This weekend I held a garage sale. My house is obviously the liberal house on the block. I’ve got the Kerry/Edwards yard sign and the Congressman Wu yard sign. My Jeep is plastered with pro-Kerry, anti-Bush bumper stickers. There’s a flag in my window and right below it is a “Vote Democratic” sign.
I set up the garage sale in our driveway and I took extra “Vote Democratic” signs that I had from ACT and plastered those all around the displays of clothing, electronics, and sporting goods I was trying to sell. I also made up a handwritten sign that read “Register to Vote Here!”
Most of my encounters were very positive. I was surprised to find out how many Bush-haters we had in the neighborhood. It would be too much of a stretch to call them “pro-Kerry”. Many conversations would begin with the caveat “I’m not really very liberal” or “I’m really a pretty moderate person” but then they’d move right into “but this Bush guy has got to go!” I told them they were probably more liberal than they think but Republicans have got you believing that “liberal” is a perjorative.
I was able to register five more voters from my neighborhood, including a young Republican woman who’s voting for Kerry. We live in a suburban loop that is home to a set of duplexes. There’s lots of turnover, therefore lots of people with new addresses who need to re-register.
There were two events that just left me shaking my head. A young lip-pierced man was browsing through the goods. He had to be between 18-24 years old. I asked him, “are you registered to vote?”
“Nah, I don’t believe in it,” he answered smugly.
“Don’t believe that voting exists or don’t believe that it’s your duty?” I countered.
“They’re all the same. If I had enough money, I could be your president.”
“No, you couldn’t, because you’re not thirty-five years old.” I think I lost him on that bit of Constitutional minutiae. “How old are you anyway? Are you old enough to vote?”
“Well, then, it would be a terrible shame if a military draft was instituted in the next four years and you didn’t do anything to stop it from happening. That’s your worry, though, I’m an old fat guy; they’re not going to draft me. They’re going to draft healthy 18-26 year-old guys like you.”
He then wandered away with that wonderful invincible immortal attitude that I had at that age as well. I sure hope I get to see him again someday.
My other encounter was with an older gentleman. He had been driving by all day in his large new pickup truck as he helped someone move in to one of the duplexes down the street. One time he drives by very slowly, scanning the “Vote Democratic” scene. I waved at him and he began to roll down his window. I walked toward him and he began to speak.
“I was in the Marine Corps as a gunnery sergeant…” and he went on to describe his whole military history in WWII and Korea, then talked about his son who was a veteran of Vietnam. As he wound down he said, “and everytime I drive by your house and see your signs I just thought that I should tell you that I have a big problem with Kerry’s service.”
Aha! You could just see the Swift Boat Lies being swallowed hook, line, and sinker. So I responded by saying, “I see. So you must be really proud of George W. Bush’s service, right? Or did John Kerry not win enough medals for your satisfaction?”
I could see the man getting angry and maybe thirty years ago he would have jumped out of the truck and kicked my ass. (It would’ve been easy, too, because I would’ve been six years old.) “September 11th changed everything!” was all he could muster.
“You’re right,” I challenged, “before September 11th, I could’ve never imagined an older war veteran supporting a draft-dodging, coke-snorting, DUI-convicted, AWOL alcoholic who spends like a liberal over a five-times decorated war hero who volunteered to serve his country. Yup, September 11th changed everything!”
He began to drive off. I said, “I’d love to talk to you some more about it, sir.” He muttered, “it wouldn’t do any good.”
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