. We took a long bus ride from my home in New England and crashed on the floor of somebody's living room. I did know a couple of older people, grown-ups with families and professional jobs who attended the demonstration -- and who traveled there by plane.They flew in and out on the same day - no floor sleeping involved. I was appalled. Because they were so rich (by my standards) they were missing out on an essential part of the experience. Fast forward many decades and I am they.

Grass-roots campaigning is a young person's game. People my age usually do things like organize and attend benefits, and write checks. Nevertheless my friends and I will convene tonight at The Surly Girl pub in Columbus, Ohio to meet the (young) organizers of VoteToday Ohio and hear what's in store for us. We're marching in their parade this week, and that's as it should be. It's now their future, not ours, that is hanging in the balance. I'm ready to do anything I can to help. Except sleep on the floor.

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