“I’m Paul Barlow, and this is my daughter Jo.”

“Malone.”

“You got a first name?”

“Yeah.”

VERN VS. THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY / TURNS OUT OBAMA HATES WHITES AND STUFF?

You know, if there was ever a time when humans and dinosaurs co-existed like they used to do in caveman movies it would’ve been unfair. A t-rex comes by your cave and starts eating your clan, you’re gonna get pissed. You go out there and start throwing rocks at the fucker, poking him with sticks. Doesn’t do anything. You go back inside, paint some unflattering cave pictures. When he’s far enough away you go out and beat on a drum, trying to rile up the other clans. If everybody throws rocks at that thing, everybody pokes it with sticks, then we’re safe and we’re all gonna eat steak tonight.

So the next day everybody throws the rocks and sharpens the sticks. And again the next day. And the next. But no matter how many times you do it that asshole keeps coming back, keeps biting off heads. Eventually you get tired. You’re not afraid of that thing anymore, but you don’t feel like you can defeat it. So you go back in your cave. Not cowering in fear – worse. Trying to ignore it. Stay in here, wait it out. Eventually a comet will hit or something.

Sadly, that’s where I’m at with George Bush, and that’s why I haven’t written about politics in a long time. After the dinosaur eats a certain amount of people you become desensitized. But the wait is almost over. On a clear night you can see the comet headed this way. 2008 is here and the campaign is underway – time to find a president to fill the all time smallest shoes. Whoever they get will probaly feel like a comedian going on after Michal Richards’ infamous n-word breakdown. It’s uncomfortable, and there’s a mess to clean up, but you’re gonna come out looking pretty damn good by comparison. Even if McCain wins it’ll probaly feel good.

I had some people ask if I would write a column about the primaries. I do have some opinions, but I’m no expert. When I write about politics usually it’s not because I really want to, it’s because I can’t stand to be quiet anymore. But when we had the Washington State primary here back in February I decided to go to a caucus and see what the deal was.

THE CAUCUS

For years Washington has had a unique primary where you vote for the candidate you like, regardless of party affiliation. But those 2 parties like the scam they got going so a couple years ago they took it to court and got it struck down as unconstitutional. Now instead we have an asinine, legal primary system. Our taxes pay for sending out ballots, and you can fill them out, but they don’t mean anything. It’s a “symbolic” mass mailing and counting of poetical non-binding votes. To actually affect how many delegates your candidate gets you have to show up at a caucus, which for us was held on a Saturday. On Friday the head of the state democratic party was asked on the radio what he would say to someone who didn’t want to come to a caucus. He said he understood the hesitation, but people need to leave the house and meet their neighbors.

And I said “fuck you.” The problem is not shyness or agoraphobia, it’s that people have lives. And those lives include jobs. It is true that many people have weekends off. During those weekends I invite them to observe their surroundings. I suspect that everywhere they go there will be businesses full of working people. Remember when you bought coffee, groceries, or other items? Remember when a guy was working on your lawn or fixing your plumbing or pressure washing the puke off your sidewalk? Remember the loud clang of the garbage collectors interrupting your democratic morning slumber? I know it is almost impossible to even fathom, but that isn’t just something they do for fun on the weekends when they’re on their way to brunch or caucusing. They actually have to do that to pay the rent so they don’t freeze to death.

Even if you declare a holiday during elections (which some people have proposed) those businesses will be open. They might even have a sale, and then more people will have to work. And I hate to say it but normal people don’t take a day off to vote. And if they have the day off, not all of them will be willing or able to go to a designated spot at precisely 1 pm to wait until 1:30 pm for a discussion which will last an unspecified amount of time.

I don’t know if it’s on purpose or if it’s just your typical situation of people being so far up their own ass they don’t realize it, but this system is ridiculous. It excludes working people and normal people. It seems designed to scare away all but the people who dedicate their lives to party politics. Here’s a movie analogy: it’s like if the people who dress up as Darth whatsisdick and camp out for days to see a new STAR WARS movie were the only people who were allowed to see the movie. Most people would say “I’d like to see that new STAR WARS movie, but it’s too much trouble and I want to punch the other people who are there in the face and I got priors so I’m just gonna stay home.”

But for some reason this time there were alot of people like me who said fuck it, I’m going anyway. In my neighborhood all the caucus sites were overflowing with lines out the door. There were far more people than were supposed to show up so they had to move people into emergency backup buildings. Think about it – having a high level of participation was problematic for this system. What does that tell you?

Pretty much everything was wrong with the caucus. It was an overly complicated system with very few people who seemed to know what the hell was supposed to be going on. First we fought our way to a table where we signed in and wrote down who we were voting for. Then we crammed into classrooms by district where we sat and waited for the teacher or whoever to show up. After lots of boredom and confusion a gentleman decided to start addressing the class in an attempt to get things rolling. Later when an actual election official showed up and said we needed to elect a chairman everybody pointed at the guy who was talking. I was afraid to think about what might be happening in other rooms where they had multiple candidates for chairman. Voting within voting.

Next we went through various activities such as passing around a sheet of paper to write our names and who we were voting for on, and having a discussion of isn’t it redundant to be doing this when we already did it, which of course ended up wasting more time than the actual passing around of the paper. I know I said this about waiting in line for SERENITY but truly I was looking at the windows thinking about how to escape.
At one point when somebody in my group seemed to speak authorititavely about what we were supposed to be doing somebody else asked, “Do you know what you’re talking about? I mean seriously, I can’t tell if you do.” And I couldn’t either.

After more than an hour we were asked to divide ourselves into groups by candidate. I had read this would happen and I pictured there would be about half Obama, half Clinton, with a few stragglers for Edwards (even though he had recently dropped out of the race), maybe a Kucinich or two. Instead it was 2 for Edwards, maybe 5 undecided, 11 or 12 for Clinton, and the other 60 or so for Obama. It was overwhelming.

At this point we had a discussion about whether or not there was supposed to be a discussion, and if so what it would be about exactly. Slowly this evolved into a back and forth Phil Donahue style soundbite debate about our candidates. There were some good points made and some bad ones. But should we really be making our voting decisions based on this classroom discussion? In fact some of the undecideds, and even a Clinton supporter, moved over to the Obama camp during the discussion. That’s real nice, but I know you people could’ve heard all of these points, and more, and better, and in way more detail, if you would’ve done your research beforehand.

At one point one of the undecideds was offended that people were talking like she should choose a side. Somebody asked innocently why she was there then, and she was offended by that. “No no no,” they said, “I’m not saying you shouldn’t be here, I’m just trying to understand what your reason is for being here if you don’t plan to take a side.” As far as I could tell she never gave an answer.

Eventually everybody wrote “OBAMA” on some pieces of paper, plus a couple of “CLINTON”s, and probaly a “BOOBS” or a “POPEYE.” Then we waited around longer for somebody to calculate whether or not our votes had changed and how many delegates we got and how the delegates would be divided. Then we had to vote for delegates.

If you are not familiar with this system, here’s how it works. Instead of voting, and having your vote be counted, you are given some people called delegates. Those delegates later go to the state convention and vote for Obama on your behalf. Hopefully. There is no way to really know. I heard a story about somebody being a delegate for Clinton and deciding to change her vote to Obama. I don’t get it though – why is that allowed? We were in a classroom, some people we never saw before went to the front and said one sentence about why they wanted to be a delegate, and then we wrote somebody’s name on a piece of paper. I believe Dolemite would ask “Bitch, are you for real?”

So I’m glad I got to see what it was all about, but I’m against it. As far as I can tell there’s not a single good reason to do it this way. We shouldn’t be caucusing, we should be voting. If the voting system is this ridiculous how are we supposed to have faith in the people we’re voting for?

Speaking of which…

TURNS OUT OBAMA HATES WHITES AND STUFF?

Like I said, I sort of have to get fed up before I’ll write about politics. So I wasn’t exactly planning on writing about the primaries at all. But then this thing about “Obama’s reverend” came up. The racial shit. It really got me going, caused me to “Hulk out” as my nerd colleagues would say.

If you haven’t figured it out yet I should say upfront that I want Obama to win. Of the candidates he has the closest politics to mine, but he’s also the least compromised. I meant it when I said, on that Black Thursday that the senators voted to let Bush invade Iraq, that they had blood on their hands. In this day when most Americans have long since agreed that that war is a disaster it would be a profound “FUCK YOU” to the American people to give us a choice between two chumps who voted for the war.

Clinton supporters, please don’t patronize me with that “if she knew then what she knows now” bullshit. Would you have voted for the war back then? Of course not. You fucking knew what was going on. I knew. Everybody I know knew and if they didn’t then it’s a good thing they’re not running for president. Clinton and McCain are both intelligent people so by definition they also knew there were shenanigans going on and that voting for the resolution meant war even if it did not specifically state it. But they were listening to the “Conventional Wisdom” that making the right vote would be political suicide because 9-11 9-11 freedom 9–11. People who do dangerous, stupid shit because the TV said they had to should not become presidents.

One of the Clinton arguments against Obama is that he’s inexperienced. I can’t believe how many people I’ve heard parrot that bullshit line. When Clinton ran for senator 8 years ago everybody complained that it was a transparent move, that she was obviously planning to run for president in 4 years. Turned out it was 8 so now everybody acts like she’s been doing this shit since the civil war. Now all the sudden 8 years in the senate is a veteran stateswoman, but 4 years in the senate + 4 in state senate is like a young kid plucked off the streets with stars in his eyes and thrown into the oval office. The only person in this race with a long track record in politics is McCain, and where has that got him? After a hard-earned rep as “the maverick senator” Karl Rove used racist attacks to kill him in a primary, then he bit his tongue and enabled Bush’s policies for years to appease the party machine so he could get another shot this year. And even that didn’t completely work because the right wing pundits still claim he’s not conservative enough! So he doesn’t have integrity or a good strategy.

Plus, if you saw his speech after he got the nomination, you can see how his great experience means “you know what, let’s keep doing it the same way.” Let’s keep telling people there’s a 9-11 under their bed and we can only protect ourselves if we have a republican in office. (Sorry about the plane hitting the Pentagon, that’s the exception that proves the rule.) I mean how can they still think you can make that argument out loud? It was all fine and good when it was a hypothetical but, dude, the republican “strong military stance” didn’t stop the first 9-11, you can’t pretend it’s a magic force field against a second one.

Maybe worse, in the economy part of the speech McCain started talking about deregulation as the obvious smart answer to our economic woes. Even his crowd seemed to have trouble swallowing that. You never heard of Enron? The California energy ripoff? The Bush years? Any of this ringing a bell?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t believe McCain could possibly be as bad as Bush. That would take some serious villainy and incompetence. So that’s a good reason to be optimistic about the future. As long as we change presidents – or even if we just get rid of this one and put a “HELP WANTED” sign on the front of the White House – it’s a step up. There’s reason for hope. But I think we should take this opportunity for a big step up, not a small one.

(white flashes, Avid farts, etc. as we flash back to the year 1989)

1989 doesn’t seem like that long ago to me, but I do feel like we’ve come a long way. It’s almost hard to imagine now that Spike Lee’s still-best-movie DO THE RIGHT THING caused some white people to tremble in fear. Not one but two well known writers worried in New York Magazine that it would cause black people to riot. David Denby wrote that “if some audiences go wild, [Spike Lee]’s partly responsible.” Joe Klein wrote that “If Lee does hook large black audiences, there’s a good chance the message they take from the film will increase racial tensions in the city.” He continued that the movie causing violence “can’t be ruled out” and that “If black kids act on what they see, Lee may have destroyed his career.”

Of course, nothing remotely like that ever happened (phew – that was close) and these days the movie has a badass Criterion DVD and a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. But back then it was different. Some white people couldn’t understand why “the nice kid Mookie” would be angry enough at the police beating Radio Raheem to death to throw the garbage can through the window. This was before Lee had made MALCOLM X, so Malcolm was still a boogie man in the eyes of Newsweek or US News and World Report. The very fact that he was quoted in DO THE RIGHT THING was hugely controversial.

Public Enemy had a similar effect. Their name was smeared in publications local and national. “Rap” was beginning to catch a bit of mainstream acceptance, for example DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince had won the first Best Rap Album Grammy. But Public Enemy spoke loud and their music was louder, an overwhelming blast of thunderous beats and blaring horn samples sounding more like bomb sirens than the James Brown tunes they came from. It was a musical attack with such complex construction that it would actually be illegal to release today without hundreds of thousands of dollars for sample clearance.

Put that sound behind a booming voice that talks about Huey Newton, Louis Farrakhan, the FBI tapping his telephone, and he’s got some guys in fatigues and berets marching around him… this was disturbing to certain people. What happened to that nice kid whose parents just don’t understand? I liked that kid. He never made me look up who Joanne Chesimard was. Why don’t we listen to more of his raps instead of these Public Enemy raps.

When PE played Seattle’s Paramount Theater in 1990, police in riot masks closed off the entire block around the theater and rode around on horses. Almost a decade before WTO and before the ROBOCOP-ization of the police force this was a shocking sight. What did they think was gonna happen? Even the Seattle Times music critic Patrick MacDonald, who had written more than his share of attack articles claiming the group were anti-white, mentioned the police department’s overkill in his review.

The anthem at the time was “Fight the Power,” written for DO THE RIGHT THING. In the movie it’s Radio Raheem’s song. He loops it all day long on his boombox, it’s heard 15 times in the movie. Radio Raheem was a nightmare for certain white people at that time. Although Denby’s review referred to then-36-year-old Bill Nunn’s character as a “boy,” he was huge, black, serious (i.e. “angry”), and accompanied by this song. So when stupid arguments escalate to a police situation they get too scared of him and they strangle him to death on accident. But even after he’s dead, even after his radio has been burned like Joan of Arc inside Sal’s Famous Pizzaria, there’s “Fight the Power” echoing through the embers. Fire proof.

And now, nearly 20 years later, it still echoes. If you forgot it was that old the first line reminds you of its exact time: “1989 – the number, another summer…” But it’s questionable how much power has been fought on its behalf in the intervening years. Despite David Denby’s worst nightmare of boys going wild, despite what the cops at the Paramount may have been told, despite what we as fans may want to think, “Fight the Power” is only a song. Chuck D was brilliant at making slogans, at mentioning old ideas to make them fashionable again, and most of all at conveying a spirit of rebellion. I thought of songs like “Fight the Power” and “Shut ’em Down” more than once while marching against this stupid war. But I still didn’t know how to stop the war. The songs didn’t mention that detail. So I’m not sure what those people were so afraid of.

Those things have been on my mind ever since this “Reverend Wright controversy” came up. I kept seeing references to the preacher at Obama’s church supposedly being anti-white. I didn’t catch the original story so I was trying to look it up to see what they were talking about. I found an article about the republican response, which quoted as experts various moral-free scumbag pricks like the guy who compared Max Cleland to Osama bin Laden in a commercial. One explained how he first learned of the preacher’s comments from a Youtube video called “Is Obama Wright?” And the article mentioned that the video was set to “Fight the Power.”

Man, watch that video and you’ll see what I’m talking about. After some Max Headroom editing to try to ridicule things that Obama and his wife say they show a bunch of clips of Reverend Wright’s sermons and then “Fight the Power” comes in. And I’m guessing it’s not because “NHale Media” who made the video want you to fight the power. They’re using it because to them it’s scary music. It’s the equivalent of normal non-racist people using the HALLOWEEN theme. One of the Wright quotes they use is when he said that “the chickens have come home to roost,” meaning that American foreign policy had caused or helped cause 9-11. When I heard about that I figured he was probaly referring to or copying Malcolm X, who caused controversy by using the same phrase to describe the JFK assassination. NHale picked up on this too because they show the Malcolm X clip. And then you realize wait a minute… they’re trying to associate Wright (and by extension Obama) with Malcolm X – as if that’s a bad thing!

That’s why we got a BATMAN and an INDIANA JONES coming out this summer. It’s 1989 all over again!

What surprised me about the video though was that none of the stuff at least in that video was actually all that offensive. Arguably insensitive if what he was saying was right after 9-11, but I didn’t hear anything that threatened me as a whitey or as an American. But I guess he said something before (and repeated it recently) about the government creating HIV. Seagal tried to write a script about that once. I know people say that sometimes and I’m not sure where it comes from, if they claim to have evidence or what their story is exactly. But hey, you know what? If it’s not true maybe when Obama becomes president he’ll be able to prove it to the Reverend. We didn’t create HIV. I’m the president. I would know.

And that’s the big question on this one: what are these people so afraid is gonna happen? Let’s say that since this guy who knows Obama said something insensitive or stupid or whatever that means Obama HATES white people (even though his mom is one). I mean just fucking hates us. Total reverse Klansman. Even in that scenario that only a complete ass would actually believe, what is the VERY WORST thing you can imagine happening from this anti–white racist becoming president? I mean seriously dude. Lay it on us. In your craziest, most paranoid racial nightmare PLEASE tell us what it is that a black president could do to harm white people if he wanted to. Because I can’t think of a god damn thing and I would absolutely love to hear some descriptions because I have a weird fascination with hearing crazy people say stupid shit.

If you can give us this description of what you fear from this fictional anti-white President Obama then we’ll talk, but if not I would ask that you and the stupid media please refrain from bringing up that ridiculous topic and acknowledge that only silly, paranoid, out of touch people would preoccupy themselves with it. Thanks racists. I mean fellas.

LOOK OUT THERE IS A BLACK PERSON BEHIND YOU, I THINK HE HAS A BOW TIE AND A BRAND NUBIAN TAPE… THIS COULD BE THE BIG ONE

Not really, just testing.

One thing I wonder about is where this racism charge comes from, what is the goal here. It seems like if it was the Republican Swift Boat teams they would want to hold off until close to the election. That way people can get all afraid and vote and then go hide under the bed before they have time to think it through and realize how asinine it is. If it is the Republicans spreading this stuff it supports my suspicion that they want Hilary Clinton to be the nominee. Because they have a better chance of beating her. People tend to like Obama, but there is a whole cottage industry of people who hate Hilary Clinton going back many years. And it’s more acceptable to hate women than black people too. They could get away with more nasty stuff. This could work.

On the other hand it could be Clinton’s people that are trying to smear Obama, and that would be more upsetting. I mean obviously they want to win this (and it’s a long shot) so they gotta run with any desperate idea they can think of. But you know, call me naive, but I thought democrats would try to not play that Karl Rove dirty tricks shit. I do like some things about Clinton, one of them being that she wants health care. Since she’s been pushing for that since the days when it was unpopular it seems like maybe she really does care about helping people and making our country stronger. But jesus, what is this about? She lost. She cannot mathematically beat him in delegates. She has to come up with specific ways of counting to make it seem like she has any argument for still being in the race. And she keeps trying to throw these bullshit charges at Obama to see if anybody buys any of it.

Like this one about him being an “elitist.” Apparently he made a comment in a speech about people in small towns in middle America not having enough jobs, being bitter and “clinging” to religion and guns. If you are in a small town and offended by this comment I have news for you. This is what all politicians think of you. The difference is that Obama brings it up sympathetically, discussing your economic problems and wanting to solve them. Many other politicians believe the same thing but they don’t see it as a problem, they see it as a hook to trick you into voting for them. Look at any republican who uses gun control or phony religious controversies to stir up votes. Or look at Clinton, who started talking about religion and shooting guns in all her speeches to prove that she’s “one of you.” Which one do you think respects you more?

Well, according to exit polls (which I thought they said weren’t reliable, because they seemed to indicate voter fraud in the last two presidential elections, but now somehow they’re citing them again, hmmmm, wonder what’s going on here) the “elitist” thing didn’t stick at all, people weren’t that stupid. But damned if Clinton didn’t try. Considering how far behind she is, and the fact that she can only win if she can convince enough (apparently not elitist) super delegates, it’s clear that her campaign is all about her. I think she doesn’t want to appear to be giving up so that when she runs again she seems like a contender. But by using these sleazy tactics she’s likely not helping herself in the primary, she’s just hurting Obama in the general election. She would rather see McCain win than a democrat besides herself. Then she can run again in 4 years instead of 8.

It’s too bad, because after all this I don’t think I could possibly support Clinton if she did become the candidate. I’ve had enough of this shit. I would love to see a woman in office (when Benazir Bhutto was assassinated I thought holy shit, how did Pakistan have a woman president before we did?) but sorry, I can’t get behind somebody that dishonest and condescending and willing to do that much damage to democratic causes in a desperate attempt to win an election. She was too middle of the road and corporate for me anyway, and I really don’t like this idea of a Bush or Clinton having been in office since fucking 1980 if you include the vice presidency (8 years of Clinton would make it a 36 year dynasty) but I still thought she was better than McCain. After this I don’t think I could take sides on that one. It’s AVP – whoever wins, we lose.

This whole campaign paints a sad picture. At that caucus more than one person said something along the lines of “I haven’t felt this way about a candidate since Bobby Kennedy.” I’ve heard this from so many people it’s become a cliche. I’ve talked to people who have switched parties to vote for Obama. I’ve talked to young people who have never believed in any politicians until Obama. The first time I saw an Obama speech was that one he did at the Democratic National Convention and I remember somebody on whichever channel I was watching said, “I think we may have just seen a future president.” This is all just my experience, yours may be different, but to me it seems like Obama represents something we’ve been missing for years: a leader who people trust and believe in, who inspires people, who makes people less cynical about America. For so many years there has been a hole, we have not had that kind of leadership. And for years people have lamented that we didn’t have anyone like that. And now that we finally found one, it is Hilary Clinton’s job, and John McCain’s job, and the media’s job, to convince people that no, this is not a guy you believe in. This guy is a racist and an elitist. It is their job to make up some stupid bullshit like he forgot to wear flag underwear one day or he farted during a memorial for firefighters or he rhymed his own name with Osama in a freestyle rap battle or who knows what kind of childish garbage these fucking pricks will come up with next, and then they will repeat it over and over and over again until people who watch TV are lulled into accepting it as being an actual, reasonable thing that adults of an average or higher intelligence level should actually waste their lives discussing. Partly because there are people who need to assassinate his character and partly because they got alot of god damn shows on those cable channels, they gotta have something to talk about. Might as well be the firefighter farting scandal.

I’m not saying I know a better way but it’s depressing that this is what the American system comes down to. Sorry, fuckers, if you want to believe in your president, you’re gonna have to get through us first.

But I don’t know. I think we can probaly get through them. We’ll see.

–VERN

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 28th, 2008 at 8:35 am and is filed under Vern Tells It Like It Is. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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