The huge Anti-Palin rally in Anchorage last weekend saw more than 1500 people gathered in front of the Loussac Library. It's gotten lots of attention and support from around the nation. People needed to know that not all Alaskans support Palin as the VP nominee, or share her values. Some may even like Palin as a governor, but find her completely unsuitable and inappropriate on the national (nevermind international) stage. It was the largest rally in Alaska history. And huge rallies are great, but sometimes a powerful statement can be made by just one person stepping out and holding a simple two-word message painted on a piece of cardboard. Enjoy this wonderful story from Doug, a Mudflats reader in Juneau, Alaska.
For starters, I can see the Governor's Mansion from my front deck. By the McCain/Palin campaign's standards this would make me an expert on Governor Palin and her family. The problem is that the Palins don't live in the mansion, unlike the Russians who actually live in Russia.
Last weekend my wife spoke with her Dad who lives in New York. He was concerned that his neighbors had just returned from an Alaskan cruise and had confidently reported that "everyone in Alaska loves Governor Palin."
So last night I took a piece of cardboard from the garage, found some of my son's tempera-paints and made a sign. It read "PALIN LIES", in big green letters. It wasn't clever, it wasn't profound. It was just the way I felt.
I vowed to my family that I would go downtown the next morning and mount a one-man protest.
I would start my protest at the State Capitol, go to the Governor's Mansion then end up at one of the Cruise Ship Docks near the center of town.
I somehow saw myself victoriously squatting on the Capitol steps flashing my sign to dignitaries and legislators (maybe even lawyer Ed O'Callaghan). But once I got downtown I realized that most people entering or leaving the building at this time of year are State administrative staff. I figured all of them already know the deal, and they would shun me anyway, in fear of losing their jobs.
On second thought, the Governor's Mansion was a no-go as well. The Governor wasn't at home. No one was at home. One lonely maintenance guy was raking the yard and all the houses in the neighborhood sported Obama signs either on their lawns or in their windows. I'd be preaching to the choir.
No, the cruise ship docks were the biggest bang for my protest buck. Thousands of people from all over the country, maybe world would see me. I had found my audience. I opted for the Holland America dock. It was close to the Red Dog Saloon, a local landmark, and near a series of steps that went from the dock to the street. People would be coming and going. Perfect.
I parked my car by the McDonald's and went to a nearby barber shop to get a haircut. I didn't want to be mistaken for a bum during my protest. I returned to the car pulled my sign out, careful to turn the "message" side toward my leg so no one could read it. I walked down to the dock and sat down on one of a series of wide arching steps that led up to a large platform, then the ship.
I positioned myself on one side of the walkway so as not to impede traffic. I put the sign in front of me and balanced my hands on top. I was ready to take my stand. I promised to keep any conversation on point. I was here to let visitors know that not all Alaskans supported Governor Palin. If pressed I would outline a few of her recent lies as they pertained to earmark spending, Troopergate, Alaska's role as an energy producer and maybe some informative patter about the "Bridge to Nowhere".
From the start people directly and indirectly stared at the sign. I was surprised how many people smiled. There were out-and-out grins, secret tilted-head grins and the little nod-and-grins. Some folks even turned to face me head-on and flashed me a killer smile with a thumbs-up sign. I was also surprised how many folks said "you are brave to do this." As if any minute a black SUV was going to pull up and spirit me away.
I was approached by men and women from all over the USA and the world. A middle-aged couple stopped and told me they were from Wisconsin and that they were voting for Obama. Others really wanted to know about the "lies" and many said they had a "bad feeling about her." A couple from Britain thought her selection to be "ridiculous" and wanted to talk at length about the campaign.
Even a young couple from India joined me, the husband enthusiastically snapping my picture as his wife kneeled behind me saying "this is the first time I have done anything political". The Canadians and Australians were troubled by her selection and glad to see me "standing up to it."
There were also lots of casual rubber-neckers and picture-takers but it wasn't all roses. Some folks were briefly belligerent. The most popular pro-Palin comment I received was "Why don't you have a job?" When I mentioned to one man that I was a small business owner he said "where is your office, on the sidewalk?" Surprisingly none of these guys asked me any other questions. Just a quick insult and back to the ship for the buffet.
The middle-of-the-roaders looked at me and said "all politicians lie." I bet I heard this ten times. It took a while for me to formulate my response, which was "But some lies are more hurtful than others." Later I realized that I sounded just like my grandmother.
Another man, middle-aged in a crisp blue jacket passed me and said "So do you" (as in lie). I don't know why, but I stood up and called back "What did you say?" He stopped, turned around and faced me. He was standing a couple of steps above me which made him about a head taller. I told him that I was only here to express my opinion. He actually apologized and quietly walked away.
Passing cars honked. Taxi drivers gave me the "thumbs-up" sign.
I was having an oddly good time until the vendor from the Kettle Korn stand across the street started yelling at me. At first I thought he was drunk. He was obviously opposed to my being there. "Get out of here before I come over and kick your f****ing ass!" he screamed. "I mean it! I'll come over there and kick your ass!" I didn't really relish the thought of having my ass kicked, but was more afraid this guy would spoil my quiet protest. Of course he also screamed that I should leave "because school kids pass by here." So school kids would be traumatized by my "Palin Lies" sign and not the sight of some popcorn vendor beating the crap out of a mild-mannered protestor. Go figure. He kept it up for about five minutes. The 20-something tour guides working the booths behind me started to yell back at him. I was afraid it might all end in a little battle royal (popcorn flying, ravens circling) right in front of all the tourists. Finally he stopped, although I noticed afterwards that he was filming me with a video camera. Later, I was told that he is a member of a local Evangelical church.
Shortly thereafter, I was accosted by a couple of 60-year old women from somewhere in the South. They quickly grouped me into an unsavory collective "you-all". Suddenly they were quoting Palin's approval rating and Obama's record as America's most liberal senator (reminding me they got their information straight from CNN). They were joined by their husbands and a couple of other tourists. They stood over me and shook their fingers. Did I want to be a socialist? Did I remember Jimmy Carter's administration? Was I really for health care for "all" people? Then they brought out the big gun: "How about Ronald Reagan?" I have to admit at first I was a bit angry, but once Reagan was mentioned I had to laugh. I said something about Reaganomics. More clucking, head shaking and pointing. Finally I defused the situation by asking if they were enjoying their cruise. This seemed to settle everyone down and they walked away with only a small chunk of my butt between their teeth.
I talked with a few more people and decided it was time to go, besides I was starting to get cold. I stood up and headed down the street (opposite the Kettle Korn Stand). I walked less than two blocks when I ran into a group of Veterans for Peace. About ten guys were waving signs and generally having a good time. I flashed my "Palin Lies" sign and got a big cheer and lots of good natured laughs. My morning was complete.
All in all, I'd say about 70% of the folks who saw me were in favor of my little protest (out of probably 200-250 people). My picture was taken about 50 times, and I was featured in a couple videos. I was passed by the local police once and cruised by U.S. Customs once (both probably unrelated). My ass was threatened with a "kicking". My back was patted and my hand was shaken. I was even given a thumbs-down by a 70-year old woman who looked at me, pursed her lips and gave me "the raspberry". I was called a liar, and also called "my hero". So here I am at home poring over the news and thinking... I should go out there again.