Sunday, November 16, 2003

Ramadan 2003: Day #21

Day 21, Sunday, November 16, 2003

This event actually happened last night, but it was sufficiently memorable enough for me to place it here.

Eileen and I attended a Saturday night campaign event at a house in NoVa highlighting the birthday weekend of Howard Dean. We had mistakenly thought that this event was to be on the following Monday evening, and were thus partly disoriented with the sudden need to be out at a social event in Northern VA, instead of some other plans we had talked about for this weekend.
In any event, we were overbooked and needed to be in at least two places at the same time. So we made plans to leave the birthday event early. This coincided with some late arrivals and newcomers to the Dean campaign, who we met briefly on our way out the door.

One of them was a woman of similar age, originally from Vermont (former governor Dean’s state) who had moved to a nearby NoVa neighborhood. Being a new arrival and new to the campaign, she was trying her best to read people’s nametags and familiarize herself with and warm up to the room. I was one of the closest people standing to her, so we began some small talk.

In the short period of time we had to speak to each other before Eileen and I took our coats and left, she relayed to me probably no more than three very serious statements.
1. Her brother is currently in Iraq and has been there for over a year.
2. She had been experiencing a period of helplessness and coming out to this Dean event was her attempt to get out and be social.
3. It was also her attempt to try to participate in a process of larger change.

It was a very brief encounter. It was a very surreal encounter as we were partly neighbors, partly contemporaries, but coming at this moment and this campaign from two different angles, in an unfamiliar kitchen, while door prizes were being drawn, cake was being cut, people were coming and going and chatting about politics, holidays, home decorations, etc.

But I couldn’t help but feel pastorally that this woman was in a bit of shock.

We had met another woman earlier in the evening who I would describe as somewhat emblematic of an older, cynical democratic wing, who had grown battle weary over the last few elections and was guarded about how excited or how involved, or how moved to get in this next presidential election.

As if we expect the worst as status quo. Or that the better the candidate, the more true, or authentic, the more chances there are for the worst to happen.

Any way, the evening made me think on one hand about the possibilities for hope, the open questions as to where that hope ultimately comes from or on what to base such hopes. And most importantly of all, it impressed upon me the dire circumstances (as in the case of the last woman I spoke to before leaving) that lead people, almost without any true cognition or focus, to some of these places in the hopes that change is possible.

My parting words to her were: “I hope your brother comes home soon” knowing that those words could not possibly have conveyed the depth of concern I had gathered from the three short sentences she had shared with me or gone to the heart of the weight and burden she was so obviously carrying.

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