Thursday, October 30, 2008

Knocking on Doors for Obama, Part II

Last weekend's canvass highlighted the class divide of 21st century America all too gamely. First stop was a trailer park, one of the four or so that hang by a thread in my town, surrounded by middle class subdivisions. This park was predominantly white, but decidedly downscale. It was a strange mix, as mobile home communities often are. One street might be all relatively well-attended homes, while the next could look like some distillation of Appalachia (albeit higher density). Some of the people I talked to were living in abject squalor. Most everyone had at least two dogs. Some of them were pit bulls.

There were Obama supporters here in Desolation Row: a woman on disability for whom I arranged a ride to the polls (she had no transportation). A biker couple. A lesbian roofer who told me the general sentiment of most of her neighbors was "What a choice. A n****r or an old old man." But no one would take an Obama sign for their yard. "Things get too weird here sometimes, " my roofer friend told me. Other residents just wanted to talk about their situations. The impossibility of making ends meet on a take home pay of $250 per week.

Sunday brought me to one of the vintage areas of my community. The kind of subdivisions that preceded today's fortress neighborhoods with single gated entrances manned by uniformed security men who demand photo ID (earlier that day I tried bluffing my way into ones of those, too, but failed). Custom houses on one or two acre lots, some at least 40 years old. Long driveways and, frequently, electronic gates with intercom systems. The McCain signs outnumbered the Obama, but here, too, were pockets of support.

My favorite moment: couple leaving their house and heading for their car just as I started up their driveway. I called out my spiel long distance. The man of the house waves me off with a shake of his head. "I'm not voting for him," he says gruffly. His wife, invisible behind him, silently points to herself, shakes her head in assent, mouths the words "But I am," then flashes me a thumbs up.

The last three houses I passed as I exited the neighborhood were empty. One of them, surrounded by a 6' concrete wall, looked to be at least 6000 sq. ft. The wrought iron gate was broken, spider webs shimmering across the ornate tips of the bars. The weeds in the yard were as tall as the wall. All were in foreclosure.

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