What is left after November

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November 29, 2004 // UPDATED 4:48 pm - April 25, 2007
By: Julie Landsman
Julie Landsman

Okay. It's over. No more commercials for your candidate or mine. No more rallies at Target Center, signs held up in the autumn wind on the bridge above your commute home. We head into holidays now, giving gifts or food, gathering near trees or next to Menorahs, praying in mosques, churches, synagogues. Yet, this time I take something new into the season. This time I carry the voice of the woman who blessed me as we drove Plymouth Avenue in the dark to get her to the polls. In her softness, I find hope.

And yet haunting me is the sight of a man in our building on TV news, beaten for his bumper sticker. In his bruised face I find despair.

I hold dear from these past months of door-to-door work: an elderly man thanking me for disturbing his dim television morning to make sure he knew his polling place, and even the sad smile of the woman who said she never votes because her life will not change no matter who is elected. In the voting day chill of morning rain, in the Vine Missionary church where doughnuts and coffee welcome drivers, I find appreciation and even joy.

What a city of workers this time! Poll watchers, watchers watching the watchers, taxis getting Somalis to the voting booth, suburban drivers escorting old people who cannot see well to their school basement. Where I live, men and women at Phyllis Wheatley Neighborhood Center stood in long lines, talking in undertones at 7 a.m. There was muted laughter as we shifted from foot to foot, drinking out of cardboard cups. Poll challengers stood out in suits and ties, in white skin and folded arms, as we went to our voting desks. Outside, a woman offered legal services to any who felt unfairly challenged. Her breath chilled to fog in front of her face as she danced under her umbrella.

And when the day was over, and votes counted, my polling place went back to serving children and after school homework help. I still felt blessed. Not by a broad sweep of votes or "values," but by rooms lit up in the dark where we were made to feel protected. Not by the decision of a country, but by the patience and kindness of the woman in my car, the men at the church, the volunteers at the Center across the Plymouth Avenue bridge.

And I don't feel blessed by the men who beat up the man in my building because of his candidate who was not mine. Nor do I feel blessed by those who tried to deny the vote to college kids or men and women with Hispanic surnames. Makes me think there is a lot of work to do out there. Yet I am newly energized to do it.

In my neighborhood there were more activists than I had imagined since moving Downtown. When we vote or work, we cross some arbitrary lines. I now know how to get to the Vine Missionary church, the downstairs polling place on Penn Avenue, where to get good coffee on Broadway. And here I find consolation amidst my worry for our country: how we came from different neighborhoods and stood in the rain together. I may be grabbing at straws, but I sense an awakened commitment to compassionate government in this city, this state.

And too, I can only wish that the feeling of being blessed by the woman in my car in the dark stays with me over these next years; stays with all of us.

Julie Landsman lives in North Loop.