Through channels that are a mystery even to The Angry Czeck, The Incredible Hulk became a must-see movie event for the African-American community. The theater was packed with black people – more than I had ever seen since attending movies at this particular theater. Families. Teenagers hanging out with their friends. A duo of African-American Dads sat next to me with their young daughters. The air was thick with pre-show buzz. Nothing was out of the ordinary.
Moments before the film was scheduled to begin, two theater employees appeared at the entrance, each carrying a flashlight. One, a round blond woman, clapped her hands loudly and demanded attention.
“We hope everybody enjoys tonight’s viewing of The Incredible Hulk,” she began, “But I am only going to say this once: silence your cell phones. And no getting up while the movie is playing. That can be a real distraction to people trying to watch the movie. Thank you, and have a great night.”
She and her theater henchman quit the premises amid a couple teenagers mimicking the squeaky pitch of her tinny voice. I tried to remember the last time I had sat in this theater and had been issued instructions (a warning) like that.
Not once. Not ever.
Like no other in history, the Presidential Election of 2008 will test the character of us. All of us. No longer is the election just a matter of political philosophy. Considering the nature of what is at stake, a contest of just political wills would be a Herculean (if not welcome) trial all by itself.
This is an election of exposure. One that will leave us all naked. A contest that will determine if we, as a Nation, have truly grown as a society. Or one whose fears and ignorance have been merely driven underground by a pop culture of forced political correctness.
The Junkyard Dog growled into the camera before turning to howl at the audience, who roared their approval with howls of their own.
Two friends and I sat on the living room floor, all knobby elbows and knees of adolescence. We watch the Junkyard Dog lock arms with some unknown wrestler. The only one in the ring who mattered was Junkyard Dog. We sing his praises.
In a twist of unlikelihood, The Junkyard Dog’s opponent managed to gain the upper hand through the application of a seemingly unbreakable headlock. The Junkyard Dog writhed and twisted his body into pretzel shapes, seeking escape.
“Man, what’s wrong with his back?” said One Friend, pointing to the television screen. Junkyard Dog’s spinal column seemed abnormally creased by his heavily muscled back.
Friend Two shrugged. “He’s a nigger.”
“Oh yeah,” agreed Friend One. The wrestling match continued. And when the Junkyard Dog liberated himself from the headlock moments later, I forgot to give voice to my approval.
Already, the groundwork for denial has been laid. John McCain, veteran not just of the Senate, but also of the Vietnam War, is being touted as “the candidate with experience.” Barack Obama clearly cannot lead because he has not endured torture by asshole Vietnamese.
Regardless of the merit of this argument, the question of experience becomes a convenient buoy. Yes, Barack Obama is a fine and articulate candidate. Yes. But does he have experience?
I’m voting experience.
I’m shucking corn with a man I just met.
He is large, ruddy-faced, with an infectious jovial nature that can only be enhanced with vodka and wine. I like him right away. We shuck corn as the grill simmers a few yards away.
“I don’t know who’s going to vote for Obama,” he says, rubbing a stick on butter on his ear of corn. “The guy’s a communist and a Muslim. He’s going to get shot. Who’s going to vote for that guy?”
I don’t say anything. I shuck corn.
A Newsweek poll earlier this month showed that 12 percent of those polled believed Barack Obama was sworn in as a U.S. senator on a Quran, and 26 percent believed that he was raised as a Muslim.
Neither is true, but I receive occasional emails validating the lie anyway. The tones of these communiqués have an hysterical tinge to them.
Do you want a Muslim in the White House? He doesn’t believe in The Bible!
I am reminded of a story concerning the 1960 Presidential Election. John F. Kennedy was rumored to be engineering a plan to construct a tunnel between the White House and the Vatican consulate in Washington, D.C. Later, the rumor is refined; the tunnel is to connect the White House to the Vatican itself. A trans-Atlantic tunnel.
I have a friend, a man whose opinion I deeply respect, who routinely supports the Republican Party. He appreciates the basic tenets: Less Government. De-Regulation. Free Enterprise.
He oversees a significant number of employees, all with varying degrees of political faiths. Earlier this year, he approaches one he knows to be a Democrat. She champions government assistance programs and denounces the Iraq War in the same exasperated breath.
My friend asks her if she’s backing “Hillary or Obama?”
“Well, I’m not voting for a nigger.”
Democrats, and not Republicans, will be tested harsher this November. After all, Republicans merely have to place their check along party lines. No hesitation. I hate big government.
Meanwhile, Democrats will have to search their souls. The event that they’ve talked so big about these many years finally has a chance to coming to fruition.
It’s not a charlatan like Al Sharpton, or an antique like Jesse Jackson – two men who are fun to root for, but you’d never seriously give them the keys to the Free World. No fucking way. You appreciated the effort. At the very least, Jackson made you entertain the possibility.
Barack Obama is not entertaining. He’s not dancing for our amusement. He’s filling up Mile High Stadium to announce that he will be one of two legitimate choices for President of the United States. Republican’s already have their man. He’s not anywhere near perfect, but he certainly looks like the other 42 guys that sat behind the Big Desk.
Mrs. Angry and I have a pre-natal visit with the OB-GYN.
Angry Two flitters inside Mrs. Angry’s abdomen as she completes paperwork for a friendly nurse, who learns that we’re new in town. I tell her we used to live in Memphis, Tennessee.
“Oh,” she says. “I bet you’re a lot happier here.”
“Isn’t it more than 60% there?”
“More than 60% what?” I ask. I know her answer, but I ask anyway.
From Manifest Destiny to putting our feet on the moon, America is a nation that talks and walks big. Our successes are legend. And maybe because of this, our failures seem nearly as large. If accomplishment is our nation’s trademark, then hypocrisy is our stain.
Concepts like “equality” and “freedom” and “opportunity” are fractured truths. White people complain endlessly about the concessions handed out to the black community. They moan bitterly about the scholarships, the business grants, and for the much-maligned affirmative action. We forget that in this country, black people have only had a real chance for thirty years. In that short time, we expect perfection from a society kept impoverished and without power for centuries.
American Black People, you have Barack Obama, and you are still screwed. Your AIDS rates rival those in African nations. You’re more likely to die of diabetes than your white counterparts. Your young men fill our prisons and not our schools. And if your back looks strange while you’re being subdued in a headlock, at least one teenage white kid is going to chalk it up to you being a nigger.
Which puts us back in the voting booth.
When the curtain closes, we will be left alone with much more than a choice of men. In November, we’ll be treated to a choice of ideals. Like the country he represents, John McCain is a legend through his deeds. He has experience.
He is also a relic. An old man. A curmudgeon who substitutes the past for vision. He knows the ropes, he’s been there a done that, and he refuses to master a teleprompter. He is nowhere near as far away philosophically as his predecessor, which makes him familiar and comfortable. John McCain is safe.
Meanwhile, Barack Obama is a fresh pair of eyes. A professional politician who works a photo opportunity as masterfully as he manipulates a crowd. He reminds us that leadership is more than knowing where the buttons are, and which ones to push. Leadership is the ability to inspire people to greatness; to put boots on the moon.
Obama may not be a Muslim or a communist, but he is black, and (to borrow a phrase my Republican brethren love to utter when no real words can be found) we’re going to have to “get over it.” He is naïve. He is too often without substance. And he is the man the Democratic Party has worked to put into the White House since Lyndon B. Johnson began rolling back Jim Crow. If not now, when?
This election will test us in ways no other event in our brief history ever has. Already, before the start of a single convention, I feel the cold tension. The weaknesses of Al Gore and John Kerry were so cartoonishly transparent, so easy to exploit, that the arguments those elections provoked produced harmless sparks from our bristly surface.
Come November, the debates we conduct at our most private moments will gouge us deep. Deeper than skin even. And we’ll have to wonder, truly wonder, if we are really voting for experience. Or are we voting to avoid one.