I live in a very RED, South Side county in Illinois. In fact, most of Illinois is red, conservative. Except for Cook County which contains within it one of the greatest cities in America – Chicago.
The county I live in about forty minutes outside of Chicago is, dare I say, blood-red.
During the lead-up to the 2008 election I was very cognizant of what the mood was around here. Huge McCain/Palin support rallies took place down the street from me. All attempts to avoid driving past those things proved fruitless as there are only two major streets to use in order to get to the grocery store or gas station. I had to dig deep to avoid flipping the bird to these supporters as I drove by and saw signs that said “Honk if you Hate Obama”. The only campaign signs on the neighbors lawns read “McCain-Palin”, and there were many of them. The view driving down my long, winding street was very much like driving through a field of annoying, red flowers which I was having an allergic reaction to.
I had ordered my “Obama-Biden” swag but as the election drew nearer I still had not received it in the mail. It irritated me. I wanted to put my signs up too even though I fully anticipated wiping farm-fresh eggs off of them daily.
But finally, my order came in…the day before the election. I had ordered “Obama-Biden” buttons too. I have three small sons and was in a hurry to pick them up from afternoon daycare. I put one of the buttons on my coat, forgot about it in my haste and left.
I love the daycare my children attend. I love the people there, am very friendly with them and trust them completely with the care of my kids. I’ve known the caretakers there, and many of the parents, for four years. We’d always had great conversations and genuinely liked each other.
As usual, I walked up to the Director’s desk before getting the kids bundled in their coats. We’d talk about our day, have a few laughs, etc. Only on that day she was…odd. Stand-offish. I just chalked it up to her having a very busy, hectic day. I turned to say hi to a parent, and then turned back to her. That’s when I realized that she was staring at my button. The look of shock on her face was well, shocking. In my head I thought about ignoring it and continuing on with our conversation. But I’ve never been one to ignore, literally, the elephant in the room.
“Ohhh….the button. Are you surprised?” I asked lightly with a laugh.
“Um, yes, I guess I am.” she replied.
“Really? Why? I know we’ve never really talked about politics or anything, but I kind of just assumed from what you know about me that I am pretty Liberal.”
“Well, I don’t know…it does shock me I guess. I never really pegged you for a Democrat. Do you really LIKE Obama?”
“Ha!” I retorted. “Yeah, I’ve been a Liberal my whole life. Really Liberal. And yeah, I like Obama a lot. Are you going to kick my kids out of here now?” I again asked with a lilt.
“Oh, no. No, come on. I’m just kind of shocked that’s all. Everyone’s got their own beliefs, that’s what it’s all about… I guess.” She said half-heartedly.
“Yeah, we’re a real melting-pot, huh? Okay, well I’m going to get the kids now. See you later!”
End scene. Wow. Tension. It threw me. It really did. I felt off my game. And I very rarely feel off my game. As I walked throughout the building retrieving my three boys I began to notice the other stares I was getting from people. As if I were moving in slow-motion. Looks of incredulity. It was fascinating. It was if I had walked in there naked, with a bullhorn, shouting “Hey, piss off people! You suck and I’m an idiot!” That’s what their looks on their faces seemed to convey, but maybe I was just so weirded out at that point that I interpreted them that way. I doubt it though.
It took a good couple of weeks after the election for things to return to “normal” between me and the people there, but they did. Sort of. We never mentioned the election or its outcome and never mentioned the scarlet letter “O” that they had clearly seen emblazoned on my chest. However, I’m pretty sure in the backs of their minds they are still shaking their heads…tsk-tsking me….sighing heavily, not understanding how they could actually like me, but liking me none-the-less. See I never had that emotion. I assumed that all of them were very conservative, wrongly or not. But I don’t think it ever occurred to them that anyone would walk in there proudly wearing blue.
Then again, I’m a die-hard Cubs fan. Wait’ll they find THAT out. That’s when I’m really screwed.