We came to the state capital of New York–for Bernie–and also because we had never been to Albany despite passing it hundreds of times. We’d always marveled at the historic buildings as we sped by on the Thruway, but suspected the city itself wasn’t as nice inside. (We were wrong.)
On Saturday, just ahead of the NY Democratic Primary, we rallied on the Capitol Lawn and marched through the historic district. I bet there were close to a thousand of us–spanning a dozen city blocks.
My favorite part of the march, beyond the honks and cheers from the passersby, was the moment a woman in a painters cap, leaned out of a third story window and cheered us along, shaking the tool in her hand: “Down with corporate greed. Down with corporate greed!”
When we turned from the residential area onto a commercial street, we walked past a Firestone center, whose uniformed employees stopped to watch us go by.
“Are you guys earning $15 an hour?” my husband asked.
One replied: “I wouldn’t get out of bed for $15!”
Toward the end of the march, a man stepped in beside me, asking how long we’d been marching, and if there had been any good speakers at the rally, and what did they say that inspired me. I was struck by this young man’s interest, until I realized that he couldn’t be so young–he was a professor at SUNY, with a doctorate from Berkeley, and a focus on participatory democracy.
I shared some of the words from one particular speech that drew me toward the front of the rally to get a look at who was speaking–another “young” man, a volunteer, in ripped jeans and a long sleeve t-shirt:
“I’d like to thank Bernie Sanders for having the guts to be the leader of a movement that many people have given up hope on… “
“Leaders are people who have the values of honesty, integrity, courage, passion, and compassion. Progressive leaders take those values and apply them in everything they do, not just when it becomes popular …”
The professor thanked me, and went ahead to join the canvassing, while we took a seat on a park bench, feeling the weight of our legs and the day.
An elderly man approached us, and I assumed he was asking for money.
“You’re for Bernie?” he said, “He’ll never make it.”
I looked up to see Make America Great Again on his red baseball cap.
“I hope Hillary wins,” he added, “Trump will eat her alive.”
We argued over whether Trump was sexist. Over his character. Over his success as a businessman.
We found out that the man lived in Albany; and he found out that we were visiting his town for the first time.
He had protested the Viet Nam War. His social security check hadn’t been raised in years. He liked Bernie’s position on trade.
My 15-year-old and he picked up the argument about raising minimum wage.
“There won’t be any more items on the Dollar Menu,” he hissed, “There are only a few things left.”
I thought of the first Trump supporter I had ever seen. A veteran in a wheel chair in an Indie book store in a progressive town. My heart ached.
“Have a good weekend in the city,” he said.
“It was nice meeting you and talking with you,” we said.
By the time he got to the next bench, he was yelling and being yelled at. He scuttled away.
On our way back to our hotel, we saw him again. We watched as he crossed Washington Street and stood at the bus stop. A McDonald’s bag in his hand.