I am standing in this big line outside of Charles Colson Jr. High waiting for the doors to open. I say "big line" instead of "long line" because it is more mob-ish, more wide than long. Our senior pastor was right. At a staff meeting he told us, "Get there early. I predict unprecedented involvement in Tuesday's caucus." His political insight as to the large turn-out comes, I am sure, from reading the front page of the USA Today, which reported huge turnouts for all the recent caucuses and primaries. "Unprecedented involvement," he continued, "And I want us to be involved in that involvement."
He had repeated this last line at all five services on Sunday. He had urged the crowds of Maple Lakes Community Church faithful to bring our values and commitments out of the church and onto the streets, which evidently led to the Jr. High.
"Of course, I am not telling you who to caucus for. I trust that the issues which this gospel," (his hand goes to Bible on lectern, and kind of rubs it a little), "is most concerned about will guide your choice. The Spirit is moving believers, like never before, into unprecedented political involvement." Then the line: "and I want us to be involved in that involvement."
So, here I am, shoulder to shoulder with other concerned citizens in a crush. I have to admit that though large crowds of well meaning people usually are a precursor to a panic attack for me, this is exciting. It feels good to be here, to be doing something, to be, well ... involved. I hadn't been to a caucus since I was 18, and that Reverend was running for president.
People all around me were talking passionately about what planks they would propose, or what the most important issues were and why. Most of this I couldn't make out because of the nearly cacophonous fervency of the voices and the loud buzzing in my head that, like a panic attack, usually accompanies my contact with large crowds. What I could catch made my head nod vigorously, ardent statements like, "They have defined the issues for too long. It is time for our voices to be heard!" Yes, that is true, my nodding head agreed. "If people of faith don't come together and work to put the president in the White House, they will set the agenda for the next four years, and then it might be too late!" Yes, now is the time, my nodding head, amen-ed, now joined enthusiastically by the upper half of my body. I was just about to add a fist-pump-supported "Yeah!" when the next declaration made it clear to me what issue these political compatriots were talking about.
My head stopped nodding. I looked around warily. How could I have not seen all the buttons and stickers so garishly adorning these people? I looked at the doors we were waiting to get in. There was a handwritten sign with the party's name on it. I panicked. I looked over to another set of doors nearby and saw a sign with my party's name on it. This wasn't one big mob waiting to get in; this was two big mobs related only by proximity. Both party caucuses were being held at Chuck Colson. The turnout was indeed so large and teeming that what was once, I am sure, two distinct lines had devolved into one nearly indistinguishable mass of political passion.
I ducked my head and made my way to the other side of the crowd as quickly as I could. I had almost accidentally acted on the deeply held convictions of someone else.
[to be continued...]
Russell Rathbun is a storyteller and a member of theGuild, along with Melvin Bray (language artist), Lisa Samson (novelist), Yaisha Harding (writer), Ercell Watson (comedian), Eugene Russell (singer-songwriter-rapper-actor), Daley Hake (photographer), Ed Sohn (multimedia artist), Prisca Kim (writer), and Claudia Burney (novelist), and Daniel Ra (singer-songwriter). Learn more on theGuild's Facebook page.