Election canvassing trick or treat?

In our neighborhood, we don’t have to think twice about opening our front door. Most days we leave it open. On the rare occasion that someone comes by, it’s a neighbor or a delivery man. At the extreme it might be a Jehovah’s Witness or small urban youth on a candy drive. So we found ourselves challenged this weekend at the sight of a grown black male in threatening urban attire on our doorstep at dusk. Behind him, a middle-aged white woman stood like a parent escorting a trick-or-treater. Much as I would have liked to know what their visit was about, we didn’t open the door.

I can admit I came late to the decision process, but I wouldn’t have advised any different. We have an African-American neighbor, but otherwise everyone outside in our neighborhood is white and dressed appropriate to what they are doing. This visitor wasn’t suitably dressed to deliver a pizza. Who had time to divine whether he had along a parole officer or a hostage? Answer the door? Not by the hair of our chiny-chin chins. Doesn’t that adage look very strange after all these years? See how far we’ve come.

I came on the scene after the third or fourth time our dark visitor rapped on the door. The decision already made to decline this particular solicitation, I listened as he tried to stuff some literature under our storm door before he walked back to a car. Only when I heard a motor start did I look to see a sporty black Infiniti pulling out of our driveway. When the coast was clear, I retrieved what he’d left under our door, finding two brochures promoting Barack Obama for president. This of course left me completely intrigued, and growing more so as the opportunity escaped to catch up with that car to ask what it was they had wanted.

I would not have been eager to explain our racist timidity, nor I suppose did I want to be faced with having to decline a solicitation for a campaign contribution. I would have had no qualms asking what the gentleman hoped to project with the knit cap and jacket getup. Was he armed too?

Our address isn’t listed as being Democrat, or even possibly receptive I think, so were they attracted by our yard sign?

We have an Obama sign on our lawn, entirely out of desire to show solidarity with the too few Progressives in our neighborhood, as well to encourage the election enthusiasm of our kids. The sign may have been the only reason our would-be canvassers picked our house. In these parts, Obama signs are few and far enough between that election canvassing requires a car.

It turns out the literature our visitors left was generic information about how to use mail-in ballots, and something else equally insignificant to voters presumably already in their camp. This afternoon I’m going to check with the regional Obama headquarters to ask after what we missed.

Really, what might have been their thinking? We’re not deterred about supporting a black candidate (Cynthia McKinney!), but was that an inadvertent aim? The racial divide has certainly come to the forefront of our minds. Now I’m hearing it formalized on the news as “the Bradley Effect.” The tendency of voters to say they will vote for a non-white California governor when later they will change their mind. Those media bastards! It’s really the corporate media auto-suggestion of a so-called effect that we have to worry about. And strange twilight dissonance canvassers.

Naturally my thoughts immediately run to Rovean schemes of bogeyman Obama surrogates sent into suburban neighborhoods to spook the white folk. Is that improbably despicable?

Do Americans want a president in the White House who they would not even be comfortable to see at their front door? I’m sure we can all open our door to a half-black lawyer in a cashmere coat. Some may need to hold out until they recognize the elaborate entourage that marks a dignitary. But such a distinguished visitor would be an honor for even the whitest cracker.

These days I have a feeling that just a uniform from a bonded company is the authorization an African-American male needs to be appreciated for his expertise in your hour of need. And that’s a far cry from wearing a dark knit cap accompanied by his social service officer.

I mentioned that our African American visitor knocked several times to try to get our attention, but we had neither television nor reading light visible. I’m not sure our visitor had any telltale indication we were home. It’s possible of course that nobody in our part of town was showing receptivity on his round. This persistence, loud knocks across our quiet dark house, was the incongruous element I could not reconcile with a friendly campaign call. Hence my suspicion that somebody was playing Big Bad Wolf.

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Eric Verlo

About Eric Verlo

On sabbatical
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