We slept in late at the Atlanta area Motel 6 and then headed off to meet our new friends Gail and Mike in Granite Falls, North Carolina. When I saw Gail’s Obama Tea Party fundraiser listed on the Obama website I thought it would be a fabulous addition to our project. But sadly, when I contacted her, Gail told me that no one had signed up to come to her event. She told me she was new to town, and because that county of North Carolina is so heavily Republican, she wasn’t comfortable inviting any of her new acquaintances. But we were invited to come by for tea and to stay the night as well, so we arrived that afternoon, scones in hand (we couldn’t find any crumpets in North Carolina!) Durring a rousing political conversation around their kitchen table, Mike and Gail told us that they had both voted Republican in the past, but that the Bush administration, and the Republican party in general, had let them so far down that they felt Obama was our country’s only hope now.
The next morning we set off for Gulf, North Carolina, just south of Chapel Hill, for a Obama-Que fundraiser. We arrived at Dell’s double wide trailer home to find the place bustling with preparations. Rob and I made ourselves at home, setting up the backdrop and photo equipment beside the picnic tables in the front yard. There was a full menu of Southern favorites for sale, as well as (to my surprise and delight) homemade veggie burgers!
And as the guests began to arrive we were further surprised and delighted by the mix of black and white, academics and blue collar workers, artists and activists who make up perhaps the most tight knit community of diversity and activism we’ve seen anywhere in the country. And these people were as fired up and ready to go for their local democratic candidates as they were for Obama. Many of them told us about the community’s success in recent elections running out corrupt and ineffective politicians. They spoke with pride about successful efforts opposing plans for a four lane highway through their county and other general sprawl. These folks were knowledgeable, committed and involved so far beyond my expectations that I began to wonder if the passion of this small community in the middle of North Carolina couldn’t turn the whole state blue.
Last week a friend forwarded me an anonymous letter entitled Dear Red States, which was posted on Craigslist last year, and now seems to be making the pre-election rounds once again. As amusing and true as this Dear John style letter is at first glance, after meeting the people at Del’s Obama-Que, I couldn’t help but feel a little ashamed of how much I have identified with this flippant and dismissive message over the past four years.
Watching the divisive and ugly tactics in this election season, it seems to me (and I am certainly not the first to point out) that we are not as divided as some would have us think. And if those of us in Blue States are ready to secede, or move to Canada if things don’t turn out the way we hope, we neglect our responsibility to stand in solidarity with those in pockets of hope and liberal activism in Red States. And beyond responsibility, we are missing an opportunity, because nothing is more inspiring than the stalwart convictions of a pocket of Blue within a sea of Red.