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Thursday, December 16. 2010
I hadn't seen an old friend who lives in D.C. for a fair while, and since Jon Stewart's highly-anticipated "Let's Save America From The Racist Homophobic Teabaggers" rally and the election were just a few days apart, I decided to throw the ol' snow tires on my hot Firebird Formula...
...and hoof it up to D.C. for the festivities. Ever the impulsive one, I.
Below the fold I'll detail the highlights of my adventure, including my take on the rally, how I ended up scaring the hell out of scores of innocent passers-by at an energy expo, and how I got abducted by a busload of Tea Party revelers on election eve.
We arrived at the Jon Stewart rally at 5 AM. Ever the early birds, we.
We actually got a full six hours of sleep and after a big hot breakfast we were loaded for bear. The plan was to start off as near to the main stage as possible and spend the day working our way to the back of the mall.
It was a tad crowded in places.
We also decided not to bring along any signs, as tempting as it was. I wanted him to hold a sign with a big arrow pointing at me saying "This guy is really smart", and I'd hold a sign with a big arrow pointing at him saying "I'm with stupid".
Granted, these things are a lot funnier after five or six beers.
We also did a reasonably impressive job of psyching ourselves up on the way there, reciting the list of Democratic Talking Points and promising to uphold them all. I'm particularly big on pre-teen abortion rights.
We were fairly near the stage when it commenced, but didn't hang around for long. We were, after all, on a mission.
We had a question to answer.
That is, were these people rallying behind anything? Some common cause or ideal or future goal?
Judging by where people's attention was focused, what they were discussing and what, if any, signs or slogans they displayed, we didn't see or hear any common thread. I suppose "Liberals Day In The Park" would be close, but even that wouldn't be accurate. Much like the spirit that embodies the Tea Party, a lot of people are upset about particular issues these days, but not particularly along ideological lines.
For example, we ran into one lady who was handing out flyers promoting what she saw as the road to economic recovery. It involved a massive 'stimulus' plan, with her point being that stimulus plans can work, but they — duh! — have to be done correctly. Sounding like a right-winger, she pointed out the many flaws in Obama's stimulus packages, but, unlike a right-winger, she took a different approach to the fix. The right-winger says "Don't do it at all", but she says, "No, do it correctly." This wasn't a "liberal" by definition, this was just a normal person who had given the matter a lot of research and thought and had come up with a fresh solution.
And it had nothing, whatsoever, to do with the blather coming from the stage.
As for the people in general, they tended to fit into three categories:
— Regular slobs like you and me
— People belonging to an organization, all sporting the same snappy t-shirt
— The sign-wielders with their fervent message
Of the fervent sign-wielders, they basically fell into three groups:
— Those promoting something on the aforementioned list of Democratic Talking Points; i.e., an 'approved' message
— Those promoting their own particular — usually particularly peculiar — agenda
— Those essentially making a mockery of fervent sign-wielding protesters in the first place, with lots of photo-ready cleverness on display
If there was one thing that seriously took away from that 'rally' feeling, it was the t-shirt gangs. Most, I gather, were union members of one type or another, and while I'm sure they felt their similar attire showed the world that they were in harmony with the event, I thought it had just the opposite effect. It made it seem more like a sporting event, with that us-versus-them attitude that displaying different teams' colors evokes.
As promised, we didn't say anything rude or snide to the Talking Points sign holders, but we did, admittedly, have a little fun with some of the others. We saw one guy holding an anti-war sign and I hissed at him out of the side of my mouth as we passed by, "Dude! There's a Democrat in the White House now! Don't you have any principles?"
By mid-afternoon, footsore and sign-weary, we decided to head out. It was fun, but starting to get repetitious.
As a small side note, I didn't see near as many Halloween costumes as I had assumed there would be, this being the day before. On the other hand, given the seriousness of the event, I suppose that's understandable. After all, when you're rallying the troops around (fill in blank), it isn't something to be laughed at.
The next day we high-tailed it over to some 'energy expo' that my buddy had read about. It was in a big building out in the industrial zone but seemed well attended. There were the usual zillions of booths, hawking everything from water purifiers to a small, tamperproof lead box about the size of a cigarette pack containing enough nuclear material to power your home for a year. Sorry, just wanted to see if you were paying attention. I meant, "the latest in solar panel technology."
Along one outside wall were people hawking ideas rather than wares. One group was promoting nuclear energy. I suggested that they burn an effigy of Jane Fonda in retribution for the fact that nuclear energy has been reduced to a mere booth at some cheesy tech fair — but I don't think they got it.
(If there's one, single reason why we're not enjoying nuclear energy today — and the resulting global warming issue that's ensued — it was the 1979 anti-nuke movie The China Syndrome — starring Jane Fonda — which scared the pants off the nation and relegated the entire concept of nuclear energy to side booths at energy expos.)
At one point, we innocently drifted by some booth that was getting a petition signed to rein in the EPA. Our kinda folks. There were two people behind the table, a middle-aged woman and an older man. She was leaving just as we arrived. O, Unhappy Twist of Fate! A moment sooner and the ensuing horror the passers-by had to endure would have been avoided.
Because that's when he asked me what I thought about global warming.
And just as he asks me that, a group of about ten that was apparently traveling together walked up to the booth, so I turned to them all and in a loud, clear voice started reciting this almost verbatim:
About this point in the narrative I had hand-gestured to the guy if it was okay if I walked around the end of the table so I could address the group properly, from the inside, and I rambled on for another five minutes, reciting the above article almost word for word. By happy coincidence, I had just written it a few days before.
With it almost memorized, I wasn't just lecturing or pontificating or expounding — I was sermonizing. I really let 'em have it.
I then spent the next two hours creating panic and despair in numerous passers-by at the guy's request, holding down that end of the table (the lady had left for a family emergency). I didn't give the whole speech again, but broke it down into a pat mini-speech at some point. Just enough to get the message across to these innocents that they were being had, and the time to fight back was just a few days away.
Actually, I'm not sure what happened. I remember doing a little bar-hopping with my buddy and another guy, watching election returns on the TV, then, the next thing I know, I'm being shuffled off by my friends and a bunch of others into a big tour bus headed for someplace downtown. Figuring, in my infinite wisdom, that I couldn't actually get "lost" by definition — since I had no idea where I was to begin with — I made sure I was wearing my original "Nuke The Whales" t-shirt and went with the flow.
Like this, only 40 years more motheaten:
I usually start off the conversation with, "Wow! If you think cow farts are damaging the earth's climate, wait'll you hear about whale farts!"
I garner converts wherever I go.
The room was a 'ballroom', I guess, because it was real big and topped off with a huge chandelier. The event was hosted by some local D.C. Tea Party group. There were televisions everywhere, tapped into both national news channels as well as local ones in key races. As you'd expect, the two most frustrated groups appeared to be Delaware and Nevada. A number of groans issued from their corners, but overall the mood was obviously joyous. The California delegation was rather small, given that they only represented the eighth largest economy in the world, but I gather they recognized a pipe dream when they saw one and were paying attention to other races. That, or they ran from the room in abject shame when they saw how things were going.
One thing that took me by surprise was how many state races were being followed closely. As a number of pundits have since pointed out, the capture of the state legislatures, and thus the ability to redraw the voting districts, was as much an accomplishment as the Congressional victories were, perhaps even more so.
Was there a sense of history being made; a sense of wonderment and awe underscoring the room's emotions as the victorious evening wore on?
I bet I heard "Can you believe it?" a hundred times from a hundred pairs of lips. I'd hesitate to resort to a hackneyed phrase such as a dream come true, but it was heading that direction quickly. We had all, in our own way, spent so much time and energy on the election, but without knowing what, if any, impact it would have. Had America awakened? Had it heard the message? Was it going to act?
Act, it did. Despite the castigation I and a thousand other pundits have ladled on the hapless American voter, it must also be said that they're there when you really need them.
I suppose the irony is that, for the most part, the American voters, themselves, don't truly understand what they just did, and the brink they just pulled us back from.
But everyone in that room sure did. And I would add that there was also a feeling of "the job's just begun", in the sense that some enclaves were yakking about potential 2012 candidates and which old-world senator was next on the hit list. In the Tea Partier's mind, 2010 was "a good start", but nothing more. There is much work yet to be done.
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--ach, too bad Hunter Thompson alrady took that 'fear and loathing' scripto for the campaign road trip. Maybe you can match it. 'Panic and Disgust'? If you use that, sends $5 don't forgit!
I like your suggestion, but I do have one question.
'Panic and Disgust'?
Why would I write a book on California? Or were you including Delaware and Nevada in the mix? (Critics would argue we should also include Alaska and Pennsylvania)
Okay, I got it. Hunter Thompson, here I come.
"Panic, Angst and Disgust" -- my life on the 2012 California campaign trail with the Republican Party.
I've altered the title, but you still get the $5.
CPA says, break it up into a structured vehicle, and deposit in my account in the Lesser Ant Hillies --
1 - A standing ovation for properly using the word grok in a sentence.
2 - I once had a "Nuke The Whales" T-shirt, but it said "Nuke The Whales - and Jane Fonda". Don't know what happened to that T-shirt - I suspect my wife threw it away or used it as a paint rag for one of her projects.
3 - I've made similar points in discussions with liberal friends who are Alarmists (I hate to use Warmists), but it seems they can't grasp simple concepts. For example, CO2 is heavier than air to which simply baffles them until I point out the existance of CO2 fire extinguisers which work on the principle of...heh...heavier than air thus choking off the oxygen supply. There is also the cooling effect of CO2 release, but that is mostly because of the pressure.
I like to point out that there is a well known warm/cooling CO2 cycle that corresponds to the change of seasons driven primarily by the plant/tree growing cycle in the Northern Hemisphere - concentrations fall during growth cycles and increase during Fall and Winter non-growth cycles (except for evergreens).
I truly baffle them when I start to discuss the solar cycle and the direct correlation between sunspot activity (energetic and non-energetic) and warming/cooling cycles on planetary bodies and, coincidentaly, on CO2 concentrations - science that has been known for a long time.
There is more, but you get the idea - there is more science supporting the "deniers" than the "alarmists".
Unfortunately, we're not Al Gore, Jim Rogers or George Soros so we can't make any money off of scamming the government and taxpayers.
Great post - loved it.
Forgot to mention - one of my gear head friends built up a '70 Ford Ranchero using 4X4 chassis off a Jeep Cherokee. Turns out that the the '70 Ranchero had exactly the same wheelbase as the Cherokee, so basically the only modifications were the body fit, some minor wiring, the lift kit and changing the front end steering geometry.
My favorite of all time was also the strangest - a VW "Thing" replete with mid-mount Olds V-8, custom suspention and 4X4 drive train. There was just enough room in the VW for him. It was the goofiest looking thing you ever saw. I haven't seen it around town for a while though - maybe he sold it. Have to check on that.
Concerning the lack of Nuclear Fission power plants in the US - shouldn't you also be blaming Michael Douglas and Jack Lemmon, who also starred in "The China Syndrome"? There's more than enough to condemn Jane "Hanoi" Fonda for, besides that movie.
Your story also reminded me of one of those "No Nukes" concerts that my buddy and I attended on the National Mall. We wandered through the crowd, similar to what you and your friend did in October. But we had signs that said, "FUSION, not FISSION!!" Not more than a handful of people in the crowd even knew what we meant.
For some reason, we STILL don't have those Fusion Power plants that we were talking about...
Great Post and I too am looking forward to the good things to come, but not looking forward to another election cycle.
I had a bit of a disagreement the other day with a friend who felt so empowered on climate change that he started pointing a finger at me in our discussion. It seems you can cut them off at the knees every time they say "Climate Change" and you simply and quietly say "Global Warming?" while they are speaking.
It is fun to watch their blood pressure rise and then watch as they try and wiggle out of their "the earth is going to melt" predictions.
Tom - A Ranchero and a Cherokee have the same wheelbase?? Damn, that seems almost impossible to believe. I love the idea of putting a V-8 in a VW Thing, though. Wow. :)
Cas - Well, gee, how could anybody burn that nice Jack Lemmon in effigy? And I felt so sorry for Michael Douglas in 'The Game". Honestly, I think the 'effigy honors' belong to Fonda alone. On the other hand, I confess to watching the original "These Boots Were Made For Walkin'" the other day. What a mink she was.
And I'm still wondering where that fusion power is, too.
That was supposed to be the answer!
"and then watch as they try and wiggle out of their "the earth is going to melt" predictions."
"Going to melt"? Surely you exaggerate! I mean, the AGW promoters would certainly never stoop to such levels!
Never, I say again!
Dr, As I read your post Elmer Gantry sprang to mind.
"The novel tells the story of a young, narcissistic, womanizing college athlete who abandons his early ambition to become a lawyer. The legal profession did not suit the unethical Gantry, who then became a notorious and cynical alcoholic. Gantry is mistakenly ordained as a Baptist minister, and briefly acts as a "New Thought" evangelist..." (Wikileaks)
You dont recall any unfortunate deaths during your little escapade do you?
"As I read your post Elmer Gantry sprang to mind."
Not to correct you, but if it was Elmer Gantry, wouldn't that be sprung?
"You dont recall any unfortunate deaths during your little escapade do you?"
Well, there was that terrible bus crash where Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Hugo Chávez and Kim Jong-il all perished, but you did say "unfortunate", right? So, no, a pretty uneventful night in that regard. But thanks for inquiring.