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Comments by YACCS
Thursday, July 29, 2004

How I spent Monday in Boston

Boston Herald shirt, Boston Globe in hand

When I woke up on Monday, after a few hours sleep on my sister's couch, I stared at the TV and posted to the site over a dialup connection. It was not fun, but it was the only way to get online. Once you have DSL, going back sucks. Once you have wireless, DSL sucks. And here I was at the beginning. Dialing in to MSN. I thought the days of having a dial up account to go online went the way of floppy disks.

But what I saw on TV was interesting. Competing talking heads at various sites around the Hub, as Bostonians call their city, and with good reason. It is a hub. It took me a couple of hours to get going. Mainly because I was waiting for my nephew to wake up. He works Tuesday-Saturday, and Sunday is a day off. We'd spent the day running around, shopping, and then came back. My sister, who works two jobs, doesn't cook much any more, since her boys are 16 and 25. They can order in like everyone else.

I had Dunkin Donuts, because that IS a good New England breakfast. With coffee. Always with coffee.

Then, we went to the Cambridgeside Galleria. Why? To get lunch. Now, you're probably wondering why we didn't go to some kind of trendy Cambridge restaurant or something. Well, I wanted to go to the mall, for one thing. And my nephew works with teens, a job he's great at and will, one day, translate into a teaching job. He worked in business, but he liked kids better. And doesn't much like Bush. Like most black people. So after we ate lunch, he went back into the city and I walked around Cambridge.

The Rock the Vote Bus outside the Cambridge Galleria br />Steve

What I saw there was a voter registration drive working the kids over from Rock the Vote. Miles from the Fleet Center, miles from the so-called action, there was an active outreach campaign, with minority kids pinholing people, asking them if they were registered to vote.

Card handed out in GOTV drive

Rock the Vote tent outside Cambridge Galleria

The mall also had a wireless hotspot, so I worked there for a while. Then it was off to Harvard Square. First, I took a cab to Kendall Square, heart of MIT. Well, it was pretty dull. Then, on to Central Sq, which is betwee the two schools, where I had a 7-11 Chili dog to break a $20. I also bought the Boston Herald, where I read several unhinged articles on the Convention. One reciting GOP talking points. What was amazing was the schizophrenia of the paper, saying Massachusetts wasn't liberal but calling for health care reform. I tossed it in the trash.

I saw a few delegates riding up to Harvard Sqaure. But they were mingling with the locals. Which was important to see. The whole vibe was calm, and the security didn't go as far north as Harvard. There was a button seller doing good business outside the T stop. I wish I had taken a sharper picture, but between them and the Falun Gong protesters, they were the extent of political activism outside Harvard. There were symposiums there, but mostly, it was a cool summer day, where I gathered up my strength (I was lugging my laptop) and people watched. Which is something everyone should do. Not for random reasons, but it allowed me to see various groups of delegates wandering around. Not too many hippies, a lot of professionals, obviously. But they seemed connected, purposeful.

Then it was back on the Red Line to Park Street. When I came out, there were maybe 10-15 MP's including an officer and an Air Force sergeant. Which was insane. There was a couple of protesters, but nothing big. I had missed the big Sunday rally of 150 protesters.

Man protesting, facing clump of MP's

What you'd see outside the Fleet Center is a protest movement with little real energy. Not because they love John Kerry, but because they absolutely hate Bush. The protesters are the typical crunchy sorts, for the most part. The Black Tie folks have a little more energy, but the way Boston set it up, they can be blissfully ignored.

The front says Grassroots Democrats

The one big protest was the anti-abortion rally with the hypocritical teen girls leaving chalk grafitti behind. It's nice to see young people so dogmatic about an issue they haven't faced yet.

Free transport to the DNC

Downtown Crossing had the LaRouche culties, who I suspect were paid workers, holding up signs. Of course, Boston had help tables with convention workers and MBTA employees assisting delegates and random people, like me. What I noticed was that there were more people shopping than usual on a weekday in Boston. Mostly because it was shut down.

La Rouche workers in Downtown Crossing

I then got on the Orange line to Haymarket, which puts you off two blocks from North Station. For some reason, the distance was supposedly a hike, when it was a short walk, maybe five minutes. Bostonians and their directions. Then the security increased. There were cops in dumptrucks, used as barriers, along with concrete barriers. But the police presence wasn't heavy or obnoxious. They were cracking jokes in that wiseass way common in Boston. As I charged up my dying digital camera off of my laptop, I noticed delegates walking up and down the largely empty street.

Empty street near convention center

A lot of women, young guys in ties and khakis. What I realized was that most of these people were the same kind of student government types you hated, if you had any sense, in high school. The same earnest faces, disconnected from brutal reality, willing to suck up to anyone willing help them. This doens't mean they're bad people, but they are not risk takers. After all, what kind of 25 year old wants to do politics. The kind that can't be trusted, of course.

The protesters were pretty ineffectual, mostly because their anger had been sapped. The delegates didn't have time for their fringy nonsense, the press didn't care, and the protesters were not serious.

However, I was impressed with Planned Parenthood's button and sticker effort. Young women, mostly the just out of college set, were walking around approaching everyone but me and handing them stuff. Only after I had left the area, did they hand me a sticker.

At the end of the street, there were three fat guys blathering about how great Bush was. This tall young woman started shouting, mostly to be heard, that her brother had served in Iraq. When she asked one of the clowns if he was a vet, he avoided the question, like all blowhards do. But it was an amazingly civil conversation. No one lost their cool, but then the girl had made her point.

Civil protest with fat, right wing wackos

There something you should never forget about a convention, especially a Democratic convention, is that it really does look like America. The blacks and hispanics aren't tokens, and they aren't ignorant and poor. It is the American middle class in action. Rational, sane people, and very few of the Greens or hippies in action. Even the kids dress seriously. It is rote, to some degree, but it is also important, if no other reason, to remind ourselves of what democracy should be.

After spending an hour watching the people, I walked back towards Faneuil Hall. I was going to hop the train, but it was four blocks away, a distance any respectable New Yorker would walk. For some insane reason, the security increased. There was another clump of MP's, and ninja-suited SWAT of the state and federal variety. SWAT team guys sitting around looking bored. MP's lookig bored. On the way back, I walked by the Holocaust memorial, which is scary effective. Steam rises from the ground into five chiminies with the name of the five Nazi extermination camps. A family speaking Hebrew stopped by as I sat down. As memorials go, it's low key, even striking in its simplicity. You might even pass it by in search of a lobster dinner. But I noticed two gray haired white women dressed in black robes. They were Buddhists from the Pioneer Valley, and their vigil was touching, even if the delegates pretty much ignored it. They were people in a hurry, and these women were not.

Anonymous security goons shoving people out of the way so the famous could appear on Hardball. I did see Ron Reagan sitting on the set outside Qunicy Market wiht David Gergen, but by that time, I was wiped out and full from my lobster roll and chowder dinner. So I sat down. And delegates, two Naval officers and kids doing some more VR stuff were around.

The actual delegates were geeky, wonky, whatever adjective you want. The activists, especially the young ones, were energetic, well as energetic as one could be in what was a very calm, relaxed environment. The best shirt of the day was worn by these two girls, which said "Bitches Vote". As I walked to the State Street station to go home and catch the speeches, I saw even more MP's and as I turned down the block, there was a line of motorcycle cops standing around looking as bored as all the other cops, but without access to brownies and coffee like the Boston SWAT and federal cops.

My day ended, and loaded down with cheap books and loose leaf tea, I went back to my sister's place to struggle with the dial up and watching the speeches.

If I have any conclusions, I'll draw two personal ones and save the critque for Friday, when I've read more sites. One, I am so glad, and grateful I was able to walk around Boston. I've done politics and it so easy to get sucked in the machine, and not see what you need to see with your eyes. Th DNC want people focused in the hall, not outside it. They want you to stay in a cocoon of parties and events, and avoid the Boston people live in. It's just the latest stop on the campaign road show. Instead, I did what I knew I wanted to do, which is see the city beyond the Fleet Center. What surprised me was that I seem to be the only person bothering to do so.

The other is that Boston screwed up. They made people scared, shoved the locals away, bought into the Homeland Security trip and then lost money. Security, as I said before, is important. But, seeing bored cops eat brownies doesn't scare suicidal jihadis much. If this is the security state, it isn't going to make us very secure.

posted by Steve @ 3:28:00 AM

3:28:00 AM

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