3-29-2008 No donation, no buttons

As has been the troubling norm of late, we were sitting here playing Sim City 4 (nearing 400,000 residents) yesterday, when WILK mentioned something about City Hall being evacuated or something. I missed the beginning of the news blurb, so I mounted up and headed out on the Hummer in search of discovery. Or at the very least, some nifty pictures.

And after the briefest of stops at Turkey Hill, I arrived on scene to find nothing. Absolutely freaking nothing. No employees huddling against the cold. No news vans. No Emergency Management Agency trucks. Not a single thing of note. So, I was left to assume that the white substance that caused the big hullabaloo was probably crushed Smarties. Well, the white ones. And near as I can tell while perusing the Homeland Security Web site, crushed Smarties won’t get you a one-way ticket to Club Gitmo, no matter the color. Try some Razzles instead. Maybe a few candy cigarettes, if they weren’t already banned by the perpetually hysterical.

So, with no potentially dangerous and developing situation to monitor, a state of Bikeabout was immediately declared--by me--and due south I pedaled. And just as soon as I got within reasonable ESP distance of Hillary Clinton’s campaign headquarters, I remembered that I wanted to snag both a Hillary and an Obama button for my massive collection of campaign buttons, pins and the like.

And as you can see by glancing at the graphic provided below, I got me one of those highly-coveted Hillary Clinton buttons. Oh joy.

And as for the Barack Obama button…well, truth is, being in my bicycling mode--lightweight running--apparently, I didn’t have enough cash on my person to be able to get me one.


When I wandered into the Hillary headquarters, I first encountered a local guy known to me who was sitting at attention behind a folding table piled high very high and wide with campaign literature. He asked me what he could do for me. And after a nicety or two, I told him what I wanted was a couple of Hillary’s campaign buttons. In the box slid his hand and out came the Hillary buttons. Gee, that was easy. Here, I thought they were going to try to recruit me or some of my time, as these election volunteers predictably do.

Suddenly, from the gathered twenty-something crowd conversing in the back of the room marched this young uber babe, who upped and latched right onto me. “Would I like to volunteer for Hillary,” she asked of me. I told her I work way too much and wouldn’t be able to. Without even blinking or having to think, she suggested, “You have a voice, don’t you? You could call talk radio or write letters to the newspapers.” I assured her that my time was very, very limited, and I promised her that I get my voice out there on the internet on a very consistent basis. An almost annoyed look crept over her face, but she did thank me for my support of Hillary, smiled and then turned and walked away.

So, the election collection grew by two, and I got the hell out of there totally unscathed. Nope, no volunteering coming from this busy knucklehead of a registered voter. Besides, I never did say that I supported Hillary. Mission accomplished.

Now, on to Barack Obama’s headquarters just a stone’s throw away.

First of all, I tried to get off on a rather lighthearted note by pointing at the life-sized cardboard cutout of Barack Obama and saying in a very Jeff Spicoliesque manner, “Whoa. That dude looks familiar.” And judging by the look of utter contempt I received from the downed zeppelin with the unkempt hair and the three-day beard sitting behind the table, perhaps Spicoli’s “You dick!” one-liner would have been more appropriate.

It quickly got worse.

Right after the middle-aged black women seated behind him slowly turned and then squinted almost disbelievingly at me over their reading glasses, he said, “What can I do you for?” What can I do you for? What is this place, Lonesome Cowboy Mark for Congress headquarters? Whatever happened to this oft-repeated nonsense about Barack Obama’s supporters being mostly the young and the better educated? What can I do you for? Uh, I dunno. How about, I stopped by to teach you how to speak at least a modicum of some proper English?

It got even worse.

I told him I was hoping to acquire a couple of Barack Obama’s campaign buttons. Or as Steve Corbett will predictably shout as if one word, BOO-ROCK-OHBAMA! And as a preemptive strike of sorts, I said I was too, too completely busy to volunteer any of my time. The elusion being, I would wear the buttons to show my support for Barack Obama (two words, Steve). Next he asked me how many buttons I wanted, as he reached for a bag under the table. Now, I’ve always thought of a couple as meaning two, so I told him I wanted two buttons. And as his hand actually came out from under the table and started to head my way, he abruptly pulled his hand back and said, “I’m supposed to ask you if you’d be willing to make a donation.”


It gets worse still.

I pointed out the fact that I was on my bike and traveling very light, and then his hand went back under the table and the buttons were redeposited into the bag from which they reluctantly came. And he just sat there, stared back at me and didn’t offer another word. Somewhat stunned, I panned my head back towards the street and then back around the room only to find all of the other campaign workers now staring at me as if I was wearing a lime green AMC Gremlin on top of my head. And I was thinking to myself, “What? Did I do something wrong, something inexcusable? What? What the fu>k is this?”

Still worse.

No one said a word. They just continued to stare at me. And I would have checked my zipper if I actually had one on my cycling shorts. And after a few more thoroughly awkward seconds passed, I asked the guy, “So, I can I get a button or not?” And then he spelled it out a bit more specifically for your stupefied internet author, who must not look very young or very educated, as the most fervent of Obama worshippers are so purported to be.

He said, and I quote, “I can’t give you the buttons unless you’re willing to make a donation.”

Amazingly, there it was. No donation, no buttons.

And, “…willing to make a donation?”

Now I understand how Barack Obama has managed to raise so much money without taking “money from the lobbyists.” His campaign workers are being trained to practically extort money from the little people like us. And what would it have taken me to get those “couple of buttons?” Twenty-five bucks in cash slapped down on the table?

I didn’t ask. No, astonished to the point of being flabbergasted, my tongue suddenly tied and my gaze lowered all the way to my feet, I didn’t know what to say other than a few completely offensive things best uttered during violent fracases. And with that same disheveled-looking guy still just blankly staring back at me, I muttered an abrupt “See ya” spun and headed for the sidewalk.

What…for lack of a better word, what balls! What unmitigated audacity!

You can take those campaign buttons and shove them up Obama’s “ex” pastor’s ass for all I care. As a matter of fact, tell Obama to crawl back up there, since it’s been such a warm and comfortable place for him for so long.

Hope? Change? From a group of people who are trying to shake us down at the street level? The Audacity of Hope? No, try the Audacity of Coercion, that same old political hornswaggle only in newer, slicker, shinier packaging.

I knew there was something about this Obama phenomenon, this blind idolatry that definitely smacked of Elmer Gantry, but I kept it to myself. The former “community organizer” turned messianic harbinger of peace, hope, understanding and change managed to do something that no other candidate before him did…piss me the fu>k off over something as inconsequentially stupid as a campaign button. And make no such idyllic mistake about it, this was something that came from the top down. The street level shakedown, that is.

It wasn’t enough that (for all they knew) I was offering enthusiastic support for their candidate with the increasingly uneasy lead. No, what they outright demanded in addition to that assumed support was my money. And if that’s what passes as change and hope, I’m here to tell you that the lot of you folks zealously following the new political messiah are prone to prolonged bouts of daydreaming.

What can I do you for?

Uh, not much. Trust me, you’ve done enough.

More than you’ll ever know.

Obama's finest speeches do not excite. They do not inform. They don't even really inspire. They elevate. They enmesh you in a grander moment, as if history has stopped flowing passively by, and, just for an instant, contracted around you, made you aware of its presence, and your role in it. He is not the Word made flesh, but the triumph of word over flesh, over color, over despair.

Amen.--Ezra Klein

So did Elmer Gantry’s.