Stepping in to something like Netroots is like stepping in to a different world for me. This is despite the event taking place in my hometown, in a building that I'm familiar with, which is only a few blocks away from where I go to school, and only about a mile or so from where I work. It's such a weird experience going from my neighborhood, which is marginally famous for having a well known clergyman getting carjacked and beaten in it, to stepping in a building filled with political activists, campaign people, bloggers, podcast hosts, academics and people who I've only ever seen on twitter. To say that this is different from my daily life is an understatement. I guess I'm saying that I was out of my element.
I was surprised at how quickly I was able to get my pass and proceed to the nerd-heavy festivities. I spent maybe the first hour or so just observing people, and one thing became apparent to me: No matter how fancy and connected someone is, they will always grab as many free snacks as possible. I got to sit down and hang out with people representing the Michigan Democratic party and they were surprisingly down to earth for people who have an insiders view on people who could do huge things in not only this state, but the country and world at large. This was followed by me meeting a person that I had followed on twitter for a couple of years. To say that I was nervous is stating the obvious, but not stating it loud enough. Luckily we're both kinda awkward in real life so it worked out and there's a picture of us floating around online somewhere. We would have hung out more if it weren't for the fact that she had to get back to work waiting on the Vice President of this great country to show up for a pep-rally type of speech. Did I mention that I got to see that?
Around 2:00pm, the entire mood changed. You could see police officers, bomb sniffing dogs, uniformed secret service officers and even a few secret service guys in their classic black suits. On top of the crush of law enforcement was a swarm of local, national and international media. You couldn't take a step without seeing someone from channel 4 or NPR trying to interview people waiting in the very long line to get in to the ballroom to see the vice president. Surprisingly, to me at least, the police were courteous and friendly while searching through my bag for dangerous objects like frisbees and apples. I guess not being in the poor areas of Detroit will get you some service with a smile instead of a sarcastic non-response and possible beating for calling them out on it. Where was I? Something about Joe Biden?
After the room was packed to the gills with people, we waited for an hour longer than expected, but with good reason as the Vice President was on the phone with top officials from Ukraine figuring out how they were going to investigate the Malaysian Airlines flight that was shot down over Ukrainian airspace. During this wait, I spent some time going around the room and see if any local officials were there. Surprisingly, I found my old English professor, who would probably give this blog a C, at best, sitting next to a local political consultant. I should point out that she is a former member of city council. I was also interviewed by a reporter from the Detroit Free Press during the wait. After alerting the crowd as to why he was late, what he was doing, what he thinks may happen next and his feelings on the matter at hand, he got down to the meat of a speech which was more pep rally than serious policy debate. He touched on issues ranging from increasing manufacturing in this country to gay rights to the immigration issues in America. And what prompted him to jump in and talk about trying to get something done about the immigration crisis was a group of people demanding that the Obama administration "Stop deporting our families!". I found it reassuring that Joe agreed with them, even when some in the crowd got annoyed at them for having the nerve to heckle the Vice President. After that it was more hyping the crowd up and trying to get everyone in a better mood despite the awful news of the day, and with the closing of that speech, came the closing of my day at Netroots.
To sum up my day, I had fun, I learned a lot and I got to network with some people while getting closer to an elected official than I had been in years and I even got harassed by a white guy who said that I don't care about black people. I'll try to do another one of these tomorrow, and hopefully it wont suck.