In 1974 Michael Dukakis was elected as the governor of Massachusetts. That year,
thousands of miles away, on the opposite coast of our great nation, I was born. Little
did either of us know that 13 years later we would come face to face.
I was raised in a small, obscure religious community in which protesting was a regular
thing. We weren't like other churches. I knew kids who went to Sunday school while
their parents sang a few songs and listened to the pastor talk about Jesus and love and
being kind to one another. Then they went home and forgot about God for the rest of
the week. But not us. We were perpetually reminded of Him, and we were always
doing His work, much of which consisted of protesting at local abortion clinics.
As an adult, I have tried to make amends for some of these activities. However, my
paltry monthly contribution to Planned Parenthood can hardly make up for the many
times we stood outside one of their clinics holding picket signs and passing out
pamphlets. Though I wasn't allowed to pass out the pamphlets at that age, I was
allowed to hold a sign that said "Overturn Roe v. Wade" or "Abortion: The Ultimate Child
Abuse." I always wanted to hold the sign that had the picture of the aborted fetus. That
was a popular sign. But usually one of the older boys got there first.
Protesting was a part of everyday life. My mother kept a stash of little plastic fetus dolls
in her purse, about the size of an apricot, just in case we saw a pregnant woman at the
supermarket who might be considering aborting her baby. I'm not sure how my mother
knew, but she just did.
Though abortion seemed to be our most important cause, my mother did happily take
on little side projects. I would often find her outside my elementary school handing
out flyers on the evils of Dungeons and Dragons. It was a little embarrassing, but I suppose she needed to pass the time somehow while she was waiting to pick up our
One Saturday afternoon, a bunch of us kids and adults piled into a minivan and headed
downtown to William Land Park. Usually, a visit to this park would involve seeing the
animals at the Sacramento Zoo or walking the Crooked Mile at Fairytale Town. But this
was a different kind of visit. We were on a subversive mission to openly harass
presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.
I didn't know much about politics at the time. I did know, however, that Michael Dukakis
was a Democrat, and Democrats were the enemy. Democrats supported things like
abortion and letting in anyone who wanted into the United States from Mexico.
Dukakis was visiting William Land Park. I don't know why he wasn't visiting the state capital,
which was only a mile or so away. But we found ourselves in an open grassy part of the
park, amidst a huge crowd of Democrats. There were television cameras and
microphones, and people held signs and wore buttons that said "Dukakis-Bentsen '88."
But we had not worn any of our buttons or brought any of our picket signs. We were
trying to blend in with the Democrats. One of the men had called this "the Lord's sneak
Vicky, one of the women in our group, struck up a polite conversation with one of the
female Democrats. Vicky complimented her blouse. The woman was flattered.
David, the man who dubbed this "the Lord's sneak attack," came up to me and put a
heavy hand on my shoulder. "I need you to do something for me," he said. "You know what he
looks like, right?"
I did. Sort of. I had seen his picture on one of our picket signs, but it had been circled
in red and had a slash through it.
"When Dukakis comes this way," he continued, "I need you to yell, 'Dukakis supports abortion up to the third trimester!'"
Something caught in the pit of my stomach. I was terrified. I didn't know what a
trimester was. But I did know that if I didn't do it, I would be in big trouble, not only with
David but probably with God as well.
I saw him coming toward us, smiling for the cameras and shaking hands. I panicked. I
knew the time was coming. I had to yell, and it had to be now.
It was as if someone took over my body, maybe the Holy Spirit itself. I called out in a
shrill tone, "Dukakis supports abortion to the third trimester!"
A few Democrats glanced in my direction. The woman who had been talking to Vicky
stared at me in horror. And then she looked at Vicky. This woman suddenly knew why
we were here. And she clearly felt betrayed about her blouse.
As Dukakis approached the area where we stood, the world erupted around me.
Everyone in our group was shouting out things like "murderer" and "child abuser" and
calling out facts and figures that I didn't understand. But I did understand suddenly that
I'd called out too early. I'd forfeited our position, and possibly given the enemy a chance
to avoid us altogether. I'd almost ruined the Lord's sneak attack.
Dukakis moved on. But the yelling continued. The Democrats were yelling back at us,
calling us names like "Bible thumpers" and "fanatics" -- and worse things, words that I
would never repeat.
On the way home, I sat in the back seat of the minivan. David drove. Vicky rode in
passenger seat. I wondered when it would come, when David would talk about my
mistake, my transgression, how I'd almost ruined the Lord's work.
Finally he just said, "We did good today, guys. Really good. And He is pleased."
I didn't seem to be in trouble with David. But I couldn't help but wonder if I was in
trouble with Him.