I live in Southern Village, which if any of you have been paying REAL close attention, you will know that is the new urban development where the John Edwards for President campaign is located. Having volunteered at a few events, I know a couple people up at the office, so it is inevitable that you will bump into them on the village square. Maybe at the Mom & Pop bookstore, or the pizza place, the sports bar under the campaign office, or the organic co-op at the corner next to the Methodist church.
Which is exactly what happened the other day as I was running into Weaver Street (the co-op) and noticed Congressmen David Bonior walking outside about to eat his lunch. I was late for work after a morning appointment, but I had to stop and introduce myself and say how sorry I was to hear about the letter scare. I then excused myself, grabbed some sushi to go and ran out the door. But, the bus was not in my future.
This is the one time of day when the bus has a 40 minute gap in coverage. So, I walked back up to Weaver Street to grab a cup of coffee and some chopsticks to eat my lunch. As i was walking by, the Congressmen asked me if I wanted to join him. I was thrilled to, but told him I understood he might want some quiet time, nonsense I was told. Excellent.
Now, what might a hardcore political addict and blogger talk about with a cornered Congressmen who is Campaign Director for his favorite Presidential Candidate. Well, NOT John Edwards. At least, not directly.
You see, before I could even get a question out, Rep. Bonior began to ask me about where I grew up, where I went to college, what I did, did I have kids, family, etc. A very personable man, a very good conversationalist, in an era when conversation is almost a dead art form. Well, it didn't take long before I launched into how I FEEL for the people of North Carolina, those who have lost their careers, their salaries, their income, their future because the textile mills have closed down and moved overseas. See, I grew up in Pennsylvania in the 1970s, and by the time I was old enough to WANT things and to WANT to do things, the mines had shut down. There were years of odd jobs to meet the bills, there were real, artificial "pleather" sneakers from Payless Shoe Source, there were jeans with pockets sewed-shut from Value City Department Store, and there was rice and beans and casseroles and Generic Groceries. But, not many jobs.
It took years for my family to get BACK to where we had been, never again ahead of where they had been, but back to start. Now, I see the same thing happening in North Carolina, the mills moving overseas for profit and the people being left behind. Mill work couldn't be an easy life to start with, much like mining. But, when it is gone, life gets MUCH harder, that I can guarantee.
So it was, that I sat with a man who represented Michigan while the auto industry took hit after hit after hit and blue-collar workers lost their jobs at record paces; and, I discussed my upbringing during the time in Pennsylvania's history when Coal went from King to Relic; and, I discussed the history of OUR candidate, who grew up in and around those textile mills that were now closing. And, I was reminded of a conversation I had with my Dad in 2004, about John Edwards.
I remember telling him that he should change his party affiliation for the Pennsylvania primary and vote for John Edwards, as my mother, a Southern Dem, would be doing. He, being contrary, asked why in the world he would do that, even though he was sick to death of George Bush and WOULD come to vote for Kerry/Edwards in November. I relayed to him the life story of John Edwards, of how he had grown up in a working class family that could barely make ends meet, of how his dad had gotten ahead in the mills and they had moved into solid middle-class ground, how he had been the first in his family to go to college and grad school (much like my brother and I were). If you can't trust someone who has lived the same life as you have, who can you trust?
He, being contrary, questioned whether a man who was now a millionaire would have the same values.
I responded, "Do you honestly think, that if I had gone to law school, become a trial lawyer, made some money, and ran for President...do you honestly think I'd ever forget what it was like living through that?"
He, being contrary, but a realist, said "No, I reckon not."
That, in the parlance of my central PA upbringing, is why John Edwards is my candidate. Why he will always be my candidate, and why I will be happy to call him my President.
Will he forget how he was raised? No, I reckon not.
Will he forget what it was like to struggle to pay the bills, buy groceries, and keep the house lit? No, I reckon not.
Will he forget the sweat it takes to earn an unlivable minimum wage? No, I reckon not.
Will he fight for profits instead of people? No, I reckon not.
Will he forget?
No, I reckon not.