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              It was a blustery weekend in Muskrat Flats. The wind was conducting a symphony as the poplars bordering the vineyard...

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

"You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows."

Warning - This contains Explicit racial/ethnic content ... you Honky!

Hello Folks - You may be interested to note that this is being written from the Hartford Civic Center, er excuse me it is now the XL Center. It is in between the second and third periods of the season opener between the Hartford Wolfpack and our hometown Favorites the Springfield Falcons. The score is tied 3-3. Why I am here with my computer is irrelevant, but I am in a comfortable spot, the laptop is plugged in and I have a reasonable work space.

Between periods, I decided to take a walk around the perimeter of the arena. Something I had done many times before. Not necessarily at Hockey games, hockey games are a fun thing. Right now Christopher Walken is on the jumbotron asking for more cowbell . Ah yes, music sweet music.

As I strolled through the hallways of the former Civic Center, I began to reminisce. I was taken back 24 years … to 10-14-1984. I was strolling through these same hallways during the set break during a Grateful Dead concert. What a stark difference the hockey crowd is from that electrified crowd clogging the hallways so many years ago. It is funny how things change. In 1972, in Fear and Loathing on the Campaign Trail, Hunter Thompson suggested to Democratic candidate George McGovern, and I'm paraphrasing here ... "If you want to win the election, have a picture of yourself taken sitting on a beach, drinking a beer, wearing a Grateful Dead shirt." Monday night, The Dead played a fundraiser for Presidential candidate Barack Obama.

On the way to Hartford I was driving through one of the busier intersections in Springfield. I saw something I had never seen before. Actually, the scene I have encountered I have seen many times in the past but the circumstances and the demographic were such a stark contrast, such a deviation from the norm, that I had to sit up and take notice.

I have to give a little back story before I share what awful comment popped out of my mouth when I first processed what I was witnessing. I can be a real sarcastic bastard sometimes. My best friends love me despite this character flaw. Usually a get groans of disappointment and some lighthearted admonishment. More often than not I get laughter. Just the other night , my friend Geoff responded to one of my wisecracks,

“You should be with Bill Maher.”

“Really, I would love to be on Bill Maher’s show, that would be great.”

“I didn’t mean that you should be on his show, you should be his personal court jester, he’d love you.”

I was born in 1964, too late to know where I was when JFK was murdered and too young to confidently say that I remembered RFK assassination. I do remember where I was when Harry Truman died, oddly enough. The point I’m trying to make is that I grew up in a world where I encountered racism, every day both in my neighborhood in the suburbs as well as at the Catholic grammar school I attended.

We called each other, Guineas, Kikes, Micks and Polacks. Everybody seemed to enjoy a good ethnic joke. The Chinese and Jews were cheap, Polacks were dumb, the Irish were drunks, Greeks owned pizza shops and black people smelled, so blind people could hate them too. I’m sorry it is the way it was, political correctness was a foreign concept back then.

Of course I don’t condone racism, I'm simply repeating what a bunch of ignorant 10 year-olds launched at each other 35 years ago.

As I grew older I realized that the world is an enormously more complex place than we thought it to be when we were running up and down the streets of my neighborhood on our Schwinn bicycles with our banana seats. I changed my attitude as I got older and saw what was really going on with civil rights. My feelings were mixed when I heard Uncle Morose (he was a funeral director) pointedly referring to a group of black men as “jungle bunnies.” My brother and I kind of snickered at the time, but later, my brother took the time to tell me how wrong our Uncle was in his thinking.

I am a pretty tolerant guy. I don’t have a problem with same sex marriage, interracial dating, mating or what have you. Love is love. So please forgive me when you read what came out of my mouth that afternoon. It is now three days later … The Falcons won 4-3. Nice comeback, eh?

I am going to vote for Barack Obama. I think he is the best qualified candidate for the job. He looks and sounds like a CEO. He is calm and smooth under pressure and obviously highly intelligent. I don’t buy the crap the McCain camp is trying to ream down our throats about Bill Ayers. Obama was 8 years old when the Weathermen were doing their thing. I guess McCain forgot about his own stint on the G. Gordon Liddy show. Remember him? The guy who masterminded the Watergate Break in? the Guy who suggested to his audience that if an ATF agent comes at you with the intention of taking away your firearms to violently resist and go for a “head shot, because he will be wearing a bullet proof vest.” This is the same guy who named targets at a shooting range Bill and Hillary. Nice company you are keeping there, Senator and you have the nerve to praise this potential terrorist and right wing loose screw?

McCain also has been quiet about Obama’s association with the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. An easy target if you ask me, and certainly a better one that Bill Ayers. If McCain took this route, to criticize Senator Obama with this association, It may be brought into the light that his running mate, Sarah Palin, used to attend a church where parishioners were known to speak in tongues. Rev. Wright may have said some inflammatory things, but at least you could understand what he was saying.

So here is the scenario I have been working toward. I was driving through Indian Orchard on the way to the Mills. There is a busy intersection near a bridge where a group of African American and Puerto Rican youths had fashioned signs in support of Barack Obama. Some looked official, some looked like the ones you plant in your front yard that had a stick attached to them with duct tape others, held by the girls, were handmade. It doesn’t get any more grass roots than this. They were wearing their baggy clothes, and their baseball hats sideways accented by multi-colored doo rags. The boys had their pants hanging down around their knees, as is the style of the day. And I couldn’t help it. The first words that came out of my mouth were,

“Good God, there’s a reason not to vote for Obama.”

What an asshole! I can hear the banjos playing Dixie in my head.

When I immediately thought about the situation, I asked for forgiveness from the guy upstairs, who with my luck is undoubtedly very dark skinned. I am glad no one heard me, which seems like a moot point since I just narked myself out to the whole world.

I began to think.

What an amazing time we live in. The very fact that these kids, most of whom are too young to vote, took it upon themselves to go out and let their voices be heard ended up leaving me feeling chagrined. Then I felt hope. I felt hope that my daughter was growing up so far away from a time when we would have turned fire hoses on these kids. I felt hope that these kids felt that it is not only their right, but their duty to go out and stand for a person in whom they believe. I feel hope that Americans my age from similar backgrounds can accept and embrace the ever changing landscape.

Back in the day people from all over the world, my Grandfather included, passed through Ellis Island with the hopes that they too could live the American Dream. These kids deserve that dream as well as do their children. We all deserve it.

BTW - Gomer says hi!

You can find me anxiously awaiting my next trip to the voting booth as I am …

Running Hard Out of Muskrat Flats.

1 comment:

peterunderdog said...

great post, Paul...i just read it again...Sonia & I read it together last night after the debate...

yes, we can!

(hope the Falcons can, too :-)