The Weather

The ABCs of an Election Year: Part Three

Read Part Two (G-O) of the election alphabet here.

P is for protest. In the spring of 1972, when I was a long-haired, anti-war student at Michigan State, I grabbed a bullhorn on the steps of the Administration Building and made an impassioned speech in front of 2,000 fellow students. Richard Nixon a few days earlier had bombed Cambodia, which spawned enraged turbulences across a hundred campuses. After we shut down traffic on East Grand River Boulevard, we stormed the center of campus to shut down the university’s brain center. Vietnam was genocide. America was burning children by the thousands. And now, Cambodia! Mitt Romney, meanwhile, had attended Stanford, and he protested there. He also heard a call to action. Romney carried signs that supported the Vietnam War, and did all he could to renounce the anti-war movement.

Q is for quahog. It is important to give credit where credit is due, and I hereby praise Governor Romney of Massachusetts for presiding over a state that produces such spectacular clams. The quahog clam is of the hard-shell variety, stouter and chewier than its soft-shell cousins. When I vacationed in Wellfleet, Cape Cod, in 1981, I frequently ate raw oysters and little-neck clams (“steamers”) while overlooking a salt marsh and guzzling beer at Captain Jack’s Tavern. “Quahog” also can come in handy for players of Scrabble. If the Governor had aggressively touted his clams connection, the seafood kind, who knows?

R is for really, really, really rich people. Rich as a hot vat of triple chocolate fudge. Rich as owning a private jet, and a yacht, and big-ass bling, and seven bedrooms. Ritzy rich, rich with blue blood, and rich with justifications for greed. The finest leather, the oldest wine, that rich American shine. Gated communities and feel-good fundraisers and looking-down-the-nose. Way more than rich enough to fill a refrigerator for every hungry child on the face of the earth. Rich enough to fill those refrigerators a thousand times over.

S is for stuck-out ears. Barack Obama and Paul Ryan both have ears that stick out. All four of them. And I’d wager that Obama’s flaps, if tested, would displace more air and create more lift for flight than Ryan’s. Not that there’s anything noteworthy about that. Most voters would probably call an ear contest a draw if the media were to draw attention to it. For the record, I feel that Ryan’s ears are the cuter pair.

T is for tourniquet. One day a week I work at the courthouse in Bellaire, Michigan. Last winter, a woman slipped on the icy cement steps outside and fell on her forehead. She was assisted into the lobby area as blood streamed down her face from a nasty gash. A group of people came to her aid and, given her critical condition, they were about to call an ambulance. The woman in anguish cried out, “Please! Don’t call an ambulance! I can’t go to the hospital. I don’t have any insurance! I can’t pay for it! I’m begging you! Please! Don’t call an ambulance!” But her wound was deep and wide, and because a medic couldn’t stop the bleeding, an ambulance was called. She sobbed the whole while as the EMTs prepared her to go, but not from the physical pain.

U is for undecided. Three weeks before the election, it was announced that twelve percent of likely voters still remained undecided. Twelve percent! How could that be? Are twelve percent of voters locked in their closets? Is there a third set of wildly different values that neither man represents? It’s not like deciding between shades of beige for the family room walls. It’s not like deciding between french fries or curly fries.

V is for a very, very, very good used car salesman. Mitt missed his calling. Oh sure, he made a billion dollars by flipping vulnerable companies, but consider what he could have pocketed at Bubba’s Used Car Acres. Mitt could persuade people to buy the fuzz scraped from spoiled cottage cheese. He could sell out a cruise ship bound for Des Moines. And if it ever came to used cars, Mitt could sell out Bubba’s inventory on a single Saturday morning in a blizzard. That man coulda moved some cars!

W is for wedgies and swirlies. That’s right, members of the Congress, we’re looking at you. Until you start acting like grownups, and actually GET ALONG, you can expect your underpants straps up to your necks and your heads plunging the porcelain.

X is for x-rays. You have to admire the dental health of modern political candidates. Those perfectly crafted pearly whites must come from many weeks in the dentist’s chair. Ever notice in the portraits of presidents and famous people long-gone that you never see their teeth? George Washington with his wooden dentures probably had the breath of a turkey vulture. In the 1800s, even if your mouth was reduced to rotten nubs, your oratory could save the day. Lincoln’s nubs were right down to his gums. Nowadays you’re doomed if you can’t flash a Pepsodent smile at every unsuspecting, undecided voter. Mark these words: If Obama wins this election by a hair, it will be because his toothy appeal pushed him ahead. If Romney wins, give credit to his dentist.

Y is for “Yer Darn Tootin’.” The brilliant “Yes We Can!” unified and brought energy in 2008. But Obama has desperately needed a replacement, and if the campaign had taken my advice, a new slogan would have given him momentum and a margin. Imagine Obama in an arena packed with 10,000 frenzied fans. He stands before them with loosened tie and rolled-up sleeves:

Obama: This is our moment, America! Are you with me, America? Is it time to move forward?
Throng: Yer Darn Tootin’!
Obama: Yer Darn Tootin’! This is not a country of the few, but a country of the many! Where we ask the most fortunate to do their fair share.
Throng: Yer Darn Tootin’!
Obama: And where every American deserves state-of-the art, affordable health care!
Throng: Yer Darn Tootin’!
Obama: Yer Darn Tootin’!

Z is for zombies. It’s exhausting to feel polarized. It’s exhausting to resent. I drive down my street every day and pass a yard sign that reads, “Take our country back!” It has become exhausting to consider and then reconsider the human posters of such signs, to take such umbrage against such a sea of flawed assumptions. Wrong, wrong, wrong! Bad, bad, bad! Anymore, I feel like the walking dead. It’s exhausting to walk while you’re dead. Let’s get a break. Let’s take five. Even zombies need their rest.

Tom Bohnhorst is a social worker and lives in Traverse City, Michigan. In 1973, he spent a harrowing night in a Turkish jail. He also has a blog called Poopiderum.