I escaped this summer’s poisonous presidential election, in part, by taking my extended motorcycle trip. But running can only take me so far. I am a flaming liberal who at times considers Bernie Sanders to be a corporate shill. Jack, my host, teases out his political leanings, here and there, and it is no secret that they are conservative.
But I’m not staying here to pass out bumper stickers or knock on doors.
We are friends; talking about cars, and kids, and craft beers; our worries about ex-wives, and which state has the best sunsets. We’re taste testing bourbon and cigars, and debating laptops vs towers. Its not about blue vs red. Not at all. Not an iota. Its not why I was sent here … or why I came here … or why I’m hanging out.
I’m a Unitarian Universalist. But more than that, I love to say that Jesus hung out with the sinners; with the drinkers and the prostitutes. A favorite saying is its silly to preach in church when your customers are in the saloons and gambling halls. Of course, that’s also my cover story for hanging out in saloons and gambling halls instead of church. I’m converting the unfaithful (or so I say).
Someday I may meet Ms Right, and I may very well meet her at a UU Social Justice meeting. But wouldn’t that be boring? Wouldn’t it be much more exciting to snag her in that great big blue ocean of heathens and haul her in to the wild and crazy world of insane liberal outreach we call Unitarian Universalism?
There is one small problem with the cute little notion: Reality.
At a recent NJ bar we met one of dozens of Jack’s circle of friends. He is social and outgoing and funny and helpful and caring and (oh dear) people are attracted to Jack like a magnet. We have not gone anywhere; from the gas station to the grocery store to the coffee shop, bar, restaurant, city park, even the damn parking lot that people haven’t walked up him or called out his name, hugged or shook his hand, asked how he was and sincerely cared . My heart has been warmed by the honor of his letting me just hang around in his world.
So sipping a beer at one of a half dozen Jersey bars, as I met more of his seemingly endless stream of friends (old and new), the fall election finally crept in.
She was Joanne: 40-something, single, professional, smoking hot (like almost every woman around here), and we were talking about kids. We both have a single son, in their early 20’s, and I was praising her accomplishments and offering to her my rolodex of contacts.
Joanne, like the ocean of Bently, Maserati, and Lamborghini driving resident of the shore, is a Republican; only she was actively doing outreach to visitors from Florida. So I sighed and, to honor the many hours she obviously spent in the gym, took a breath and stood toe to toe with her on politics.
Holding her Chardanny, chatting about family and vacations and the Shore, she blurted, “You’re voting Trump, right? Oh tell me you’ll vote for Trump” actually turning a question into closing the deal (oh, my trained ear for business).
“No, I’m not voting in the presidential election, as the election process has become corrupt.” (Inhale … cut off)
“If you don’t vote for Trump, its the same as voting for Hillary”. (A small smile came over my face).
“OK, Joanne. You’re a woman, a mom, yet you’re supporting Trump. Are you pro-choice?”
“I had and raised my child, I was very young, and could have had an abortion, but chose to have the baby. (me: good for you!). But so many young people don’t use birth control that they have three, four or more abortions. Its just wrong. So no, it doesn’t bother me.”
“OK, and are you willing to make possession of guns illegal?”
“I feel that possession of a handgun must be legal (she had a neat, nuanced position that she wanted to talk about, and we certainly would have on a different day!). I’m a single woman, and I want the ability to have a small firearm for personal protection.”
“So if we take away guns, people will still get them, but if we take away abortions, they will magically stop. Right? That is the Republican position. And that is why I won’t vote for Trump. Or … where am I … New Jersey? Or for Chris Christie or Christine Todd Whitman or whoever the hell your republican congressman or mayor or city commissioner is. They are lying to you and to themselves. If you will ban both guns and abortions, I will consider you for my vote. If you will allow both guns and abortions, I will consider you. But as long as you ban abortions and allow guns you are a ZERO, a non-starter at the election, to me. That is my stand. I suggest YOU, Joanne, as a smart woman, not vote for Trump, or any republican that takes that duplicitous stand.”
“The problem is that abortions are being used as birth control. I had the need to go down to family court and I saw … blah blah blah.”
“Yes, so abortions should be banned?”
“Well those people don’t have jobs, live in section eight housing, sit around having sex, that’s why they have kids … blah blah blah”
“I think section 8 is a failed program, lets come up with a better one. But back to banning abortion. Rich white people will still get abortions. Poor black people will get coat hangars or day rate hotels. We both know that, we need safe abortions not black market abortions …”
“Well I think … blah blah blah”
So I sipped my craft beer, and inhaled the cool night Jersey Shore air, and took in the beauty of her long tan legs while thinking of how much work in the gym and the sun it must take to keep them so perfect. If only a few of those hours were spent thinking about solutions instead of the narrative of her own personal loss at the hands of another. Working FOR a system, instead of the obvious (but subtle) motivation of self and fear.
In a complex society you win when everybody wins. You don’t like the system, find a better one. If you shut down the current system, without a replacement, then “Nothing” becomes the new system. Is “nothing” better? You better hope so if that is your solution.
And that seems to be the conservative mantra. Thats the bill of goods conservatives like Joanne are being sold, and they are standing in line to buy, and she is even hawking to some poor tired Unitarian on vacation from Florida. Your wasting your tax money on something that’s not working perfectly. Shut it down. Screw “Them”. Vote Trump.