BEING THERE: Berniedelphia


Bernie Sanders speaks to 10,200 @ Liacouras Center by DYLAN LONG

It’s a chilly Monday afternoon and I’m sitting in my dorm at Temple University dicking around, and I get a text from one of my closest friends. It reads, “Bernie Rally Wednesday night??” I ask her what she’s talking about, assuming it’s some locally sponsored rally for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders that’ll draw maybe a thousand people in support. She sends me a link to Bernie’s website that has the official event at the Liacouras Center listed in full detail, telling me that Bernie Sanders is coming to speak in Philadelphia. I proceed to shit my pants. I absolutely freaked the fuck out. High pitch screaming, I called both of my parents, lots of sweating. I took to social media in all caps, same with texting my pro-Bern Temple buddies. While losing myself over the fact Bernie was to be coming to my college campus in just two short days, I got a text from the boss: “Let’s get you to take pictures and write about this,” he said, along with a link to the event. “I am 1000% down,” I tell him, and the rest is history.

Fast forward to yesterday. People have been camping out at the Liacouras Center since 6:30 am. Funny enough, I couldn’t find any major media outlet covering this fact, even as thousands quickly flocked to get in line. Meanwhile, I’m heading home to borrow my dad’s professional gear, and as I’m leaving my rowhome in the Italian Market area of South Philly, I get a text from my dad at 4:40 pm telling me that Bernie is speaking at a church on Broad & Fitzwater at 5 pm. I immediately change my route from the subway station to the church.

I get to security and they tell me I can’t bring in my monopod because it looks like a “blunt object” (I didn’t have much of an argument, I could indeed club the shit out of someone with that thing.) I have nowhere to stash it and if security catches me hiding a suspicious looking black object, I’m fucked. So, I call my dad. He tells me plain and simple, just leave it. Anywhere. Go see Bernie, forget the monopod. With a stupid grin on my face, I hang up and, as casually as I can, walk to the end of the block, leave it on the bottom of a set of stairs, and hope for the best. I rush back into the church, ready for Bernie. It’s 5:15 pm when I sit down, and there is gospel music playing. 5:30 rolls around, still playing. Then 5:40. Then 5:50. Then 6, then 6:10, then 6:20… Mind you I have to be back at Temple by 7 pm when the press entrance closes. It’s 6:25pm and there is no sign of Bernie, so, to my bitter dismay, I bail.

I arrive back on campus at around 6:45, just enough time to grab my additional gear for the main event and get inside the Liacouras Center without a hitch. It’s time for the main event. Cell phones, signs and fists are raised high in the air. One says VOTE FOR UNCLE BERNIE and another says I VOTED REPUBLICAN FOR 35 YEARS, NOW I’M VOTING FOR BERNIE. Another dude is waving a handmade sign that says: HILLARY SMOKES MIDS AND LISTENS TO NICKELBACK. Dude, is very, very proud of his sign and makes sure that all 10,200 people see it by personally sticking in everyone’s face as he wanders the hall.

I get word from a friend that Bernie is currently speaking to the 2000 people in the overflow room who couldn’t fit in the Liacouras Center and will be shortly wrapping up in there. After another 10 or so minute wait, the final opening speaker comes out, and gets a simple yet historic chant going steady: “Ber-nie.. Ber-nie.. Ber-nie..” And then, with my incredible vantage point, I see an agent swing his arm pointing someone through at the very back of the tunnel, and a cute old man making his way up on stage with his beloved wife at his side. As Sanders prepares himself to speak, the crowd is going absolutely apeshit. Deafening cheers, cameras flashing, total pandemonium for the 74 year old democratic candidate.

I’ll have to admit, not much of what Bernie said was new to me considering I stalk the guy’s every move and every word, but being at this rally and hearing him speak in the flesh gave me a whole new deeper understanding of how truly real the problems are that exist in our country, the very problems he is vowing to solve. For example, Sanders at one point in his speech brought up the case of a little girl in Flint, Michigan, who after being exposed to the dangerous levels of lead in their town’s water supply, had to be switched out from her regular school classes and be admitted into special needs education because of the brain damage caused by the lead consumption.

Another topic he brought up was the demilitarization of our police departments. That we need to make our people, particularly African-American people, feel protected by the police, and not intimidated, or scared for their lives around the police. I cannot imagine, as a white male in this country, what it would feel like to feel threatened and intimidated by those who have taken on the duty of protecting you. Bernie made the great point that most police officers are dutiful, respectable public servants who protect all citizens, regardless of race, gender or creed.

However, hearing him talk about people living in crippling poverty despite working 40 hours a week, women making 79 cents on the dollar compared to men, and a slew of other shameful problems that Washington continues to ignore, watching him discuss these matters, hearing both him and the reactions of fellow human beings with my own two ears, opened me up to a whole new perspective on how intensely serious these problems are. And, after listening to Bernie talking about how to go about fixing these issues with practical reasoning and policy sprinkled with audacity and risk, and the countless moral duties and obligations that we owe to our nation because we are a nation of love and compassion and unity, I can proudly say that I have never felt the Bern as much as I do in this moment. — DYLAN LONG