Thursday, December 14, 2017
Politics

Across the city, RNC shows how far apart we are

Could there be a more telling picture of how far apart we are than the two opposite sides of this city during Monday's RNC rain delay?

As dark clouds gathered from the storm that somehow missed us, protesters drifted in to a grafittied urban skate park in the shadow of the interstate. Thinner in numbers than predicted, they did not lack variety in cause: gray haired ladies in pink with signs that said keep your laws off our private parts, anti-war activists, earnest students, the hard-core disenfranchised. A scruffy bearded guy rode his bike in slow circles. "Revolution day, dude," he said. "Revolution."

You could make fun, if you were so inclined, but you could not doubt their sincerity.

And you could not tell someone like Darnella Wade to get a job.

She is sitting under a table to get out of the rain, reading and waiting for the speeches to start. She rode from Minnesota 23 hours in a van to get here, part of a group called the Welfare Rights Committee that advocates for children, the working poor, immigrants — "usually, the ones they attack," she says.

"If they could bail out the banks, they can bail out the people," she says. "I just think it's a better country if we take care of ourselves."

Working poor is what she considers herself, a personal care attendant to the elderly and disabled for $11.50 an hour, buying groceries and doing their laundry, reading to them, bathing and dressing them. And when this week ends in much pomp and circumstance, and an official Republican candidate, do not look for Darnella Wade, because she will be back at work.

Nearby, someone is making a speech that somehow involves the current state of politics and a tapeworm, and I am on my way across town to see what the RNCers are up to on their unscheduled day off.

Between the two camps, the streets are quiet and the police presence a little disconcerting. They travel in packs dressed in khaki with various strappings of black. "Ghostbusters," an out-of-town cameraman called them, which is also appropriate because the RNC and the storm made it more ghost town than downtown.

The closer I get the more the dress code changes, less Hefty bag raincoat, more Hermes tie. Well-dressed women have resorted to sensible flats for weather and terrain, though I see not one but two pair of high-heeled navy-and-white spectator pumps, as patriotic, traditional and Republican a shoe as it gets.

On this day we could divide the world (or at least the city) into haves and have-nots. Luxurious boats docked on the pretty channel behind the Marriott Waterside don't even fake modesty. They are named things like My Reward, and, not making this up, Filthy Rich. Also not making this up: I see a tall, blond poodle sporting a red-white-and-blue scarf at the collar giving the eye to a good-looking K-9 police dog on the job.

By now I am rain-soaked and footsore and dressed more like a protester than anyone on this end of town. Still, when I drop my cell phone, a half-dozen strangers scramble to pick it up for me.

So this is what it looks like from opposite sides of the city, them and us, whichever you claim, whether you are here to unseat a president or tell the world that the way things are is not okay with you. We are all of us on the edge of something important. Revolution day, dude.

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