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It felt like a year in a day. The local streets were hopelessly chock-a-block. The Convention Center was a circus. Even the adjacent park was loaded with standing people, crammed in like canned
sausages packed in sweat. The added intensity was because of the debate: A national event - a televised opportunity for the candidates to smarm and smile and deceive on the big stage. This wasn’t just another nickel-and-dime rally in a diner or a park; with the big boys, or worse, the local small-potato candidates, lying and smiling in front of smaller crowds in smaller places. The event hype here, and the huge raucous crowd outside; the chanting, the signs, the costumes, the craziness, the loud and unprecedented anti-government stances, made my previous times, back in Eau Claire and the other day in Minnetonka, seem like meetings of Quakers and Mensa. The ignorance and spectacle were stupefying, like a three-ring circus without the rings, without the cages: just the clowns and freaks and sideshows, snake-oil salesmen and tiger-testicle peddlers; and suckers born every minute. Vienna
It started before I even stepped out of my Chevy, as a group of middle-age guys were tailgating in the parking lot. It was a regular party. They had a canopy tent set up, a couple of packed coolers, a barbecue blazing. They seemed like assholes, but they knew how to make great-smelling pork ribs and put away the Heineys. They were holding signs and obviously enjoying themselves, shouting ‘SHUT ‘ER DOWN, SHUT ‘ER DOWN!’ over and over. They were well-balanced, each with an anti-government sign in one hand, and a green bottle in the other. A couple of them were somehow managing messy bites of blazing hot rib while clutching the sign, and squatting down a little in a slight genuflect, holding the wet bottle between their legs. I never heard any of that shit under Bush. How could I? They were calling for the United States Government to actually shut down. Who would have ever called for that? It’s insane! And yet, when it’s repeated enough, and given credibility and equivalence against far saner options on all of the news outlets, it gradually becomes absorbed and accepted as sane and level-headed and serious; and then, incredibly, as a possible option; and eventually, by god, maybe even necessary to avert a total catastrophic whatever whatever.
I walked through the parking lot, and then I stopped to converse with one guy, about my age, I think. He was wearing shorts and a t-shirt and carrying a sign that said, ‘FKCU YOUR CLASS WARFARE. YOU’RE NOT MY PRESIDENT!’
I said, ‘What does that even mean, class warfare?’
‘That’s what they’re saying,’ he told me, without batting an eye, without a hint of embarrassment. ‘That’s what they’re calling it and that’s good enough for me.’
‘Who says that? About class warfare,’ I asked, but I already knew the answer. He did manage to surprise me though, when he pointed somewhere off to the side with a jerked thumb. I looked over and was dumbfounded at the media coverage.
At the far corner of the fenced-in area, about a quarter-way around the Convention Center, I could see a banner with the Goos logo, and a bunch of folks standing around. I realized that was the official media area.
Great, they’re shitting all over the lawn here too…