Friday, January 31, 2020

Dark days in America and a pinprick of light

I don't want to write about the dark days, how even in this month of limited news and no social media, I know all of the details of the impeachment trial, how it's all been a foregone conclusion anyway--that some people get to do whatever they want in this country and get away with it.

Because this is too dark to contemplate. 

Instead, what I want to write about is the party I went to a few nights ago. It was a party thrown by strangers, at a place where I suspected I would know no one, except for the person who sent me the invitation (and she wasn't the host). I got lost on the way there. It was dark and the people throwing the party lived in a loopy-maze-like subdivision. Several times on the drive over, I considered going home,

because it was a week night and I'd worked all day, and I didn't know these people! Also, I forgot to mention that the party wasn't really a party party, but more of a Meet the New Candidate for District 16 in the Ohio Statehouse Senate Race kind of party. And that night, lost in the dark-loopy-maze, a party like that didn't sound like any party I wanted to attend.

Also, I had just realized that because of my recent move (a mere ten minutes away from my old house), I no longer live in District 16.

Still, I had rsvp-ed and there was the house, at last, the lights on, the people, through the windows, chattering away about a candidate that I would never be able to vote for.

I took a breath, decided I'd stay for a few minutes, write a small check, and creep back out of there and, hopefully, find my way home without getting lost again.

The first person I met in the doorway was the candidate herself. (I didn't know this and just chatted with her--she seemed nice!-- and then noticed her nametag.) I told her I wished I could vote for her and joked that I hoped I could still donate money. I could! she said. And then it was off to see if this shindig had any wine.

They did not. But they did have water in plastic cups and a nice spread of food and shuffling around the table, strangely enough, were quite a few familiar faces. The resistance in central Ohio tends to show up in the same places, I've noticed. But also, there were several regular patrons I know from my job at the library and we blinked at each other, awkwardly, in the same way my high school students and I used to when we bumped into each other at Kroger.

I ran into the woman who'd invited me and she introduced me to her friends, telling them (and reminding me) that the first time she and I met was in the office of our congressman when she cried to his aide about how her nephew was going to lose healthcare if our congressman voted against the Affordable Care Act, and the aide told us that the congressman believed that healthcare was not a right but a privilege.

What an asshole, I said, and the woman looked stricken and I realized I don't really know her so maybe I shouldn't be swearing in her face. 

Maybe this was my time to write my small check and get the hell out of here. But as I headed into the living room, I was trapped by the group of party-goers, now all settling in to listen to the candidate speak.

Her name is Crystal Lett, in case you happen to live in Ohio Statehouse Senate District 16, and she talked about how her first child was born with special needs and she had to quit her job to care for him, and part of caring for him was to spend time with insurance companies and it had worn her out but luckily there was the CHIP program (the Children's Health Insurance Program--part of Medicaid) but the president and his cronies had put it on the chopping block, so for months her child's fate and the fate of several hundred thousand other Ohio children was up in the air.

She had started speaking up about that and our Democratic senator Sherrod Brown invited her to speak in Washington and after a long battle, CHIP was restored. Crystal Lett said it was the most grueling and gratifying thing she had ever done in her life, so when Sherrod Brown asked her if she'd ever thought about running for office, she paused and then considered...

And here she was now, running in what is probably the only competitive district in the state of Ohio but energized and ready to fight for all people in our state. And then her campaign manager, who Crystal had mentioned was 23 years old, stood up and gave an impassioned speech too and by then I was sort of wishing I still lived in District 16 just so I could vote for Crystal Lett.

It occurred to me as I was writing my check in the kitchen and talking to the interns on Crystal's campaign staff that all of them were college age or just barely out and all of the people at this party were old (I count myself in the old category) but here we were all together-- the young people energized and excited to work on a campaign and the old people providing the water in plastic cups and the checks, our names on Crystal's email list and ready to be called for service in the fall, to knock on doors and write postcards and make calls.

On my way out the door I thanked Crystal for her inspiring speech and wished her luck, said goodbye to the interns and the library patrons and the new people I'd met and headed out into the dark night.

I put my home address into my gps and didn't get lost once.

Crystal Lett needs your vote in Senate District 16


  1. Darn it, I wish I could vote for her too! Great essay, thank you Jody for lighting up our dark days.