Monday, February 22, 2016

The Bern

 The Bern
By Cindy A. Matthews
Photos by Adrian Matthews

(Note: This is not your typical piece about a Bernie Sanders rally, religiously citing the main points of his stump speech. I’m assuming you’ve watched a few of his rallies online at Bernie2016TV or even the one or two rallies C-span or a local station may have broadcast. This story is about how a Bernie supporter experiences a rally.)

Oh my… Our first chance to see Bernie Sanders in the flesh! He’s coming to within a hundred miles of us!

Those were my thoughts upon reading an online press release for Bernie’s upcoming rally at Eastern Michigan University’s Convocation Center. It was only 48 hours away--the rally, that is. We didn’t know there would be a rally there until the rally date was almost upon us. In fact, most others we met there said they’d had less than 24 hours notice. But this lack of prior knowledge isn’t unusual I’ve been told. Bernie is crisscrossing the country, trying to hit as many early primary states as possible, and his campaign staff is throwing these events together as fast as they can. So, with very little preparation and a lot of nervous jitters, we set off for the 90 mile trip to Ypsilanti, Michigan early on an Arctic-cold Monday morning in February.

We estimated it would take an hour and half to get there from our rural home. Toledo rush hour traffic was light and cooperated as we circled the city. With a big push we made good time and only got turned around once in town in our search for E.M.U.’s Convocation Center. (Becoming lost is usual for us. Old people, old car, no GPS, and Google Map print-outs aren’t always crystal clear on directions.) It was at least two hours or more until the scheduled doors opened at 12:30 PM, and we had no problems finding a parking spot at the arena. Grabbing our sign and stuffing everything in our pockets (no backpacks or purses allowed), we ran to the line which was already occupied by one to two hundred people already. The Convocation Center has a capacity of 9500, so we felt certain we’d get in and see Bernie.

What’s it like to stand in a line that grows and grows and grows by the minute? What’s it like to stand outside for hours on cold, slick pavement in 20 degree Fahrenheit weather with a nasty damp quality to the air and a wind chill somewhere in the single digits? Honestly, it sucks. While we were glad we could actually see the front doors of the building in the distance, I can’t imagine how frustrating it must have been for those a quarter mile away, a half mile away or a full mile away. 

Yes, that video of the long line at the rally you’ve seen online is accurate and not fabricated. The line actually did go for about a mile. We know this for a fact since we were directed to head that way to go home by the traffic cops, and we noted the extra mileage from our original route on Hewitt Drive to Huron River Drive where you see the line in the video turning the corner. This alone gives credence to the report of 10,000 attendees at the rally and the rumor there had been some overflow folks stashed somewhere. All I can testify to is there were a helluva lot of people in Ypsilanti excited to see Bernie Sanders.

The thing that kept the “Berners” going (while waiting patiently for the rally to start and simultaneously suffering potential frostbite) was the camaraderie. We chatted about Bernie and his ideas. We chanted “Bernie” occasionally. We were entertained by Hare Krishna members who danced up and down the line beating on their drums and wearing the saffron-orange robes and beads. (Thank goodness they wore closed-toes shoes and not sandals.

This event being hosted by Eastern Michigan, a medium-sized university campus located next door to the University of Michigan, a mega-sized university, there were college students in the line. Surprisingly, there were a lot of other ordinary town folks, too. Now remember, we and most others didn’t know Bernie was coming to Ypsilanti until a day or two in advance. There wasn’t much time to get time off work, arrange babysitting (and we saw quite a few young ones from “Bernie Baby” up to school age), or get out of a scheduled college exam. Somehow, ten thousand people thought it was important enough to do all this at a moment’s notice. Talk about commitment to a cause!

The group of young people in front of us told us they’d all lied about needing to go somewhere important to get out of their minimum wage jobs so they could see Bernie. They knew their boss wouldn’t give them the time off to see a candidate he didn’t agree with, and he certainly wouldn’t have given all four of them the same time off. But, somehow, they managed the time and stood in line with us, wearing inadequate clothing and shoes. As a mom of twenty-somethings, I worried about their health. A sweatshirt hoodie with no coat, hat or gloves in single digit wind chill temps for several hours isn’t enough to ward off frostbite. They told us they like Bernie’s position on the “Fight for 15”. Think how better clothed and fed these young adults would be with decent paying jobs.

There were “middle-aged people” like us there, too. I did a high-five with a gentleman who yelled “Old People for Bernie!” The ages, races and socio-economic spectrum of Southeastern Michigan were all represented. Despite what some political pundits have insinuated, Bernie Sanders brings in men, women, young, old, white, black, brown, yellow, red (our friend in front of us said the local Hurons were represented), retiree, college student and working class alike.

At last they let us inside the building--blissful warmth! The Convocation Center probably isn’t the best heated place, but after being outside for so long in the damp cold it felt great. I wish we had attended Bernie’s Cleveland rally back in November since it occurred before Bernie received his Secret Service detail so I could compare the security measures, but alas we missed him then. This rally was a good example of what security will be like from here on out. 

They opened the doors around 12:20 PM and suddenly you felt like you stood in a crowded airport terminal--in fact uniformed TSA agents manned the walk-through metal detectors and handled the wands. Everything has to come out of your pockets and be put on the table for inspection. This includes all your metal-backed campaign buttons, which have to be unpinned from your coat, hat, and shirt before you can go through the detector. (That was a challenge for yours truly with her multitude of Bernie buttons.) However, we made it through security in record time (much better than an airport scan) and scrambled for a good seat to see the main event. Volunteers passed out “A Future to Believe In” stickers and some signs, taking contact info from newbies who hadn’t yet joined the political revolution online.

We ended up sitting directly across from the podium and behind the press risers, which held approximately 50 photographers (with about 30 reporters on their laptops to their right on the floor). Not the best spot in the house, but far from the worse spot. Convocation Center is a basketball/hockey arena and it has “blind spots” in its corners where your line of vision to the stage is blocked. Like most sports arenas, the acoustics sucked and a person standing on a stage across from you by several dozen yards appears the size of an action figure who can fit in your hand. The electronic screens above were used well, so we could see Bernie in close-up.

Of course, I really wanted to see Bernie face to face (even shake his hand) but that wasn’t meant to be. The volunteers and others they let stand on the concrete floor in front of the podium stage had to do just that--stand up for two hours until the rally began and then stand through the hour and a half long rally. Physically, we wouldn’t have been able to endure it, and you’d have to really “love your neighbor” to enjoy being squished in the mob as it pressed closer and closer toward Bernie during his remarks. This is when you really start to notice the Secret Service. 

The men in black  (I didn’t notice any female agents but they could have been there) surround the stage/podium area and also the “mush pot” of humanity standing on the floor. Their steely eyes scan the crowd constantly, and they immediately envelope Bernie when he walks off stage. They are the only people not cheering or smiling, so you know they’re busy. As well as the Secret Service and TSA agents, there were campus cops, local sheriff’s deputies and arena security personnel in the building and on the grounds. No exaggeration, but this is probably the most policed event I have ever had the privilege to attend.

Waiting for the rally to start, we chatted with our seat neighbors and learned more about how they came to become followers of the senator from Vermont. An older gentleman behind us introduced himself and said he was a “learner” who wanted to know more about Sen. Sanders. He had been reading about Bernie in the print media (and it appeared he’d read alternative print publications that report more on Bernie than the mainstream ones) but he wasn’t fully aware of Bernie’s online presence. His ears really picked up when we discussed how only about six corporations own (and manipulate) over 90% of the media outlets in our country. We gladly filled him in on the independent web sites and Bernie videos to check out. 

A young working man behind me said he’d been listening and watching Bernie videos online that friends and acquaintances had sent him and they got him thinking, “This is a politician we can trust. He thinks we’re intelligent voters.” College students seated around us tended to be leaning toward Bernie’s policies on solving their student loan debts and free college tuition. I probably should note that in our section of the arena we were in the minority, that is, we were most noticeably “white” in a sea of African-American faces. Yet the mainstream media wants us to believe Bernie doesn’t reach--and attract--black voters? Boy, have they got that wrong!

Scanning the arena, I noted that Bernie attracts Muslim women wearing their traditional head scarves as well. Bernie attracts grandparents, middle-aged parents, and young parents with babes in arms. Who doesn’t he attract? Oh yeah, selfish and greedy Wall Street billionaires.

The rally began about ten minutes later than scheduled. University of Michigan Health Care nurse Katie Scott from the Michigan Nurses Association came on to give her brief introductory remarks. Her 11,000 member union has endorsed Bernie. She said she was happy Bernie supported universal health care so nurses and other medical professionals could practice their calling to heal the sick without the hassles and greed of private insurance companies. We spotted a big sign stating, “Physicians for Bernie” in the crowd as well.

After Katie stepped down from the microphone there were lots of false starts, and we wondered if Bernie was in the building yet. The Secret Service agents give nothing away. You cannot tell when Bernie is actually there until the last second, and in a crowded and noisy arena, you can’t tell he’s in the room until you spy the top of his shiny head and ring of white hair popping up between the outstretched arms of his cheering fans. So, just as I was about to sit back down to regain my breath the cheers began again. Our man has arrived! Everyone jumped to their feet and screamed and stomped on the bleachers below us, rattling and echoing in the hard concrete arena a million times over. I’m amazed Bernie isn’t deaf yet from all these loud outbursts of adoration.

Jane Sanders, his wife, appeared among that ocean of humanity, too. She waved to the crowd and then quickly exited the stage. I couldn’t see her from where I sat, but my husband said she stood at the back of the stage and filmed the crowd with her tablet device. I suppose some of Bernie’s campaign ads feature Jane’s video of crowd reactions? Cool!

Bernie’s voice cracked a bit at the beginning of his speech, but it grew stronger and more solid as he carried on. I didn’t think about it until later, but perhaps his voice wasn’t gravelly due to stress. After all, he’d been speaking in Nevada the night before and at multiple rallies for days on end. I believe his voice sound rough at the start because of emotion. His first remarks outside of saying how glad he was of seeing such a great turn-out and how “Yooj” (which we all echoed several times to much laughter) it was, was a statement of where he’d been earlier in the day and the reason behind his delay: Bernie had gone to Flint first. 

I suppose we can claim to be the first rally audience to hear Bernie’s statements regarding the parents he spoke to in that beleaguered Michigan city, poisoned by its public water, and how it’s adversely affecting their children. Bernie appeared heartbroken. The way he paused and took a breath between words, describing how horrified and sad he felt when a parent told him how her child’s mental abilities had slipped away over the past year, a child who had been a  good student until now… 

I’ve just come from a meeting, which was one of the most difficult meetings that I have ever attended in a long political life, where I’ve seen a lot and I’ve heard a lot. I’ve just met with seven or eight residents of Flint, Michigan. I’ve obviously read the newspapers, been somewhat involved in the issue, but I didn’t really did not know how ugly and how horrible and how terrible what is going on in that community. It is beyond my comprehension that in the year 2016 in the United States of America we are poisoning our children.  (...)

I just talked to a mother who has a kid who was very bright--she did schoolwork very, very well. In the last two years she’s seen her child’s ability to do schoolwork markedly deteriorate. Can you imagine being a mother seeing your own baby’s, your own child’s intellectual development deteriorate in front of your very eyes? And that is happening all over that city. All I can say right now--and I don’t want to be overly political--I’ve called for Snyder’s resignation, that’s fine--but if the local government can’t protect those children, the state government can’t protect those children, then the federal government better get in and do the right thing.
I wish I was closer to the podium to see if tears had flooded Bernie’s eyes. It sounded to me like they had.

As a parent and grandparent, Bernie really gets it--he gets how it hurts to not be able to take care of your babies and the betrayal you feel because the very institutions you were taught to trust have betrayed your trust, mainly because you are poor and black and your Republican governor and his rich campaign donors could care less. Bernie called for Governor Snyder’s immediate resignation to a deafening roar of approval. I hope Mr. Snyder heard us in Lansing and steps down.

The remainder of Bernie’s talk fell along the lines of “change doesn’t happen from the top down, but from the grassroots up.” We are the grassroots--we are the people, he informed us. We are us not me. Bernie repeatedly emphasized that it will take a movement and that it can’t be just about one person, the president, to bring about positive change in our government or our world. We all need to be involved in the process. We need a political revolution.

Bernie Sanders is the true leader of our political revolution. 

The ten thousand souls who braved the sub-freezing cold in Ypsilanti, Michigan on a Monday morning are the beginning of the revolution. We have more in common than we’ve been led to believe by the corporate billionaire capitalists, the mainstream media manipulators of public opinion and the establishment political party apparatchiks. We, the people, will vote together for Bernie Sanders in 2016. A mile long line, minimum wage jobs, overbearing student debt and cold weather won’t stop us.

We feel the Bern and its warmth extends to all.


Nevada Caucused and We Canvased 
(and Phone Banked) 
The Toledo Bernie Light Brigade and other Berners at the IBEW Local 8 Union Hall this past Saturday.
While Berners caucused out west, at the IBEW  Local 8 Union Hall in Rossford, Ohio we phone banked and canvassed for Bernie. It was our first venture in canvassing and we'll admit--it's tiring! But we had a beautiful spring-like day  so it was a great day to be out walking and knocking on doors. (Why oh why couldn't Monday in Michigan have been as warm?) The best thing of all, the Bernie supporters we talked to were really feelin' the Bern. So, don't lose heart! Keep phone banking, canvassing and talking about Bernie to your friends, family and neighbors. Bernie is on a roll and soon we'll be seeing him in the White House. #AmericaTogether is going to vote #Bernie2016!

This Woman is Bernie Strong! 

My name is Elizabeth Habib. I'm in my late twenties, married, a Type 1 Diabetic, and a band director split between one middle school and two elementary schools in Fresno, California. Education, gender equality (any equality in general), the economy, and health care are the biggest reasons why I love Bernie Sanders and 100% support his policy ideas. I'm tired of women like Madeleine Albright and Gloria Steinem daring to question the reasons behind my political convictions. Just because Hillary Clinton is a woman does not mean I need to support her. I don't agree with Clinton; I do agree with Sanders. I feel the Bern.

Well said, Elizabeth! If you're a woman who feels the Bern, send us your testimonial and photo today. Email them to
Thank you and #FeeltheBern

And now a song that demonstrates what Bernie Sanders has been talking about...


  1. It felt amazing to stand in the queue and then the bleachers at Ypsilanti. The energy of the crowd and their belief in Bernie Sanders' message is terrific! I was concerned at the lack of winter clothing among some younger people there. It was no day to go lightly-clad. The fact that they - and we - stood for so long in such cold only shows that we are Bernie Strong! #NotMeUs #WeAreBernie

    1. Truly those who attended the EMU rally were Berners! (Or at least VERY interested voters who wanted to know more about Bernie Sanders.) You can't fake that sort of enthusiasm. There's no "passion gap" with Sanders' supporters as there is with another Democratic candidate's base. (I'm not kidding, Maddi!) ;)

  2. Election 2016

    With a man named Bernie
    Our hopes once again rise
    Just as MLK, once marched
    The dream has never died
    It is the past of our history
    However, not where we stay
    As strengths in great numbers
    Carries hopes in great waves
    All lives once again matter
    Many broken and tattered
    Within our message we say
    Were tired of living this way
    We have dreams and desires
    Yet are so very, very tired
    Still we stand for what is right
    We will not give up on the fight
    Against Wall Street and more
    Never again to close this door
    We want equal justice for all
    More education to stand tall
    A better life and better health
    Better distribution of wealth
    My heart filled with such pride
    The American Dreams still alive
    Made possible by one voice
    Noted in history our choice

    Dedicated to Bernie Sanders
    & The American People!
    by Terry S. Bradley
    Copyright © Protected

    1. I love your poetry, Terry! We'll have to post it at the blog here where folks can read it easier. You're definitely "feelin' the Bern"! :)

    2. Thank you,I ma glad you enjoyed it!


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