Anytime a political candidate is at a podium, speaking to a large and enthusiastic crowd, drumming up support for his or her campaign, I'm reminded of how lucky I am that I'm sitting on my couch... away from the pandemonium... relaxing comfortably in an air-conditioned room... only a few feet away from my own private bathroom... flipping back-and-forth between the speech and whatever channel the Frasier marathon is on.
It's not that I'm disinterested in politics. I'm quite familiar with each of the 2016 Presidential candidates and, like millions of other informed Americans, I care deeply about the issues that I pretend to care about.
Rather, I will never again attend a political rally because political rallies are boring, tiring, congested, humid, crowded, redundant, physically uncomfortable, mentally unfulfilling, emotionally numbing, and if the candidate cares so much about the middle class, would it kill him to pass around some snacks? Or at least some Gatorade.
Having attended political rallies in the past, I've calculated the sum total of my experiences: 92% standing around waiting for the speaker to arrive, 8% standing around listening to the speaker say nothing new, 5% standing around mind wandering hoping the speech ends soon, and 5% trying to beat the crowd out of the parking lot. Hey, I might be a political cynic, but I always give 110%.
I don't need to see the candidate in person. Years ago, when John Kerry won the Democratic Presidential nomination, I was at one of his first campaign stops, in Scranton, Pennsylvania. I joined thousands of like-minded people in wildly applauding the brief glimpse of an average-looking, middle-aged man waving his hand out the window of a bus. Then, after another long wait in the hot sun while the campaign bus arrived at its podium destination, we watched Kerry, in the distance, give pretty much the same speech he had given at the Democratic convention. We couldn't see Kerry very well. It's possible we were watching a John Kerry holographic image. Eh, either way, I would've rather been sitting in the ice cream shop we passed along the way.
I don't need to shake a candidate's hand. They say you can tell a lot about a person by his handshake. No you can't. Unless the handshake consists of genital groping or some sort of cash money exchange, a handshake is just two hands grasping one another. Do you really want to know what it feels like to shake Jeb Bush's hand? Shake your dad's hand. It feels the same. Unless Andre the Giant decides to run for President of the United States, a handshake is just a handshake. (True, Andre the Giant is dead. But, hey, that hasn't stopped Bernie Sanders.)
Political rallies are like outdoor music festivals, but without the food stands and the craft tents. And the only thing worse than standing outside in the blistering sun listening to crappy jam bands is standing outside in the blistering sun listening to pandering public servants.
And while politicians might express great concern about economic inequality, they certainly don't care about making you wait. Of course, those seeking high office aren't intentionally inconveniencing you. But the little college shits working for the campaigns sure seem to be. God forbid your foot is a couple inches over the wooden barricade that separates the candidate's entourage from you and all the other worthless peasants. You're scolded like a five-year-old who just Magic Markered the wall.
Worse than attending a campaign speech, however, is to be among the masses at a political protest march. There are many ways to express your support for an issue, and I choose the ways that don't involve joining hands with sweaty people I don't know. Plus, political marches are rarely effective. The legal future of abortion will not depend on your placard.
Sure, political marches look exciting. I mean, outside of scoring courtside seat Lakers tickets, they're your best chance of spotting a celebrity. Look- there's Susan Sarandon! Look- there's the guy who plays the Hulk! But don't get your hopes up. You don't get to walk next to the famous people. And after you've spent the entire afternoon not affecting the fracking debate, and you're waiting in line to use one of those disgusting porta-potties, Leonardo DiCaprio will be taking a dump in his private helicopter... and his helicopter doesn't even have a bathroom.
This is a true conversation I overheard one time.
"I don't like large parties."
"You know with therapy, you can learn to enjoy them."
"Or I can just not go to large parties."
Next time you're at a political rally, ask yourself two questions: "Do I have a moral obligation to be here?" and "At this very moment, would I rather be home watching Netflix?" If you answer no and yes, give yourself permission to leave. (note: In fairness, wherever I am and whatever I'm doing, the answer to the second question is usually yes. The only exception is when I was at home sludging through the overrated second season of House of Cards. Yuck!)
I get it. You missed Martin Luther King giving his "I Have A Dream" speech in 1963. Now you're afraid that, by not attending a big rally, you might miss out on something of historical importance. Eh, just stay home. History's over. You're not missing anything. In 2008, Senator Barack Obama accepted the Democratic Presidential nomination in front of 80,000 people at Denver's Mile High Stadium. Do you remember anything from Obama's speech? Can you recite a single line? Bet you can't.
Look, if going to big, crowded, disorganized, pointless, overlong, ineffective political rallies is your thing, then be my guest. Bring a selfie stick. But if you're uncomfortable, don't be afraid to admit it. Don't be ashamed to tell your politically-active friends you simply don't want to join them. Heck, you can still meet up with them afterwards for margaritas. And when they tell you what an amazing time they had at the rally, don't feel bad; they're lying.
And if you really want social change, if you really pine for social justice, if you want the best people in office and if you really want the issues-of-the-day to bend in your favor, you're in luck. There's a much more powerful option than standing around a public park bored- it's voting. And do you wanna know what's great about the polling places? They're never crowded.