The Rant 

Okay. This is it. I am writing this on the day before

the 2008 United States presidential election, and I am trying not to

run screaming into the streets in search of a psychiatrist who still uses electroshock

treatments. I'm pretty sure I have that syndrome — that election-related stress and trauma disorder — or something

like that. And I hate it. I want my life back.

On the one hand, I am certainly no diehard "patriot" of the only country in the world that has dropped a nuclear bomb on another one and has spent more than half a century wringing its hands about other countries having the same capability. It just doesn't make sense to me. (But, then, a lot of things don't.) So common sense would have it that I shouldn't really care who wins this election. On the other hand, I look around at all of the poverty, injustice, bigotry, and egomaniacal us-vs.-them worldview that plagues the United States and makes us the laughingstock of the planet, and I want that to end. I want it to end because I want the country in which I live to be better than that. Maybe I am a patriot and just don't know it.

What I do know is that there are three words I never want to hear again as long as I live: "Joe the Plumber." By the time this issue of the Flyer hits the streets, the election will be over, I hope. I say "I hope" because of the chance that the outcome could be rigged, as it was in 2000. And my election-stress syndrome is in high gear and has me worrying that there's a slight chance that the results won't be confirmed immediately. And that means that the words "Joe the Plumber" might be spoken again, and I just don't think I can take it. Call me crazy (a lot of people do!), but I firmly believe that John McCain's campaign managers, in true Karl Rovian style, paid Joe the Plumber to attend the Barack Obama campaign stop in Ohio and told him to say the things he said so they could have some kind of thin thread to hang onto as the election neared and they could obnoxiously invoke his name over and over and over and over and over and over and over again to the point that his moniker might be listed in the next Oxford English Dictionary.

Nothing against the guy personally, but are we so dumbed down that, in what has turned out to be the most important election of this century, Joe the Plumber has become the symbol of everyman? If you are a Wikipedia freak like me, you probably know that there is now an entry on Joe that has — count them — 69 references. The entry has a table of contents with 12 chapters, and the article is as long as Ronald Reagan's funeral. Silly me. I thought this was the first election in the history of the United States in which a black man has a chance to become the president, thereby changing the course of history forever and moving us into the real world and helping heal more than 200 years of slavery, segregation, Jim Crow persecution, and whispering at the water coolers about how blacks aren't that bad as long as they stay in their place. But I suppose for many people, Joe the Plumber is more important than that — even if he did have his facts wrong on Barack Obama's tax plan and will be, if Obama is elected, one of the people who gets a tax break. Now that Joe the Plumber has launched a congressional campaign, maybe he will come to understand this as he attempts to win an office with a salary we the people will pay.

See? I am losing it. Even I am writing about Joe the Plumber, whose name I never want to hear again. It's madness. All I want, as I have written here before, is for Shirley Chisholm to come back from the dead and hold my hand through this. And that's because there's a lot at stake here. This is not Saturday Night Live. It's our chance to show the rest of the world that we are not a nation of freaks. But I fear that we can't show them something that we're not. I hope that by the time this paper hits the streets, that fear will prove to have been unfounded. I am a nervous wreck.


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