Sunday, July 20, 2014

The Netroots experience

The other day, I wrote some on my first day at Netroots Nation 2014, and apparently, it was a decent read. With that said, I'm going to use this spout off some more of what I observed during the biggest progressive political convention of the year. Get ready for random pics, observations, analysis and stories in the form of unconnected paragraphs.

Despite being there for 3 days, in my hometown, a few blocks from my current school and in a building that I had actually spent some of my better childhood moments in, I still felt out of my element. It took me a minute to put my finger on why I was so out of my element, and surprisingly, to many people on twitter who don't know me, it's because I was surrounded by nerds. Large herds of nerds and politically wonky people talking about wonky political stuff and splitting hairs on things like proper terminology. Another part of what made it so not my element is that 95% of the people there clearly had the type of money that allows them to take an entire week off, on purpose, and pay for a hotel room and passes to Netroots Nation and spend most of that time hitting local bars, enjoying the food here and occasionally protest the weirdly inconsistent water shutoffs with the guy that plays the Hulk in the Avengers movies. This is a heavy contrast from me actually going to Netroots thanks to a ton of help from some very special people, and in a literal, physical sense, right after applying and interviewing for a second job that'll hopefully become a main job on top of being a full time student.

Being at Netroots, I could tell, that the people there could tell, that I was basically an outsider. I also, think that I looked like an outsider to the members of the media there, either that or I looked like I might make for a good interview because I was interviewed no less than 5 times during my time there. The interviews ranged from the Free Press here in Detroit, who honestly may have reporters who know my face from memory due to their headquarters being across from my school, to the Washington post. When the articles start popping up online, they will be posted on here in an effort to brag about myself.

One thing that I learned about Netroots is that it is fantastic for networking if you're the outgoing type that doesn't mind being annoying enough to just walk up to a random and start handing out business cards and trying to sell yourself as if you're a hot minor league baseball prospect. This isn't a trait that I possess, and I even called it annoying in the last sentence. I don't possess this trait because of the fact that in a general sense, my sheer presence either intimidates, creeps out or makes people uncomfortable. A decade and a half of hard stares, street crossing, weird aggressiveness and purse clutching has basically taught me to not walk up to random white people for any reason whatsoever, and in a room full of mostly random, mostly white people, it becomes pretty tough to just walk up to them and try to sell some of my better qualities.

Speaking of white people; a lot of white people saw a tweet that I sent out during my second day at Netroots. I made a joke about being the only young black guy in the room, and I've been getting weirdly racist and politically partisan responses to it and the responses to it ever since. Seriously, check it out and be amazed. I guess I should also point out, that like America, the convention was pretty white, but not Romney speech white. I actually saw a lot of color once I left the herds of white nerds.

Knowing some people via twitter is a big help as it made the whole networking thing kinda easy and a little fun. As an example, thanks to one person I know via the online microblogging service, I was somehow in a game of political/music/sports trivia with internet radio host and attractive high school science teacher Nicole Sandler, and even weirder I was the guy that knew all of the sports related stuff at the table. One of the questions was such a softball that I had to somewhat explain why I was right about it, and it all came down to my knowledge of the great Alaskan shootout. At least we beat Dave Weigel.

Day 3 of Netroots was filled with meetings, more meetings, discussions, speeches and more discussions. Topics ranged from online harassment to street harassment to building a diverse coalition to an entire hour and a half of speeches and buzzwords and talking points on how to not sound like a total douchenozzle when talking about heavy issues on your website. I may have failed the whole not sounding like a jerk thing, but then again I'm a man with bitchy resting face and this adds to my whole intimidating white women with 0 effort, but this isn't about that. It's about the wealth of info I learned during my 3 day experience.

I guess I'll wrap up this oddly long read for my blog by pointing out the obvious, and the obvious is that the whole thing was one gigantic psychological and sociological experiment. I saw a crowd of insanely smart people with good hearts who are still slightly out of touch with the people that they want to help. I saw groups of young innovators trying to change the way we look at, absorb and even think about politics. I saw obvious political hacks who were clearly just there because other, much more important people were there. I saw adynamic state rep candidate who I should have been working for, while also seeing a gubernatorial candidate who still hasn't honed his public speaking skills. I saw a lot of people who needed a hero, a reason to believe, and someone to believe in but no idea who that person is and what the reason is. But, mainly, I saw that despite the ridiculous infighting within the democratic party, there are some people who still have their eyes on the larger picture of trying to win as many elections as possible, and when it comes down to it, that's the only thing that any political group should be focused on.