East Toledo, Ohio

Campaign Notes

by Mermer Blakeslee
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What a beautiful expression of the joys and sorrows of political activism—and of the human condition! I'm going to look up Blakeslee's novels.

This story affirms my belief that we have our country back and now can make it whole again. Thank you Mermer; I cried with you.

Thank you for the time to help this country choose change! You painted a clear no-frills look at the proud people who need a strong, intelligent leader.

I, too, cried. Thank you for reminding us why we do what we do. Hope is so powerful, so fundamental, and so often overlooked.

Thank you for telling this story so lovingly and with all its complexity. I live in the Twin Cities now, but I'm from Toledo, and the rest of my family still lives there. My brother lives on the East Side (what Toledoans call East Toledo) in a well-maintained duplex that used to belong to my grandmother. Next door is a small vacant house--the target of squatters. He keeps an eye on the neighborhood as best he can, but the neighborhood is just as bad and sad as you described it. I cried too, when I heard Ohio went for Obama--the change we need.

She wrote a story that captured the whole story at its gritty roots, the living grass roots of humankind. It resonated in my heartbeat and welled up in tears while floods of pictures caught briefly in the media came together with her word pictures to make the world bigger and brighter and closer and more intense with the emotional mix of all those lives I do not know and cannot know, but can now feel somewhere in the region of my heartbeat. Thank you, Mermer.

After hearing George Bush whining yesterday about the criticism of how he handled NOLA during Katrina, this story reminded me of why I worked for Barack Obama and that a new day is dawning.

Thanks to Mermer Blakeslee for writing the story, and thanks to Narrative for making it the Story of the Week. I hope our new America remembers the folks in East Toledo and all like them.

Thank you. You expressed for us what we could not put into words.

Well, I have tears in my eyes. It's 7 degrees in Des Moines, Iowa, with a fresh layer of snow. Tomorrow I will greet my new creative writing class at the community college where I teach, and I will introduce them to Narrative and have them read Mermer Blakeslee's piece online. She has captured exquisitely the mood of our nation, and she has demonstrated the art that is possible in nonfiction.

Mermer Blakeslee has written a revealing and heart-stirring, but not too sentimental account of the campaign. This is the perspective on the "defining moment" I've been longing to read--of one who, in a sense, had walked the talk; by that I mean a story from the perspective of one who was on the ground actually feeling the response of the hopeless and near-hopeless and bringing them a message of hope.

"I think this man has come to us for a reason. See? I believe in divine intervention." I echo this sentiment in my country many miles away because I do believe he's a gift of God for these times, not only to America but also to the world.

I've been there, done that. What a moving walk down memory lane. For someone who has never really seen poverty, the courage of the very poor, and their faith in America--with a healthy dash of skepticism for our politicians--this was a lesson in personal strength supported by faith in God and a surprising trust in humanity.

Now that two years have passed I hope that these Ohioans' hope for a better day with Barack Obama as president still resonates.