Last night, like most nights in our hoppin' happening city, where there is always something tugging at my time and interests (an art opening, a poetry reading, a committee meeting, or better yet, an evening bike ride or yoga class) I was pulled in two directions. There was of course The Debate—the one and only public showdown between the gov and the gal, and I was one of the lucky 500-few who got tickets through The Patch.com's online raffle. I wanted to be there to support my candidate of choice, to hear heated repartee on the issues, to soak up the spectacle of it all. To bear witness to shaping the legislative future for my congressional district, and thereby in some nebulous way, feel like I was doing my citizenly duty.
But there was also another gathering, one with more people, arguably more meaningful debate, and more bearing on the future well-being for the people of this congressional district and beyond. This was a good ol' fashioned public meeting in the sanctuary of St. Matthew Church in North Charleston, where 2000+ gathered from all sides of many different aisles—Republican, Democrat, Gay, Straight, Baptist, AME, Christian, Jew—to give umph and momentum to the ecumenical Charleston Area Justice Ministry. The crowd asked only one thing: that our elected officials, from mayors to CCSD school superintendent, commit to creating a more just community, beginning with supporting early childhood education and reforming our criminal justice system.
I went to the debate. I cheered and jeered (not terribly loudly) with the rest of them. I was snarky and critical, and encouraged (relieved, actually) by my candidate's performance. But in the end, it was a performance. A spectacle. Fodder for pundits and the media and optimistic but cynical voters like me.
If I had last night to do over again, I'd go to the church meeting. It was not a spectacle. It was, by all accounts, spectacular. The Sanford/Colbert Busch debate was "spirited" but this meeting, this historical gathering, was spiritful. A diverse, robust, hopeful, committed, engaged throng, ready not for debate or dialogue, but action. It was as the Reverend Jeremy Rutledge from Circular Congregational Church said, "a glimpse of the beloved community" and what another minister said was the most diverse crowd in Charleston in 61 years.
Amen to that.