mercredi 24 décembre 2008

Grassroots Ball Agonistes: The crisis of the people-made ball

Update: With a mere 25% of the original number of people who asked to be signed up on our emailing list responding to our poll, representing a very small percentage of the more than 1200 tickets that represented almost two months ago now, we had to make the decision to cancel the event. The reasons why are contained in this post, written December 24, 2008. Christmas Eve.

We are truly sorry to see this end so differently than we imagined in the first flush of the post-election euphoria. To all of those who showed such enthusiasm and unwavering support, thank you.

Perhaps you have been checking here for news from time to time, wondering what's happening, if anything at all. I have sworn myself to a sort of discretion, a virtual white-out of news on the Ball because it is a complex and delicate business to organize, but we are in the final hours of decision-making, and we are not all of the same mind.

Wait. That's what happens in government, too.

We all felt so monolithically committed in our support for Obama, even while we fought monumentally over whether he was right or wrong to vote for the FISA bill this year, or right or wrong not to hate Hillary Clinton forever, or to pay her campaign debt, that it was always rather surprising to find ourselves in désarroi.

But that is what is starting to interest me the most, oddly; it's the process itself, how we can start with a shared dream, build momentum from one another's excitement and passion, discover our points of désaccord, experience let-down, frustration, and even anger as we encounter difficulties, set-backs and conflicts, and then -- out of respect for one another and the importance of our relationships and work -- sit down and think about how to proceed, even manage to at all because the people involved are as important to all of us as the success of the project itself.

How many times in the MYBO listservs did the atmosphere become tense, did a voice or two speak out and remind us all of why we were there, and that we hold one another in esteem, did cooler heads prevail and we go on? It's the same. It's a process that can teach us all a lot that we can use in our lives, at home, at work, in political action. Speak your heart, as well as your mind, and do it from that place in yourself.

The ball has been hard. Harder than we imagined when we started out. I suppose no one starts out imagining the obstacles, or no one would ever begin anything. Those of us working to put it all together have made many discoveries about people -- most heartening, some laughable. There are some flakes out there, and they are not all falling to the ground to blanket Chicago in snow for its white Christmas.

We succeeded, and we failed. Or, perhaps better said, we have met with success and with failure. We have raised money that can be considered significant from among the individuals supporting our ball, and we nearly did from an individual, who chose in the end not to, without ever really making that choice final, or clear. Inference is sometimes good enough, or has to be.

There have been successes that have been very important to me. Yesterday, a $50 contribution arrived in the PayPal account from someone who has nothing to gain from their contribution to help make the ball happen, other than perhaps to help make sure there's a ball to be able to purchase a ticket to, and at a price that is close to "grassroots". That person might have thought that their $50 was "nothing" compared to others' $2,000, $1,000 or $500 (non tax deductible) donations, but that isn't how it felt to me when I heard about it. I felt indebted to that person and grateful for their gesture of support, that is really a gesture of belief in the dream that I had, that the other organizers had, that the more than 600 people who contacted us to get themselves and their friends and family on our list for news of the ball, when the tickets would be available had, too.

And the people who have joined us to offer their time and energy, their encouragement, their contacts, anything they had, and offered their thanks for our efforts. No matter what happens to this ball, I will carry forward this group of people like a community that will live inside me. I don't know how to visit that place, or see all those people, but knowing they are there is about enough. I know that one day there will be another project, another mission, and I will reach out to them, or they will reach out to me.

Today, we will be asking everyone on our lists to go to the website and take a survey. The answers to the three questions will be "Yes, I still planning to purchase tickets to the Grassroots Ball for the people of to meet and celebrate our victory in Washington, DC on January 19, and hurry up!", "No, thank you, I have already made other plans for the inauguration," and "No. I just can't get to Washington, after all."

We need to know if 700 people sure will purchase tickets so that we can make the deposit on the space in downtown Washington with confidence. It can hold up to 1,500, and we have the option to grow the event to that capacity if ticket sales are strong.

We have become timid about committing our sponsor's money in an event that might have lost its momentum without our knowing it, especially in such uncertain times. Asking you is our best way to know if your silence has been your polite and remarkable patience, or proof of your loss of interest.

Like Barack said to us throughout the campaign, more and more frequently as the numbers coming to see him grew beyond anyone's wildest imagings, this ball was never about we, the organizers, it's about you, and it's for you if you want it. If you don't, that's fine. Personally, I can accept hearing that, but I can't as easily accept ending it all because we are worried the time and the opportunity are already behind us without having asked you if they are.

We shall see what happens today, and in the next hours, and then we will know.

For those wondering why nothing has been happening on the website, we decided spontaneously to communicate via our email lists rather than continue to promote a ball there that was at risk of not happening owing to fund-raising disappointments and their impact on the ticket prices that we could offer.

As it stands, they would be a minimum of $175, possibly closer to $200, and we would try to offer a percentage of the total tickets available at the $100 level for those whose means are limited. As we had always intended with our "Joe-the-Plumber" Ticket Plan, we would ask everyone to stop and think before purchasing and ask themselves if they really needed that $100 ticket, or if they could leave it for someone who does, each according to his conscience, and the fiscal philosophy Barack Obama laid out to Sam Wurtzenbacher in Ohio.

Please go to and take the poll to tell us if you will be buying tickets for the ball. Please have each person in your party take the poll so that we get an accurate read on the number of tickets we are sure to sell. To do that, each person needs to register on the website and then take the poll. If we get a strong enough response, we go ahead. It's that simple. We need to sell 700 tickets.

Thank you, everyone.

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