Bear with me. It's been a rough week. We got robbed last week, although my friend Becky tells me that technically, we were burgled. stupid word, burgled.
Anyway, we had to beef up security in our home after a skinny white guy in his 30s and his trophy crack whore broke in our back door and stole our flat screen TV and all of my wife's jewelry. The economy is tough. We had to ask our 10 year old son to think about praying for these losers, because he really wanted to kick them in the nuts. (his words.)
The security company came two days later and got us all wired up. We've got glass break alarms, motion sensors, door alarms, etc. We live in a historic urban neighborhood in Knoxville, but right now, we feel like prisoners in our own home. I feel fortunate that we can afford a security system.
So the two service techs that come are almost archetypal. "Bill" worked at the local knitting mill for 10 years, which closed 15 or 20 years ago. He has a fourth grade education, but is a whiz at alarms. His partner, "Holly," is in her mid 20s, a relo from south Florida. Bill lusts for Holly, but she's not playing.
Taking a smoke on the porch, Bill tells me about the knitting mill. Bill said that it was "the best job I ever had."
"Those jobs aren't coming back, are they Bill?"
"They used to lower a bucket with their money from the fifth floor of the Mill and have beer delivered up from the bar at the corner next to the railroad tracks," Bill said. He told me that he got more tail at Standard Knitting Mills than he ever got at home. "A whorehouse away from home," he recalled fondly. I didn't judge. It was the best job he ever had.
The conversation shifted. We made small talk about their usual customers--rich snotty people who treated them like they were going to steal from them.
But then Holly volunteered that she was a "former republican." I said, "Really?" She said yeah, but that Obama guy is for partial birth abortions. I said "are you fucking kidding me? No one is for partial birth abortions. Other than the crack whore who uses abortion as a form of birth control, and they are crazy AND few and far between, I don't know ANYONE who is FOR partial birth abortions. And that includes Barack Obama."
I added, "Let me tell you about my Mom. Back in the 1970s, she was pregnant. She had uterine cancer and was about 16 weeks pregnant. She had three kids and an abusive husband. (A familiar scene in Tennessee, btw.) If she carried the baby to term, she would undoubtedly die, and leave three beautiful kids with an abusive asshole. Do you want to turn her into a criminal?"
Holly said "No." I nodded.
"That's why we can't turn issues like abortion into a political wedge, like the republicans want to do," I said. I never had to use the word "choice."
She nodded her agreement, adding that what happened to my Mom sucked. I told her that Mom had a radical hysterectomy and is a 32-year cancer survivor. We both smiled.
I realized then I didn't have to demonize republicans to make my point, as many of us have done over the last eight years, myself included. I remember wearing my "Bush Lied-People Died" t-shirt. Not a great conversation starter. I could win these folks on the merits.
Now Bill was different. Bill tried the "I like that Obama, but I hear he refuses to say the pledge of allegiance."
Bill and I had already bonded. He had shared with me that he only had a fourth grade education. I responded by saying that I knew people with Masters degrees who didn't have the sense to come in out of the rain.
I added that my daddy (we say that here in Tennessee when we're talking to good ol' boys) taught me that we all put our pants on one leg at a time, and we're no better and no worse than any other man. (Ed. note: my Dad was an abusive asshole, who didn't always practice what he preached. But I took the good with the bad).
I said "Bill, I can show you two or three videos on the Internet where Barack Obama wears the flag pin, and actually says the pledge of allegiance. That's bullshit."
I continued: "The Republican party wants to distract you with bullshit like that--flags, and pledges, and abortions, and gays, and scary black men--so they can rape the shit out of you courtesy of Exxon Mobil. Seriously, do you really care what color your president is when gas is $4 a gallon?"
Bill and Holly both laughed. It was a warm, Indian summer afternoon in October in Knoxville, two days after we were robbed. And I felt distinctly at peace. I didn't need to hard sell them or ask to stick a sign in their yard--they were convinced.
I don't know that we will carry Tennessee on November 4. But I can tell you that even good folks--folks who the rest of the nation may stereotype to their own detriment--are just as concerned as the rest of us at the direction of their country. And while some may think Tennessee is full of dumb rednecks, we're not. Some of the smartest people I know may only have a grade school education.
I predict Tennessee will be closer than you think, because of good people like Bill and Holly, who care deeply about their country, and are very interested in learning more about Barack Obama.