I wasn’t sure that I was up to getting into the mix. I decided to give it a try. Senator Bernie Sanders was coming to support Zephyr Teachout for Congress. I lived twenty minutes away.
I decided to wear my Parkinson’s disease baseball hat. The one with a big “P” on the front and the slogan “Whatever It Takes” on the side. I wore a “Of The Atlas” tee shirt, the name of my son’s rock band. I thought maybe I would give it a flash if the cameras turned my way. I covered my tee with a plain black, buttoned-down shirt, in case I didn’t get near a camera.
I wore blue jeans. It was a sunny day, but I thought, “What if there is mud?” So, I threw a folding chair in the trunk.
When I was working, I almost never got anywhere on time. I showed up 90 minutes early for this rally, got a great parking space, right near the park hosting the event.
I set up my chair about 100 feet away from the lectern. The people sitting in front of me on the grass all appeared to be at least 40 years younger. I couldn’t help but notice how many of them were fashionably dressed, how many of them were looking at their cell phones.
I guess some of them were telling their Twitter following they were there. I wouldn’t know. I don’t know how to do Twitter yet.
I remembered to bring my medication and water to take it. The alarm on my watch was set to remind me. I thought about where the public lavatories might be, but not for long.
There was a young man with a yellow legal pad talking to a younger man from the crowd. There was a women with a camera by their side. It looked like a reporter doing a story. I thought I might have a story to tell, too.
I left my folding chair and waited for my chance.
“I have a story you might be interested in,” I suggested. “You see I have Parkinson’s disease and unfortunately, I think Hillary Clinton may have it, too. If she has to step down, because she can no longer go up steps when her medication wears off, the Democratic National Committee, might ask Vice President Joe Biden to take her place. Joe Biden would run well against Donald Trump, I think, but Bernie Sanders still has many followers. If it’s going to be Bidden, they will be pissed. Sanders is right where he should be and should stay there. Like he will be here today, supporting Teachout for the House of Representatives. Zephyr Teachout wrote a book on political corruption in Washington. She is expert in explaining to the public how Federal laws are really made.”
“Ahhh, errr,” Responded the reporter. “Unless you tell me that you are a doctor, I don’t think I am interested.”
I wanted to tell the reporter that if it was sneaky Trump supporters who were raising false claims about Ms. Clinton’s health they picked an odd disease to accuse her of having, unless you know some of the symptom’s of Parkinson’s Disease. The bluegrass band hired to entertain the waiting crowd began to play. I told the reporter I was going to go and enjoy the music.
I didn’t pause to hear the reporter’s response. I am pretty sure it wasn’t, “Hey, wait. Please come back.”
I noticed that a woman in her late thirties or early forties had set up a folding chair in my neighborhood. As I sat down, she offered her political opinion as to the day’s weather.
“It is gorgeous indeed,” I replied. We belonged to the same party in that regard.
“I am surprised there aren’t more people here, on such a fine day to be outdoors,” I observed.
“It’s early,” she said, “more will come.”
I related I had read speculation years ago that many retired oldsters of the “baby boom” generation, wanting to relive their Civil Rights movement, anti-Vietnam War days, might join with Millennials and Generation X college students to participate in mass political demonstrations, both having free time on their hands. I suggested from the looks of things, that didn’t seem to be happening so much.
I related I had dabbled a little in the Vietnam War protests back in the day, influenced by my Quaker upbringing.
“I’m a Quaker too,” she replied.
“Do you belong to the local Quaker Meeting here?” I asked.
“I do, ” she said.
I told her I had drifted from my Quaker roots, but had been to four Quaker worship services lately and it was feeling more and more like home.
I was going to add that many critics of my generation are of the opinion that political activists switched gears from transforming the evil of the world to transcending it. More running away from social injustice. More running toward personal peace.
There was a retreat from the barricades to the communes. Chants of “No Peace, No Justice” were replaced with “Ooooooommmmmmm…”
I was going to add this, but decided to not talk anymore over the music. The band was really bringing it.
I sat there in my folding chair wondering if the universe had pulled me away from the reporter and had a Quaker set up a chair next to me.
My thoughts shifted from the sublime to the ridiculous. If I didn’t find a public lavatory before the speeches; I might find myself out of speakers’ reaches. I left my perch, picked my way through the growing crowd and approached two uniformed law enforcement officers. I spoke of my need for relief. They both agreed I had raised a good question, but unfortunately that they had not been briefed on the matter. One used his training in observation to point out there appeared to be a Porta-potty in yonder field.
I got in line and waited. And waited. As a young man, I had been eager to stand up to oppression. Now I knew I couldn’t stand it any longer. I needed to take radical action. I needed to find a tree. I wanted peace now, in the worst sort of way.
It felt like I had law enforcement eyes upon me as I left the park and walked down a residential street. I didn’t mean to desecrate the private property of a citizen, but I did. I quickly adjusted my underwear and made sure that my “Of The Atlas” tee shirt wan’t showing, glad not to see any cameras.
By the time I got back, the show was about to begin. The crowd near the stage was all standing and were denser. I couldn’t find my seat. I again, had to question my willingness to stand up for what was right, until there it was. My retirement home island surrounded by a sea of youth. My chair at last.
He came out and he came out strong. Signature gray hair flying, rumbled shirt and tie, he looked straight at the audience and boomed out his message.
“You won’t hear about this in the media much, but America is moving toward being an oligarchy.” He described Zephyr Teachout as being a key player in stemming that tidal pull.
Parkinson’s disease has effected my control of my right arm and hand, but it felt right when I reflexively made a fist and pushed it into the air. I hadn’t felt that kind of right in a long time.
The crowds roar was at times deafening. The young people shouted “Bernie, Bernie,” just like they used to do on television. I got a weird feeling that many of those chanting were not that politically minded. It sounded more like a cheer for the home team. A form of reality TV, minus the TV coverage, as Bernie is, at least for the moment, yesterday’s news.
I thought of the line, sometimes attributed to George Bernard Shaw, (no relation that I know of), “A man who is not radical in his youth has no heart and a man who in his maturity is not conservative, has no brain,” or something like that.
I thought if this might be true, what is to be said about the age of a man’s soul? Does the mature man yoke his spirituality to his politics in a radically conservative fashion? Radical spirituality has a very bad reputation these days. Am I being more drawn to the radical world peace, personal peace tradition of my Quaker roots calling ever the more?
I was glad when the speeches were over. My sciatica was starting to flare up and I had been out in the sun for two and a half hours. As I walked to the car carrying my chair, I thought how grateful I was that my medicine for Parkinson’s disease was working so well. My ability to drive was better than before I was diagnosed. I pay attention to my driving and not multiple other things like I used to when I’ve been behind the wheel. I was grateful I didn’t need to be helped into a waiting van.
I am back now in air conditioning. Sitting on my memory foam cushion with lumbar support added to the stable chair. My political spiritual leanings are far from stable, but I feel good about them today and look forward to what tomorrow may bring.
How about you? What has your maturity as a man taught you about politics and spirituality? In my maturity, I feel more comfortable asking you these kinds of questions.
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