I have stayed out of this business for a long time, partly because there were so many others who I thought were saying things more eloquently than I could and partly because I was afraid to stick my neck out. I’m still a little bit afraid, and I know that there are many eloquent writers, but I’m jumping off the cliff into the rapids of politics.

I watched a Sarah Palin rally from the sidelines. Now I’m a longtime democrat, but this opportunity fell into my lap. I was on the East Coast, visiting my mother and father and sister (who’s also from California and had also flown out). My folks own a beach house on Weirs Beach in Laconia. Sarah Palin got scheduled to speak there on Lakeside Drive just a day or two before the event happened. So, we headed over to the beach house with large Obama signs in hand, to add to the red, white and blue bunting and other Obama signs that were already on the lawn. The house was festooned with political paraphenalia. All the bunting, the 4 foot by 8 foot Obama/Biden sign that got hung below the tower and the series of Obama/Biden signs (I’ve been saying Obama/Obiden for days now and it would appear that my fingers want to type that as well. . .guess I think they’re both Irish.) There was also a rainbow flag with a peace sign on it.

That was the extent of the signage. No negative anything, mostly because we all felt pretty strongly that while we have no problem enjoying the anti-Palin things we’ve seen on youtube, actual anti-Palin signs would be disrespectful and rude, and not appropriate at a Palin rally.

After decorating the house, we headed back in to the living room to chat for awhile, as the rally wasn’t scheduled to start for another few hours.

We’re chatting away when a large fellow in dark pants and jacket, wearing sunglasses knocks on the door. My sister heads to answer it. Thinking (just as the rest of us were) “hey, it’s private property, you can’t make us take it down.” The man says, “I noticed your Obama sign . . .” and then flashes the Obama/Biden tee-shirt that is hidden underneath his Steelworks Union jacket and flashes a grin to match.

“Come on in!” we all hollered. There was a little bit of chatter and then he asked if some of his fellow Steelworkers could stand in the parking area where people would walk by, with Obama signs. Well, of course you can! So, about half a dozen men and women came to join him. Then, a fellow wearing an Alaskans for Obama tee-shirt asks if he could park his van in our parking area. It’s got all sorts of pro-Obama signs on it and a few anti-Palin bumper stickers (but those are on the side of the van that he directed towards the house so that passersby couldn’t see them).

We sat on the porch above the parking spot, and they stayed down on the ground, smiling and saying good morning. Not blocking the way, or initiating anything. They would politely answer questions if asked, but weren’t hollering anything, or blocking traffic.

After several hours and most of the people had headed past us, they headed off to another Obama event. They were simply there to represent the Obama side of things and to answer questions if necessary.

As we sat and watched people walk by, it was clear how people felt about our signs. Some muttered and looked away, some actually crossed the street so as to not have to get too close to us and some would circumspectly flash us a thumbs up sign.

Four hours after some of the first people started to head past us, others started heading back to their cars. Sarah hadn’t arrived yet. My mother asked one McCain supporter why she was heading back and she said “I can’t stand for four hours in the heat. I’m too thirsty.” Well, we had already brought down a case of water for the Obama/Biden supports and I knew that some of the case was probably still there, so directed her to get some water. She said, “Are you sure?” and showed her McCain/Palin sign. We said, “of course!” And she smiled as she got her water.

Another fellow was struggling with a cane, so we flagged down the McCain guy with the cart to come help him. He turned and said, “I’m not going to change my vote just because you did that.”

We knew that. That’s not why we acted to help him.

Some of the signs we saw were pretty cute. “My name is Joe, I have a six-pack and I’m voting for Obama!” This was on a hockey jersey wearing college student who probably really did have a proper six-pack (I thought about asking him to show us, but decided not to.)

Sarah finally shows up (almost three hours late) and Holly (my sister) heads over to the rally. I decide that since it’s that close, I may as well head over to hear what she has to say. I got close to the security gate where they were wanding people and searching bags, and thinking that I needed a ticket, don’t go any further, but rather just stood there and listened.

Sarah started talking about how proud she is to be an American and that we have the right to vote and how dare anyone try to take that away from us.

I bristled at this comment, because a number of the folks walking past us to the rally had said things about the whole ACORN debacle, saying that Obama had better be ready to answer some questions about that thing.

If you’re interested in what ACORN has to say about all of this, go here.

The short version is this: ACORN was turning voter registration workers over to the authorities for filling out bogus registration forms. The republicans decided that this was scandalous and meant that ACORN was trying to somehow generate fraudulent voter records. The twists and turns that were put on this simple act is what I find scandalous. The smear tactics would be funny if they weren’t actually working. I don’t understand how they could, but that seems to be the case.

I headed back to the house to read my book on the porch. It was a beautiful day and I was also curious to see the reactions of people as they returned from the rally.

I wish I hadn’t stayed out there. The hate that was spewed towards us and our signs was palpable. One man shouted “Shame on You, you Socialists.” It doesn’t look so bad here in writing, but the venom in his voice hit me viscerally.

A young woman pantomimed kicking and tearing the Obama sign along the walkway. I said, “Hey, that’s private property.” She turned around and snarled that she only wanted to kick and punch Obama. I said, “we aren’t dissing your candidate.”

She at least had the grace to look embarrassed and walked away muttering to her pals.

I was shocked at the violent things people said to us as they walked by, and the hateful looks they gave us. Not everyone; there were McCain supporters who simply brandished their signs. There was one woman who was looking up and started to wave her sign, I smiled and said, “It’s upside-down.” She turned it around and shook it at us with a grin, and we grinned back.

But the difference in the behavior of the McCain/Palin supporters on the way to the rally and coming back from the rally was palpable.

Were they all bad? Of course not. There were only a handful of people who yelled things or tried to damage our Obama signs. But nobody from their ranks tried to stop them.

Were all of the Obama folks well-behaved? I wasn’t in the actual rally, so I don’t know, but I’m not going to assume that. There are people at opposite ends of the spectrum no matter what. I do know that John, the Alaskan for Obama came back from the rally to hang with us because there were some younger Obama supporters who were getting “kind of rowdy.” He said he came back to “his people.” We were, as I said before, all very polite.

Here’s what I do know. I want people to educate themselves. If you don’t know what’s up with ACORN, go read about it, don’t take what you hear on the television or radio as fact. And especially don’t get your information from political ads. There’s a plan fraught with peril. Ads are meant to sway you, not to give you actual information. The Rachel Maddow Show, while leaning more to the left (which I love), seems to give a fairly balanced report of things, taking the time to track down facts. Read the Huffington Post. There’s a particularly interesting article on there right now, written by Gay and Katie Hendricks (of the Hendricks Institute).

I just keep reminding myself to breathe. Slow down, stop worrying, but take action.

So, educate yourself. Get out there and research things if they seem odd or even if they don’t.

Okay, getting off my soapbox now.