Me of little faith

Barack Obama speech

Barack Obama gave his stump speech before a field of thousands at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Barack Obama gave his stump speech before a field of thousands at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Photo By Brian Burghart

Remember to vote on Nov. 4.

I have, as a matter of course, avoided all the live presidential and vice presidential and pseudo presidential speeches. I don’t mean just this time around, I mean my entire career. I’ve interviewed top-tier politicians, and honest to god, I have been fooled by more candidates than I could ever hope to count. I’m not what you’d call gullible, but I can think of many, many times that I’ve fallen for a bald-faced lie. And I can fall for pretty words every bit as quickly as I can fall for a pretty face.

But I’ve been noticing a different feeling around the community about Barack Obama. Even in the aging and cynical, I’ve noticed a different way of talking about the candidate. I don’t have to kid anyone about my objectivity; we endorsed him last week, and I came up with the cover concept this week. I definitely prefer him to the alternatives. But I’ve noticed words used to describe the man that give me pause, and I’ll bet a lot of people out there get a little nervous when a politician asks the electorate to have “faith.”

And so, conflating the notions of politics and faith, Hunter and I decided to drag our butts out of bed at 6:15 a.m. to see whether a political rally could be compared to a religious service on a real level. And you know what? It can. Easily. Not because of the individuals at the top, but because of the congregation.

Frankly, I guess I should not have been surprised at the amount of fanaticism, I witnessed at Peccole Park. I was a little surprised at some of the petty jealousies I saw among volunteers, the outright lack of helpfulness, the harassing proselytizing.

But that wasn’t from the candidate. He gave a perfectly reasoned, political speech that did not venture into the areas I expected it to. The only mention of God I noticed was in the last line, as in “God bless you, and God bless America.” I never heard the word “faith,” but I can think of quite a few times I heard the word “believe,” and they weren’t in the context of Obama asking listeners to believe in him, but his belief in the listeners: “I believe that we can steer ourselves out of this crisis because I believe in this country, because I believe in you. I believe in the American people.”

And isn’t that an inspiring thought? That the people could steer themselves out of a crisis without divine help. For a minute I found myself being fooled again—despite the volunteers, the candidate’s snotty representatives who saw fit to question my press credentials and who said Hunter’s presence was “awkward” when they decided they wanted the spot on the lawn he’d occupied for an hour before they decided it was theirs by right of their “volunteer” tags.

But it was not until we were within a stone’s throw of our car that I realized the trap of fanaticism, when I was approached by one more group of out-of-state volunteers who wanted to know whether I’d voted early, and when I said I hadn’t, began haranguing me about my own personal choice.

I believe that out-of-state volunteers who encourage early voting without working toward informing those same voters on local issues undermine democracy. They, like many fanatics, only care about themselves and don’t care about how they affect our community.

That these political fanatics got angry at me because of my personal belief that the local voters should get all the information they need before they go to the polls restored my trembling lack of faith in politics.