Monday, October 29, 2018

I’m writing this before election day in case it goes poorly





I. Every Morning

I see it every morning—people holding up signs on the overpass above 360 and Mopac.

When drivers honk their approval, the sign holders wave frantically at them, slicing the wide, open sky with enthusiasm that’s electric and contagious even at a distance.

I always honk, even though I barely notice the signs these days. I have already memorized what they say.

Beto for U.S. Senate 2018

Repeal and Replace Senator Ted Cruz



II. Lost Travelers Like Myself

I first saw him at Mount Sinai church in North Austin, sometime at the end of August. Hundreds of people spilled out from the pews; many stood against the wall and others sat in the choir section, every soul looking out with expectant but anxious gazes. They were lost travelers like myself.

He began, “If you’re a Democrat, you’re welcome here. If you’re a Republican, you’re welcome here. If you’re an Independent, you’re welcome here…”

I came home with four yard signs. I hammered one into my lawn, then posted in my neighborhood Facebook group: “I got three extra Beto signs if you want them.”

They were claimed within minutes.


III. Betomania

It became a trend that summer: Beto here, Beto there, Beto, Beto everywhere.

It started with the signs; Beto signs staked to yards from Hyde Park and Tarrytown mansions to the residential developments at Mueller, up to the Great Hills and Lakeline neighborhoods and all the way down to the dated neighborhoods at Slaughter and William Cannon.

Next came the stickers; Beto stickers on the fenders of cars or plastered on windshields.

Then the shirts–Beto’s signature midnight blue and white mixed into crowds of pedestrians and flying past on the backs of college kids on scooters, or joggers around Zilker park.

Then came the murals of the man himself. Large murals painted on the side of buildings on the east side and in SoCo, lifelike but oversized, humble but triumphant, as if to show Beto was one of us, and at the same time, not.

Finally, as the deadline to register to vote drew closer, my doorbell began to ring daily at all hours.

Always the same type of visitor.

“Hiiii,” they’d begin. “Are you a registered voter?”


IV. Willie, or won't he?

On September 29, my family and I ubered to Auditorium Shores where Willie Nelson was headlining a free concert and rally for Beto.

We weaved our way through wet grass dotted with the unmoving limbs of resting bodies and water bottles drunk and bags open and rifled through—an explosion of humanity charged up but waiting for their leader’s command.

My family and I finally set up our lawn chairs on a spot not even marginally close to the stage (despite arriving three hours early).

The crowd tripled with the moonlight. I waited in line one and half hours for a grilled cheese and didn’t complain because my goodness, this crowd was all potential voters.

Volunteers walked around carrying tablets with signs posted on their backs, “Register to vote here”

Opening acts began to play. Violins and banjos; the random local politician wandering on stage long enough to wave and endorse Beto for Senate.

The twinkling lights of downtown Austin framed Beto as he stood at the edge of the stage and pointed at the crowd, switching between English and Spanish, the crowd cheering before him, fists rising in the air, and even in the distance I could hear the city halt and listen and smile with motherly approval.

Many got emotional. I was fine for most of it. It wasn’t until he said, “Weapons of war belong on the battlefield, not in our schools,” that my hand reached out to grasp my son’s shoulder and I began to cry.


V. “We can no longer live as rats; we know too much.”

Austin was already known for being a blue flame in a sea of red lava, but over the summer, Betomania pushed Texas’s capital even closer to its left-leaning roots.

It woke us.

We signed up to canvas, phonebank, drive voters to polls or paint rocks with “Beto” and leave them in random places within the city.

Our faith fed us; our desire helped us dream.

We watched the polls end poorly, but we chose not to believe them.

We voted and we got our friends to vote.

We got strangers to vote. We woke up the neighbors.

We texted people we hadn’t talked to in years.

We remembered last year when Doug Jones won in Alabama. We thought, if the crimson tide could do it…

So we stood back and watched the numbers changing.

400,000 Texans needed to vote differently than they did in 2016.

Either that or the new voters (millennials) needed to step up en masse.

Either that or half of Tarrant County needed to blow away. (It is hurricane season, I heard an optimist say.)

It was a vicious thought, but we were hungry and hunger made us vicious.

We were hungry and vicious and unafraid.

We were Violet Beauregarde chewing blueberry pie for the first time; we were fat with blue righteousness, ripe and taking up more space; our hope expanding to damn near explosion.


IV. If This Ends Poorly

And if you’re reading this now because it ended poorly, I want you to know: it has not ended.

It has just begun.


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