Bernie Sanders’ rally in Queens on Saturday was electric. The speeches were powerful. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez brought the house down. She reminded us that a year ago she was a waitress in lower Manhattan, and I was struck by how lucky we are to live in this political moment, where so much possibility is at the tip of our fingers. Bernie was at his best — sharp, clear, powerful, uncompromising, moving. If this is how the dude bounces back from a heart attack…
My daughter Amí took a quick nap on the side, but she said to wake her up when Bernie was on. I put her on my shoulders, and she was sad when she realized Bernie probably wouldn’t be able to see her Sunrise Movement t-shirt from the stage. But she chanted and clapped along with the other 25,000 people — for a Green New Deal, and healthcare for all, an end to mass incarceration and an end to war. At one point she turned to me and said: “Abba, what’s powah?” I didn’t know what she was talking about for a second, but then I realized she had never heard an old socialist Jew from Brooklyn say power before: Powah!
At the end of his speech, Bernie asked us to turn to someone we didn’t know, to really look at them. I looked at a woman holding her boy about Amí’s size, and she looked back at me as he nuzzled into her chest. Bernie asked us if we would be willing to fight for our neighbors as hard as we would fight for ourselves. I felt a tightness in my throat, a softness in my eyes, strength in my shoulders where Amí was perched, and I thought, “Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes.”
I realized that, in a way, this is what social movements have been asking of me all along, why I find myself grasping always at the potential available to us when masses of people stand up for themselves and for each other — for the people they love and also for strangers.
Bernie’s request itself wasn’t new. What felt new was that it was coming from the stage, and there were 25,000 of us, and the guy who was making it could be our next president. There was a deep, collective sigh from the crowd, like everybody present was rocked for a moment. And then we erupted into our deepest, proudest, most vibrant cheers yet.
It was an unmistakable yes.
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