Thursday, October 30, 2008

Political Rage at the Bar at BWI

All the seats were taken and I wanted to grab a quick drink before heading home to Chicago-bama. Cornering the corner of the bar, I invited another seat-seeker to share the left side of my standing room corner.

Immediately, a great big thirty-something man seated to my right offered me his chair and stood to drink his beer. "Thank you," I all but gushed. "It’s so rare and delightful for a man to offer his seat." I complimented him further on his generosity and he explained it was due to his military dad who had trained him right. I echoed his appraisal, saying I’d always found military men to have great manners (even as I was silently recalling an account on the news the night before of dismaying numbers of rapes of women in the military by their colleagues.)

There seemed to be a murmur of here-here by the men seated around us but I didn't pay much attention. They were dim elevator music and I called a friend to see if she had won a ticket to the Obama election night celebration in Grant Park.

She hadn't. I had. She and I kidded around about what I would do with my "plus one" ticket – auction it? No. Use it as bait to get a boyfriend? Maybe.

But then I was off to Gush Two -- about the historic nature of the event, the once in a lifetime nature of it, how I had painted my nails Barack Blue already in anticipation, and how people would be dancing in the streets for at least four or five days when he wins.

As I wound the call down to down a crab cake (Baltimore!) I sensed a shift in the men around me. As they overheard my call, the charming jovial atmosphere that had prevailed as I had complimented the gent who had given me his seat soured. I looked around and saw a sea of hard, set, angry mouths on the white men in the seats around the bar.

I cut my call short.

A middle-aged man seated to my right opened the dialogue. "Everyone’s not going to be any dancing in the streets.”

Seeing the tight faces around me, I joked, "Okay, not everyone. There will be those getting ammo for their Uzis and sharpening their knives for decapitation."

This was not received with the levity intended. Another man sneered, "So you think all Republicans want to kill Him?” [The Name went unmentioned.]"

"Hell no. Hell no. Just the nuts. Republicans have no monopoly on nuts. I don’t think all Republicans are like that at all. For god’s sake, I’ve been a Republican speechwriter. Most everyone in my family is a Republican. They don’t shoot people."

This did not mollify the hard jaws.

The one who doubted my prediction of street dancing said, “I’m in the Air Force – no one in the military is voting for him."

I said I’d talked to lots of men and women in uniform and military families while traveling and found lots and lots of Obama supporters.

“Liar,” he seethed.

The faces grew tighter. Veins on their necks throbbed. I imagined pitchforks and torches.

One reduced himself to calling me an "intimidating bitch.”

The gent who gave me his seat looked sheepish -- as though by having done so, he'd brought this angry sneering crowd alive.

I had a plane to catch, downed the last of my crab cake and left for the gate.

The guy I had offered to share my corner with had remained silent (but not hard jawed) and caught up with me as I got to the gate. "Rough time, huh?" he asked.

"My skin's thick," I replied. "But why didn’t you say anything?”

“I didn’t want them to kill me. Did they scare you?”

“No, I'm not worried about me. My country, though - that's another matter. Those guys are ANGRY. I’m afraid of how people like that will react when Barack is elected. What do you think set them off?”

“Dancing in the streets, that’s what.”

“What? What’s wrong with dancing?”

“They’re thinking of the song – Martha and the Vandellas. They’re black. They were imagining black people dancing in the streets.”

“And that’s what made them so angry?”

“Yeah, probably. That and your blue nail polish.”