Berning in Philly: Thank You, Senator Sanders.
“Activism is my rent for living on the planet.” ~ Alice Walker
I am a die-hard political activist and proud of it. I’ve always been somewhat involved in politics, social issues and volunteering as part of my civic and moral duties.
I’ve worked on various local and presidential campaigns, but nothing prepared me for the fire and passion ignited in me and thousands of other by Sen. Bernie Sanders.
I was a fan of Bernie’s long before he became the Progressive hero/icon that he now is. But this past 18 months of working on his campaign has been a roller coaster of emotions. I fully invested myself in it 24 hours a day. I’d wake up in the morning ready to do my part to spread his message, and many nights I’d go to sleep thinking of Bernie and what more I could do the next day.
Some days I’d be so berning up that there were times I was close to a bern-out, and needed to take a breather to recharge so I could be the warrior activist I needed to be. It consumed my life, but I wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
As a barely known Independent Senator from Vermont, what he has achieved in this past 18 months has been nothing short of miraculous.
He raised more money than his opponent, from small donations from millions of people. He attracted young people and the young at heart to rallies all around the country in unprecedented numbers.
In my lifetime, there has never been a politician with such high integrity, humility, morals, and enduring commitment to truth, justice and compassion.There’s never been a candidate who spoke out about civil rights, human rights, women’s rights and gay rights before it became the popular and politically expedient thing to do. There’s never been a candidate who walked his talk for decades, even when no one was paying attention.
Until Now. Until Bernie.
We all knew his Presidential campaign was a long shot going up against the political power machine and corporate media that tried to obstruct him all the way. But he came close, with almost 12 million voters (many whose votes never got counted).
But that part of his journey, and mine, has come to an end. Like millions of his supporters, I am filled with a torrent of mixed emotions — anger, pride, joy, frustration, disillusionment, and gratitude.
I knew many months ago that I had to be here in Philadelphia for the DNC Convention, whether Bernie was the nominee or not. I knew it would be historical, and after working hard for Bernie for the past 18 months, being here with my people — my Bernie people — is the culmination of everything I believed in and fought for.
Whether online or in person, I have met so many exceptional, passionate, involved and evolved people from all walks of life. So to be here in Philadelphia, marching, protesting, crying and supporting each other is exactly what we all needed.
Monday, my first day here protesting and marching, was one of the most memorable moments of my life. Many thousands of us gathered at City Hall, where we shared stories, poster slogans, buttons and t-shirts. In one corner outside the Hall, a group of Green Party supporters were preparing for the march, with giant green banners in hand. Close by them, a group of Black Lives Matter activists were being fired up by my other political hero, Dr. Cornel West.
And then the police opened the barriers, and we began to march. I did not plan this, but as I started to walk with my Bernie and DemExit sign in each hand, I saw that I was walking right behind Bro. Cornel. And that’s where I stayed for the whole 2.5-mile walk from City Hall to FDR Park. We walked in high heat and intense humidity, but all I could think was, “I’m marching alongside one of my greatest heroes, and I’ll never forget this.”
I imagined how it must have felt to march for Civil Rights in the 60’s, and I cried as the sweat from the humidity poured down my face.
We chanted, we sang, we were drenched in sprinklers every few blocks, and handed cold water and cold towels to cool us down. I walked amidst people of all colors, ethnicities, sexual orientation, ages and faith (including atheists), all of us fighting together for basic human rights, ignited by Bernie’s leadership, and all of us feeling the love and a natural high.
Once we reached FDR Park, we were welcomed by more protesters who had been awaiting our arrival. But once I saw the green grass and a tree in the shade, the exhaustion from the heat and the long walk kicked in. I lay on the ground and looked at my battered, bruised feet and bleeding toenail. I hadn’t felt the pain during the march — I was too high for that. But now I could barely stand up. I recovered shortly as I was too exhilarated to let pain keep me down.
My heart was overflowing with such a tidal wave of incredible love that I truly felt as if I might burst with joy. So many good, decent people coming together not just for Bernie the man, but for the Movement, for the Revolution. Bernie always told us it’s about Us, Not Me. It was a love-fest unlike I’ve ever experienced before.
And then as I sat under the shady tree, waiting for Jill Stein of the Green Party to speak, a group of homophobic Jesus freaks approached us screaming through a loudspeaker. They held up signs saying that God will punish us all (especially liberal Berners), that homosexuality is a sin, and that Judgment Day is coming. They screamed the same filth at us, but rather than yell back, a young woman and I decided that a simple action speaks louder than words.
So hand in hand we went up in front of them, embraced each other, and tenderly kissed. We were cheered and jeered, but it’s all good.
Afterwards, there was thunder and lightning and pouring rain as I made the mile-long trek back to the crowded subway station. But I laughed and held my arms out to the sky and gave thanks for a perfect and unforgettable day.
Yesterday we marched with the Black Men for Bernie March, and protesters roared outside the Convention Center, while Bernie delegates and supporters actually stood up and left the hall in protest and disgust.
And when Hillary Clinton was officially nominated by the DNC last night, all of us felt our hearts and dreams pummeled. We will rise again, but we needed to grieve and mourn together.
Today is my last day here in Philadelphia. There is nothing more to protest right now. Without a doubt, I believe Bernie Sanders would have been one of the greatest Presidents that ever lived. I am scared of what awaits this country. Bernie has changed me — made me feel more alive, and infinitely more awake. He will continue as the most beloved, trusted and popular Senator in the nation. He will continue to speak out for the working class and the underdog. He will always be my hero, and I hope I get to tell him that in person one day.
But for now, I need to rest, and rest some more. And then when my warrior activist energy has been revitalized, I will follow Bernie’s lead the best way I can. Thank you, Bernie Sanders, from the depth of my heart.
I love you.
Angela Paul is an author, model, speaker and life coach whose main focus is on relationships, marriage, life transitions and graceful aging. Her most recent book, The Beauty of Aging: A Woman’s Guide to Joyful Living, inspires and empowers women of all ages to fearlessly embrace the wisdom and beauty of aging. Angela was born and raised in Yorkshire, England, lived in Tokyo for many years and currently resides in Los Angeles. She is a long time meditator of over 30 years, travels extensively and spends as much time as she can at the beach in Malibu. A lover of solitude and nature Angela considers herself to be a Highly Sensitive Person who also joyfully exhibits occasional shades of a wild extrovert. She rarely Tweets, but you can follow her on Facebook or check out her website.