What can be more American than a State Fair?
Every year, the county parties staff the state fair booth, with its decades-old tradition of giving out FREE ice-water. And, for a special reason, I asked Bill Eagle for a report from the Oregon State Fair, remembering that you always end up getting amazing “man in the street” perspectives just from giving out free icewater on a hot summer’s day. (You wouldn’t believe how many parched fair-goers have come up to me angrily, or apologetically, or even embarrassed and said “I’m a Republican!” And then, softly: “Can I still have a drink?” I always answer the same: “Sure. Water doesn’t take sides.”)
I’m proud to call Bill Eagle a friend of mine, dating back to when we were both county Democratic party webmasters.
Bill’s a pretty fine writer in his own right, and, although he doesn’t blog, per se, he emails out a bewildering variety of essays, news items, cartoons and other information that makes my life a whole lot easier. Warning, this little column is a lot more dangerous than it looks, so be warned: It bites.
Labor Day at the Democratic Fair Booth
Labor Day was a long day for my wife and I. That was the day that we traveled from St. Helens to Salem to work in the Democratic Party booth at the Oregon State Fair.
The Democratic Party booth is a tent-like structure situated amidst a number of commercial exhibits on the main fairway between the Jackson Long building and the sound stage. The booth is set up to allow people to stroll through it, pick up literature and purchase buttons and bumper stickers. Cold water is offered to all along with the opportunity to register to vote. There is also a straw poll where people are encouraged to make their concerns known.
Our county was responsible for staffing the booth on Labor Day, and we were determined to enjoy ourselves. We arrived early and relieved the prior crew. There were four on our team. My wife sat at the cash box, another person sat by the booth’s cold water cooler, a third person sat at the voter registration desk, and I arranged to put myself in a place where I could walk about and talk to fairgoers. I am ADHD and I need to move around, otherwise I would drive everyone else nuts.
One man walked up wearing a hat with Sergeant major’s rank on it.
“Hello Sergeant Major” I said extending my hand. “First Sergeant Eagle. Welcome to our booth. Have a drink of cold water.”
The man took my hand “‘First Sergeant’? I don’t recall ever meeting you before, but I like your booth.”
“Be sure to vote in our straw poll.” I replied pointing to a flip chart with a list of issues to vote on. “You can vote on environment, the war, health care, impeachment, infrastructure, Constitutional rights, immigration, jobs, education and other stuff as well.”
“I retired after 30 years in the Army”, said the Sergeant Major. “When I was active, I had to be careful what I used to say, but I don’t have to be careful now.” He continued: “I’ve served two tours in Iraq. We have the best army in the world, but our troops morale is in the gutter.”
The Sergeant Major continued: “What does private Snuffy say when asked by a three-star how things are going? He says ‘Great General, wonderful!’ He doesn’t have any choice; he’ll say that if he knows what’s good for him. The Army does not like soldiers speaking their minds to higher ups. They don’t want another repeat of that Rumsfield incident.”
The Sergeant Major put tick marks on our straw poll next to ‘war’ and ‘impeachment’ and remarked while walking away: ” We need to get out of that effing place. We have no business there…”
Another person came by that did not seem all that enamored with our booth. “I see you have Hillary signs.” Remarked the man. “I could never vote for that woman.”
“Why is that?” I asked
I smiled. “Are you sure you don’t like her?”
“Damn right I don’t,” he responded.
I mentioned that millions of dollars were spent over ten years to try and get something on her and they found all those charges against her were without substance…
I could see that the man was a real believer.
I was rather amused by three teens that visited us, two boys and a girl. One boy stood out from the other two. He had multicolored hair, a black tee shirt, and a large metal chain (a real chain) around his neck. He walked up to me and said “You’re Democrats? Does that mean that you don’t like George Bush?”
I looked at him and said “Yes!”
“RIGHT ON!” Exclaimed the youth as he slapped my outstretched hand.
The kids looked at some of the buttons that we had for sale. One picked up a “Dissent is Patriotic,” another: “Hatred is Not A Moral Value” they all seemed very interested in what we had to offer.
I looked at the kid with the multicolored hair. “You don’t like GW huh?”
“No I don’t” said the kid. “When I was in the 8th grade, they had a Presidential essay contest. I wrote an essay about President Bush and it wasn’t complimentary. My teacher really liked it, she said it was well-written and well thought out. She showed it to the Principal and they sent it off to the White House.”
“Did you win the contest?”
The kid grinned. “My mom and I got a call and a visit from somebody from the government. They threatened us and told me that I wasn’t supposed to write stuff about the President. They also visited the Principal of my school, and I think that they really scared her. She may even have lost her job, because she wasn’t there the next year.”
“Hey” said the kid as he reached for a button. The button had a picture of George Bush and the message ‘NOT MY PRESIDENT’.
How much is this one?”
“Two Dollars,” I replied.
“Oh darn, I only have a buck left,” said the kid.
“I’ll match your dollar,” said I.
“Just be sure to pay that lady sitting by the moneybox.” I pointed to my wife. “She’s the money lady.”
We do live in exciting times don’t we?
Labor Day was a long day for my wife and I, it was also a good day. We went to the State Fair, we got to work the Democratic Party booth, we enjoyed ourselves, and we most certainly got to meet interesting people.
Didn’t see it coming, did you?
If you want to meet the real America, staff a booth at the State Fair. The view from there is quite different than the one from the Ivory Tower.
Or, in the case of the GOP, the Irony Tower.