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Obama's Campaign is Messing Up My Work

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Is anyone else having this problem?

Barack Obama is messing up my work. In my case, a book. True, I'm not the speediest interviewer/researcher/writer, but after The Thin Man (as my husband fondly refers to him) announced in that topcoat in the land of Lincoln that he was running for president, and after I did some reading about him, never have I more wanted someone to be president than I do the intelligent, rational, compassionate Barack Obama.

As a result, my focus has been fractured. While I write my book, which is about Native Americans in today's America, and which involves interviewing tribal members all over the country, and trying to find funding for the effort, and doing freelance writing and editing -- the Obama campaign hovers. Hovers? Engulfs.

Mid-rewrite of a chapter about a woman who runs a shelter for battered women on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, I thought, anything new in the superdelegate count in Virginia? hit save, then detoured to Google. How often did I make such detours? No more than five times an hour. And by about 11 at night, I stopped, reasoning announcements were over for that day. That is, since I'm on Pacific time, it's 2 a.m. in the states I am following. Then came morning, of course. Another undecided has committed! Then back to Pine Ridge.

Because my husband joined the campaign early, as a member of the National Finance Committee, that led to a sudden invitation to a reception at a San Francisco home - last November -- to meet Obama himself. He bounded in and circulated a while, then in a noteless speech thanked the guests and basically said, we'll need more money. There were only about 25 people in the whole room. Imagine. It seemed to be the last event of his evening, for he lingered, asking me at the dessert table what I suggested. Like that. A few minutes before, he'd approached me - as he did everyone - privately, for a short chat. I was part twittery, part prepared. Um, I have a speech idea, I said at some point. It was about what I perceive as a non-partisan American desire for "reasonableness." He indicated his cherubic assistant Reggie Love - "You see that tall bald black guy over there?" - and said I could give him the information. Um, I have it here, I confessed. I'd typed it and stuck it in the back of the waistband of my slacks, from where I awkwardly dug it out. The envelope was a little damp and wrinkled. Well, he said, I might just as well take it now, and with that put it in his inside jacket pocket, and added a nice thank you.

After I later realized what a rare opportunity this had been, I kicked myself for not touting various things about my husband, for not suggesting Barack mention Native Americans in speeches more often, and so on. I managed to speak with The Thin Man briefly again at a mobbed event my husband co-hosted the next afternoon and apologized, with tied tongue, for previous tied tongue. Oh, that's all right, he said. Don't worry about it. I didn't.

Instead, I worry, or fret, about the campaign. Granted, I've been a bit more useful. I've helped on a couple of occasions with stamping, folding, stuffing my husband's literally thousands of hand-addressed letters to potential donors, made a number of fundraising calls to Obama-supporting strangers, and sent a few emails asking if any friends who were thinking of donating would do so through his link. (If you feel linkless and generous, it's https://donate.barackobama.com/page/contribute/perdue.) I contributed some, too. But mostly I fret.

It helps that, in a wonderful discovery, every friend I've known from junior high (when we and our families were Republicans) to now, from everywhere in the country, was also for Barack, and enthusiastically, from the get go -- with barely one exception. And, although there are many moments of celebration, we are nervous. So we fret. How? Mostly we e-fret.

We have sent one another polling concerns, primary anxieties, campaign worries, YouTube bounces. No alarm escapes us: flag pins, phony hate e mails, the racism behind them, certain other politicians' behavior, the astounding (and semi-successful) cynicism behind the Sarah Palin choice, pre and post debate reactions. Some e-frets come from Native friends, too. A Navajo writes that she hears "some things from my elders about how the conservative Christian churches are calling him the anti-Christ," and because the sources are churches, she doesn't know how to respond. Anti-Christ? What can one say to that?

To be more efficient while fretting, I try to combine my two pressing interests, Obama and Natives. The twain meet, but rarely. When Barack was made an honorary member of the Crow Nation, I fretted whether tribal votes he gained might be offset by tribal votes he might lose; few Native people are unaware that Crow scouts helped Custer. When the Democrat convention in Denver loomed, I considered not joining my husband - the book, after all, and the expense - but then was invited to a Native Caucus at the convention, to hear about Native issues and updates from Obama's Native advisors. I booked a flight.

In these last weeks of the campaign, I try to keep such convergences going. There's a Jicarilla Apache woman I want to interview in Dulce, New Mexico and because New Mexico's a swing state, maybe I could volunteer for the Obama campaign by day, interview by night... Also, a scholar in North Carolina offered to introduce me to Lumbees I want to interview and implied the local Obama campaign could use some help and... Decided: North Carolina it is.

My fretting, in sum, is much more focused. Still. I don't know how other people feel -- that is, other people without steady paychecks, or bailouts -- but when this election is over and the best man wins, I really have to get back to work.

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