Brendan is the one who convinced me to go, of course — which is probably why the grown man and his teenage son sitting next to us accused us of being homosexuals — two dudes, late twenties, at a political rally? Together? “Total queers,” two great big homos who were only at the town hall meeting to derail an otherwise all-American and completely hetero circlejerk.
Yes, I can honestly say that within ten minutes of sitting down at a Ron Paul event, and mentioning casually to my friend that I was an Obama supporter, I was “accused” of being gay. That much, I really didn’t mind. I’m not gay, and those sorts of words don’t trigger me the way they might some of my allies. What was considerably more disconcerting was watching this guy’s son, sixteen or seventeen years old, parroting his father’s hate, nodding along and chuckling at his bigotry. I pretty frankly told the father that I’d go Samuel L. Jackson on his ass if he kept it up, and being a smaller-than-not-so-very-big-me, he kind of shut the fuck up. I’m not going to lie to you. That felt pretty all right. I just wish the fucking kid hadn’t had to be there. Kids these days have enough to deal with without their homophobic parents acting like assholes in public.
On the way up, Brendan and I talked politics, and got stuck in traffic, and I took a piss on the side of a road leading to a motel. We couldn’t find a gas station.
In front of the Derry Opera House I’m smoking a cigarette. I’m listening to a man in a bright yellow jacket direct a person — via blue tooth — from Newton, Massachusetts to Derry, New Hampshire. “I just came up from Massachusetts, too,” I say, because Brendan and I had knocked back a couple of cold ones before the big event, and I get talkative when I’ve got a buzz on. “Oh, yeah?” yellow jacket says, “Are you a Ron Paul supporter, too?” I tell him that I am not, but that I’m there to see the spectacle anyway. He immediately shifts his tone to defensive.
“Well, who are you going to vote for, then?”
“Obama,” I reply.
This doesn’t sit well with yellow jacket, who begins now to turn from defensive to aggressive. “Barack Obama is ruining this country!” he says. “People like you are ruining it, too. Just print money and let the federal reserve take care of it,” he sneers. “Doctor Paul is the only chance this country’s got, and you and the rest of the liberals — you and the rest of the Zionists, or, I’m sorry, Zionist enablers – are going to destroy it.”
I have to admit that I was smiling my, “I think you’re a nutter” smile through all of this, which probably provoked him. “You don’t know what you’re talking about,” I said, “but way to paint me with that broad brush you’re using — sure makes me think much more highly of your movement, buddy.”
At this point we walked in and continued our antagonistic banter up the stairs to the hall. Once inside, I went looking for Brendan, with yellow jacket in tow and harassing me the whole time. As there were 350 people in the auditorium, I couldn’t find him on my first sweep, so I got my phone out, put my finger up to yellow jacket, motioned “One minute,” and called him. He answered. “Put your hand up,” I said. I glanced around, saw his hand, and walked away. I didn’t see yellow jacket for the rest of the night.
The speech was typical Ron Paul. “End the Fed! Gold! Unregulated milk for everyone!” I was silently fuming the whole time, and fuming even more at the audience for applauding everything he said. It didn’t help that I’d been harassed twice before the event even started.
If you’ve never been to a town hall meeting in New Hampshire less than a month away from its primary Presidential election, it goes like this: candidate enters the room with state senator X, who will be his handler. Crowd gives standing ovation. Handler says a few nice words and lobs a softball question to candidate, who answers it vapidly and receives applause, at which point handler maybe mentions how impressive the answer was. This process is repeated for forty or so minutes, and then the floor is open to questions for the candidate from the audience. To his credit, state senator X encouraged the Ron Paul diehards to let those who were undecided take the microphone, so that Paul would have a chance to quell their fears. And to his credit — or maybe because I was in the third row — the first question went to me.
I had talked with Brendan about how I was going to ask a question on the drive up, but couldn’t make up my mind. Beforehand, I kind of wanted to take Ben’s suggestion and ask him why the state shouldn’t be the one to decide when life begins (presumably, Ben expected this to lead to incoherence about being an OB-GYN and the living embodiment of the United States Constitution and Jesus all at once, and how vaginas are tricky and you don’t just want to let the people that have them decide anything for themselves, because JESUS and THE CONSTITUTION and OB-GYN, etc. and so forth), but by the time the speech was over, I was more angry about his “End the fed, reduce the deficits, kill the New Deal and the Great Society entirely” blathering than I was by his pro-lifer-ism, which — gasp! – was not mentioned in the prepared stump speechifying. (No need to emphasize how much you hate women, after all, when you’re in a swing state.) So instead I asked him something like this:
“Dr. Paul” — I’m not sure I actually remembered the Dr. here, but the rest of my preamble (which, yes, I’m sort of ashamed of) more than makes up for it if I didn’t –
“Dr. Paul, I actually respect you more than anyone else in the Republican field. You have some pretty decent opinions, and we have a lot of common ground.”
(See? Snide blogger: 1; real-life Tom kissing Ron Paul’s ass: 0)
“But one thing I never hear from any member of the Republican field in all this talk of what the country can and can’t afford, debts, deficits, and so on — I hear a lot about cuts. It’s always cuts. All the time. But there are two sides of the equation” — I was kind of drunk, and I’m trying to convey that here with the rambling and repeating myself — “and the side that’s not cuts is revenues. Why won’t any of you ever mention revenues? Is that just something you would never even consider doing, raising taxes for this country?”
Or something. Something like that.
And he said:
“Boy howdy, I’m from Texas, and where I come from we call revenues ‘taxes,’ and we call taxes ‘not a damn bit better than them there coonhounds,’ innit?”
Or something. Something like that.
I began to interrupt him midway through his answer, but stopped, remembering the possibility of YouTube, the fact that I had just put myself squarely into hostile territory, and that I was somewhat drunk. For some goddamn reason that I still do not understand — maybe because I was glaring at him with the heat of one thousand suns — he let me ask a follow-up. State senator X motioned to begin asking another member of the audience a question, and Ron Paul finished his direct quote from above with “innit,” which for real life purposes translates into, “Oh, but wait, I’ll let the man ask a quick follow-up.”
And again I spoke.
(Here, I’ll preface this with the fact that I don’t remember what precisely the part about “coonhounds” in the above direct-quote-from-Ron-Paul translates to for real life purposes. I eagerly await the YouTube, should it ever materialize. I suppose it’s hard for me now to listen to electioneering without immediately going into “This is all bullshit and is certainly not worth committing to memory” mode. I listen to these assholes give their boilerplate speeches and it all washes off me like so much water off a duck’s back. What I do know is that my follow-up was not completely lacking context, as it is in this write-up.)
“Well, fine. But we’re talking about the tax code. Are you in favor of a more progressive tax code or a more regressive one. Should payroll taxes be capped at $120,000 or $150,000 or whatever it is, as it is now? Or should we keep it as it is now?”
To which he responded by admitting that the payroll tax was regressive and that that was bad. (He’s on the campaign trail in New Hampshire, and the people of Derry probably would not appreciate him sticking up for rich people skipping out on Social Security and Medicare payments, just because they’re so rich that they get to do that when they get to that point of richness!) But, true to form, that was just a pivot — again — into, “Taxes are killing jobs, you can trust me: I’m a garden gnome.” And then at the end, everyone cheered, and if I wasn’t already sitting, I sat back down.
A guy sitting behind me reached over to my shoulder and told me it was a good question. He smiled in a friendly way, and I said thanks. Ron Paul took a few more questions, some loony shouted something about chem trails from the balcony, and it was over. Brendan and I rushed to the front of the line to get our pictures taken with Dr. Paul. It was explained to us that no one could actually take pictures, but that a handler would be the photographer. “Have your cameras ready,” was the slogan, and when you got to the front of the line, you passed your camera over to the some dude, stood next to Ron Paul, and your moment in the presence of greatness was captured with the click of a button.
I tried to time the click with the moment I scratched my left cheek with my middle finger, but it didn’t work out. And no, I didn’t just hold it there and wait for the photographer to notice and have me arrested for insulting His Holiness, Dr. Paul. I kind of wussed out and hoped for the best. Shit happens. You don’t always have the moral courage you wish you did. But at least I tried for a second. Seconds add up, if you think about it.
Brendan grabbed all of the campaign swag he could from the Ron Paul booster table (including the biggest Ron Paul sign I’ve ever seen, I might add — the kind designed for giant New Hampshire front yards), and we went across the street to the bar for fries and a couple more drinks. A few of the town hall attendees were there. We (mostly I) argued with a most gigantic dude about Ron Paul or some shit — I don’t even know, and it doesn’t really matter — in that friendly, “We’re at a bar getting hammered!” type of way where you’re all friends, even though you aren’t. Then I got myself a whiskey, well, and we went back to Massachusetts.