It was Saturday, the end of October, and as beautiful as an autumn afternoon in Chicago can be. As we approached the event, with the cheers from the crowds in Grant Park fading in, I felt excitement. I was going to be a part of something fun, even historic; I was about to feel a connection to the Big Rally in Washington DC, and proudly lend my support along with my hometown revelers.
There was a Jumbo TV with a live broadcast from the Rally in the Capitol. The crowd around me laughed and cheered as our comedic heroes addressed both crowds....DC and Chicago. The former Cat Stevens sang "Peace Train", and I was hit with a wave of nostalgia for my laid-back days in Iowa City, (when the song was ever-present), mixed with unspoken feelings of fellowship with college students, staunch liberals, and hundreds of regular, practical people along with their kids, their dogs, their costumes and their placards.
Mark and I wanted to share this experience with our brothers and sisters in Chicago as well as in the Capitol. We wanted our presence to contribute to a grand statement that would move people to vote, convinced that we stood with truth and civility, backdropped by some of the strongest and most beautiful architecture in the world.
Then, just as the O'Jays (another College favorite) were about to perform "Love Train", the audio was cut. A droning emcee made some meaningless announcements, and over the mild protests of the crowd, introduced a lame comedian as "entertainment", while the TV tantalized us with significant goings-on that we could not hear. The comic sensed his unwelcome, but pushed on with a tasteless monologue, something about comparing abortion with the making of a cheese sandwich.
When he finally wrapped and left the stage, we were subjected to more announcements, and introduced to the next "guest", an actor playing FDR complete with wheelchair. As the crowd's protests grew louder and sustained, a woman's amplified voice (I thought for a moment that Oprah was there, and that it was all a joke, but alas, no) screamed at us that we were being rude, that if we wanted to watch TV we should have stayed the hell home, and that if anyone continued, they would be escorted from the grounds.
I wanted to cry with embarrassment and disappointment. Scores of people left in protest.
Without the rally in Washington, there would have been no event in Chicago; and without a connection to that rally through a simulcast, few would have showed up in Grant Park. What was supposed to have been a fun and energizing event in Chicago alienated a whole lot of people and destroyed their good will.
We soon left too, but the day wasn't lost. We got some good photos, especially of a couple friendly dogs; attended a preview of the Chagall Windows exhibit at the Art Institute; and saw a wonderfully reflective French film at the Gene Siskel Film Center, called "Hideaway" (or, in France, "Refuge").
Best of all, we secured tickets to see "Billy Elliott" once more before it's untimely end-run in November. Actually, that show can do more, to energize our electorate, than being scolded for wanting to watch our comedic heroes on a TV that was, after all, set up at great pains for that very reason.
If only Dogs ran government.