I wrote about experiencing a few bubbles of near-normalcy after Grandma’s death almost three weeks ago.
This morning was another bubble, but “normal” is not the proper adjective to describe it.
Today, I attended a Bernie Sanders rally at Binghamton’s Veterans Memorial Arena. After arriving before 7 AM in a cold drizzle and snaking through a line with thousands of people – a few of whom I knew from my social justice and environmental work – I went through a metal detector and found a seat in the stands where I could see a profile view of whoever was at the podium. There was a HUGE American flag taking up most of the curtain at the end of the hall. While we were filling the seats in the stands, hundreds of people were gathering on the floor in front of the podium. I could have joined them but I didn’t think I would have the stamina to stand for a couple more hours on the very cold floor. The home ice of the Binghamton Senators is under those 4x8s.
The crowd was predominantly millennials with a good representation of us older adults and a smattering of children. I happened to be sitting with some students from my town’s high school, who said that attendance at school is low because everybody is at the rally!
There were lots of creative signs and apparel. A woman wearing an entire outfit made with cloth printed with Bernie’s face. A “Feel the Bern” sign with Bernie as an adorable-yet-terrifying, fire-breathing dragon. A large cloth sign with a very good, larger-than-life portrait of Bernie painted on it. Lots of Bernie 2016. A future to believe in. Feel the Bern.
Because of the security, it took a long time to assemble the crowd, but the Arena was filled to capacity. I heard later that more people wanted to attend but were turned away. The press area across the hall from me had over a dozen cameras on tripods and a couple dozen more journalists with laptops. About 5,000 of us were waiting for Bernie to arrive.
As I have posted about before, I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders because he comes closest of any candidate to my own views. On April 19, New York State will have its primary, but I won’t be able to vote for him. Like Bernie, I am an independent, which makes me ineligible to vote in the New York primary. I do support the campaign financially, though.
There were several introductory speakers. First, there was a woman representing the CWA, followed by one from the IBEW, who highlighted Bernie’s experience and support for labor unions and against unfair trade practices.
Next was Conrad Taylor, 20-year-old Binghamton University sophomore and Binghamton City Council member. Remember his name. Maybe in 24 or 28 or 32 years, he will be running for president. Conrad spoke about Bernie being the first presidential candidate in sixteen years to come to our area because he cares about us. He also represented Bernie’s appeal to young people because Bernie is forward-thinking, as young people need to be. The reaction to his mention of climate change was the biggest thus far.
Next up was Jim Hightower, who reminded us that agitators are”what gets the dirt out!”
The final introductory speaker was Gasland director Josh Fox, who got the crowd even more fired up, reminding us all of the grassroots strength that powered the movement to ban fracking in New York. When he introduced Senator Sanders, the crowd jumped up and made so much noise that I’m not sure what song they were using to introduce him.
Bernie told us that he was there to tell us the truth.
While some people complain that Senator Sanders is a one-issue candidate, although they don’t seem to agree on whether the one issue is campaign finance reform or income inequality, they are just wrong.
Topics that Bernie addressed included: campaign finance, oligarchy, Citizens United, income inequality, living wage, the challenges facing the young generation, the broken criminal justice system, youth unemployment, education, community policing reform, removing marijuana as a federal Schedule 1 drug, special interests and PACs, TPP and other trade issues, foreign policy, expanding Social Security, pay equity for women, student loan debt, comprehensive immigration reform, taxing Wall Street speculation, changing the government’s relationship with the First Nations, rebuilding inner cities and infrastructure, and health care as a right.
Two issues received special attention from Bernie. The first was climate change, which involved a long discussion of the dangers of fracking and methane emissions. This led to a second theme, the strength of grassroots organizing. It was especially powerful for those of us in the audience who are fractivists. Bernie’s message was that that kind of grassroots action has led to other needed changes throughout US history and that it can lead to more needed changes.
Together, we can make it happen.
Feel the Bern!
Update: As a New York fractivist, I was honored that right after the Binghamton rally, the Sanders campaign released a new ad focused on Bernie’s opposition to fracking. I’m so happy that we were the springboard in bringing greater attention to Bernie’s stance on this important issue. https://morningconsult.com/alert/bernie-sanders-new-ad-targets-clinton-fracking/