A stiff chilling wind blew across the Paducah Tilghman High School parking lot. It brought forth an overcast midday light, shimmering with light flecks of snow, anticipating the coming storm.
Over two hundred automobiles of all shapes, colors, and sizes surrounded the school. Out of this ring of steel frantically spilled families—mothers with teenaged daughters clicking in harsh rhythms as their high heels beat the concrete in their race to reach the warmth of the school inside. Fathers with young sons in tow raced towards the building as well. Only the seniors walked with measured pace in the cold before they too reached the safety of the school.
Four massive doors fought these waves of humanity trying to squeeze through the small metal and concrete frames. Once inside the brightly lit 50 foot by 20 foot hallway and entry area, this multi aged river of excitement soon flowed into the darkened high school auditorium.
After fighting the weather, the traffic, and the last moment arm pushing surge to squeeze into the darkened auditorium, the realization of the sheer magnitude of the seating, stage, and height and width dimensions made one almost stop in their tracks to take it all in. The hall was 100 foot wide by 200 foot long and 50 ft high. Each side of the hall held rows of 8 seats. There were 40 such rows on each side of the outer part of the floor design. The interior seating complex held rows of 15 seats. There were 40 of these. Half way down the aisle was the balcony. This area held another 500 seats. All told the room could hold 2,000 people.
For this event, some 500 people came to listen to three men talk about the future. They massed close into the first rows of seats and near the stage.
The highly buffed hard wood stage was four feet high and measured floor space 50 feet by 30 feet. Standing at the ready, almost at parade rest stood the three candidates for the Republican Primary for United States Senate. Bright lights bore down on them. The lights were there for the camera’s sensitive lens. The rest of the vast room was shadowed by soft light. Seating there 10 rows back from the stage seemed like sitting in twilight on a soft fall night.
For over 2 hours, the show played on. Opening statements, rebuttals, questions from the audience, questions from the sponsoring organizations, and finally closing statements. As the words from the stage marched through the room, I maneuvered through out the crowd for camera position.
Eighty photos later, I had found my images. Interested faces, old faces, young faces, angry faces, professional political faces watching and searching the crowd, media faces doing their job, and a new type of face, the wounded American face wondering who stole their country and when exactly was it stolen.
The one face that summed it all up was the grandmotherly woman wearing the blue sweat shirt that said, “Tea Party Grassroots…don’t tread on me!” Standing about 5 feet tall and being somewhere between 60 and 70 years old, she told me that politics didn’t make any sense any more with all sides screaming at each other and nothing getting done.
Which political party can ignore the anguished cries of the grandmothers? Which party can discount the pleadings of the families who want hard answers to why their lives no longer work within the American economic landscape? And, which political party can answer to those down on their luck citizens, the question, “When did the American Dream die for them?”
This day in midwinter, at a high school, neither Republican nor Democratic party structures were the real issue at hand. People came to this event because they were seeking answers from all politicians. These people were in family units. Several of these families expressed that they came to “begin the process of taking back their country.” For the first time, these people were getting interested in how government worked at their level. They came to figure out whom to hold accountable for the mess in their economic world.
As I departed from the building, small almost invisible ice crystals stung my face. How appropriate that on this day, nature was sending a clear signal about her plans for yet another snow storm for the weekend. And, watching the faces of the families leaving this event, I couldn’t help but to think that another storm was brewing that would cleanse the hurt of the middle class. The question is, will this be a small localized storm or will it roll through the land as a massive storm of the ages in which all that is legacy is turned over and a new age takes shape?