Wednesday, November 9, 2016

No Matter What Happens, I Tried

Sujata Massey

As I work on this post, election returns are coming in from all over the United States. It might not surprise readers of this blog that I'm a supporter of Hillary Clinton. My home state, Maryland, has voted Democratic for many years, so I traveled to a state which is less secure (Pennsylvania) to see how I could help.

On Monday evening this past week I drove 3 hours from Maryland to Pennsylvania, a state where rural areas are bullish on Trump. However, the city of Philadelphia and its suburbs tend to support Democratic voters, and also has a racially diverse population. I intended to do all I could to encourage Philadelphia's voters to get to the polls.

It was a morning rush hour when I drove into North Philadelphia. A big transportation strike that mercifully ended, but its occurrence made a lot of people fearful voters couldn't get to polls. Lyft and Uber and the popular band Roots built networks of drivers who'd take people needing rides to polling stations. However, most polling stations are located every five blocks. This very old city has a great infrastructure of schools, the primary polling places.
Philadelphia schools and community centers are called into service on election day, and Spanish is widely used.
There weren't enough volunteers who could speak Spanish, but we had to connect with these voters if Hillary would carry Philadelphia. I was sent out not speaking a word of Spanish along with my partner, Barbara, who was fortunately studying the language. But we were certainly anxious about how communication would, or wouldn't, work.

The Democrats set up volunteer stations all over Pennsylvania. I worked out of one on W. Girard Ave. in North Philadelphia. Volunteers got assignments to canvass several blocks, house by house, at a time, to make sure people remembered to vote. Other people stayed back and made texts and phone calls to people who planned to vote Democratic.

We canvassed streets in Fairhall, a neighborhood with a high Latino voter base. The houses were old, but the people living within were full of energy and enthusiasm. People who'd voted told us the polls were busier than they'd ever seen. We began to feel optimistic.

Barbara was such a great person to volunteer with. She was friendly to everyone but really hammered in the importance of having a plan to get to the polling station.

We met this pair, who work for a PAC, on the streets doing similar work to ours.

People living in these narrow streets found ways to bring beauty and pride of place to share with others. Residents built in a delightful fishpond right in front of an ordinary row house. We saw flower-filled gardens behind chain-link fences, and cute Halloween decorations on doors.

We also were delighted by some of the him owners who sold foods from their windows. A coconut water ice was the best thing I ate (drank?) all day.

I'd never believed I could successfully canvass in a neighborhood where I didn't share the language with the people I met. However, my nerves were eased by my confident partner and all the Philadelphians were so gracious toward us. I appreciated the way they cared for their homes and kids, and how many socialized with each other on the streets. It made me feel more certain than ever that this country benefits from immigration.

This is a very tough election. At this point in the night, things don't look good for my candidate. However I feel optimistic about the situation in Philadelphia. No matter what happens, we tried.


  1. In light of tonight's developments, Sujata, all I can think of to say is sort of borrowed from the Gladiators: "We who are about to die, salute you for your efforts."

  2. Brexit. President Trump. What could possibly go wrong?

  3. Yes, we hail and thank you for your campaigning.

    Hell is Donald Trump as president. It is Brexit over here. He's been congratulated by the heads of the ultra-right parties in France and the Netherlands.

    We all know how bad this is for the people of this country. As the British writer, Eva Dolan, says, this will be very bad for some people for a few months, like the rise in hate crimes after the Brexit vote. Only over here, the ultra-right has guns.

    So, what will happen with the Supreme Court? Medical care? Women's rights? Immigration? Racism?

    It still surprises me that womeone who didn't show his tax return or pay taxes for 20 years can be president. A person can't be appointed to the Cabinet without his/her tax returns being scrutinized going back years.

    I'm reading crime fiction to stop from falling into the abyss of despair.

    I don't want to watch the news ever again.

  4. Sujata, I am late thanking you for your efforts. I was too stunned for a few days to say much. I want to tell you something personal and say it publically. When I went to bed in the wee hours of last Wednesday morning--after Pennsylvania fell, I could not sleep. I reached for the next book on my to-be-read pile. LUCKY me, it was your brilliant "The Sleeping Dictionary." I am well into it now and loving it. Thank you for holding my hand and taking me to another place and time when I need it so badly.