Personal Column: Far from expectations

September 23, 2008 — by Amalie MacGowan

When I found out my family would be in Minnesota during the Republican National Convention, I had my expectations high for an exciting weekend.

I thought I’d see citizens strolling through St. Paul, a city covered in bright red streamers, flyers, and banners. I figured there would be red as far as the eye could see and brightly splayed signs of welcome to the Republican National Convention, and all around people would be wearing their politics on their sleeves – dressed in red, white, and blue. At the very least, I figured I’d see some politicians walking the streets, discussing the election with one another and signing the occasional autograph, while dodging the occasional question. I was even looking forward to some baby-kissing.

Unfortunately, what I got was far less interesting. Sure, there were some red posters that could be seen from a distance and some messages of welcome, but the event seemed more geared toward keeping people away than inviting them to experience the process. There was a barrier of strict security guards lining the quarter mile radius of the Excel Center where the Republican Convention was taking place. No one could even think of walking within the premises, and the city’s people were obviously pressured to show their support. The city had plastered a few red signs on lampposts, prints of elephants adorning buildings, and even pachyderm shaped topiaries. All this, and I did not even witness one politician kissing a baby. I was disappointed.

When my family and I first came to St. Paul, I was hyperactive. I had my camera at hand, ready to snap a photo of any unwilling politician I could find. As we began to descend the hill to St. Paul Cathedral, I spotted an absolutely perfect view, so I raised my camera to try and take a picture. Before I knew it a security guard was shooing me off the site, claiming that we had not right to be where we were. What kind of threat was an energetic 14 year-old with a bright pink camera?

It was frustrating to not be able to get closer to the action as it was occurring. I missed the atmosphere associated with political conventions; in fact, it seemed like it wasn’t even there. My Dad tried to turn a corner, when all of a sudden we would find a chain link fence and a sour-faced line of guards. I was surprised they didn’t set the dogs on us.

My weekend was spent in Minnesota was far from uninteresting as my family said our teary goodbyes to my brother as he heads off to college, and we were able to visit the fabulously grandiose Mall of America. The Republican Convention may not have been what I expected, but even seeing it from practically miles away with a security guard in my face was memorable all the same.

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