The guy sitting across from me is wearing a toupee. It’s an unnatural black and hovers just above his scalp, floating there, defying gravity, kind of like the puck on an air hockey table. As a proud bald man myself, I feel more pity than disdain. Take what you’ve been given and run with it is how I see things. If your follicles betray you, shave what little hair that sprouts from your head and then buff that mother to a high gloss and hold it up high. Be proud of your sheen. You sure as hell don’t walk around with road kill on your head. His mouth is rictus-like, his eyes beady. He drinks light beer by the pitcher and between that and the wig, I do not like him. Now I don’t normally go to a sports bar to judge hairstyles and make friends; neither do I go to make conversation. I’m here to watch football and to drink beer, in exactly that order. And if I drink too much beer, my lovely wife, or as I refer to her on weekends during football season, my Designated Driver, is only a phone call away. I should be happy. Arizona State is winning and after many woeful seasons, it looks like they might finally be headed in the right direction. Even better, the beer is cold, and the waitresses are cute, bubbly and, most importantly, efficient. Yet here I am miserable, doing my best to restrain myself, to keep from responding to the words coming out of this human ass sitting at my table.
It starts ten minutes after he asks if he can sit here; it being standing room only and I, assuming that he just wants to watch the game, say yes. Right away he starts trash talking about a former ASU player using racially charged terms, a young man whose every move was dissected, analyzed and judged by the local media almost daily leading up to the NFL draft. “These gang bangers, they should leave them in the ghetto,” he says. “A bunch of hoodlums. They don’t know how good they have it. With all their tattoos they’re ruining the game. That thug will end up in jail like the rest of them before it’s all said and done.” When people talk like that, I’m not even sure how to respond. My inclination is to either break a bottle across his face or to make a serious inquiry as to how tattoos “ruin the game.” But I just want to watch football and I don’t want a debate, so I tell him what I know. The “thug” in question was a student of mine and happens to be a good and decent person; polite to a fault, intelligent, respectful and even three years after I taught him, he always made it a point to run over and say hello and shake my hand whenever he spotted me on campus. He also has worked his way from an undrafted free agent to a starter by the third week of this NFL season, an almost unheard of feat. The Ass looks at me skeptically, his mouth pursed like a rectum, almost disappointed that I dispelled and didn’t confirm what he thought. His eyes narrow to slits. “Well,” he says. “I know what I heard.”
Like at most sports bars, the walls are lined with TV’s, and on several of them, it’s dueling political ads for the congressional race between the Democrat, Kyrsten Sinema, an openly bisexual, non-theist woman (I assume non-theist is a euphemism for atheist, but let’s leave that for another discussion), and Vernon Parker, an African American man and my former mayor. “Thank God I don’t live in that district,” the Human Ass farts out. “Not much of a choice there.” Being that Sinema is a solid liberal and Parker a solid conservative, I get the message. Women and blacks need not apply. Still I simply grunt and nod.
It goes on and on. An Obama ad is on one TV and he says, “Just one more month and we can ship his Muslim ass back to Kenya. Hopefully there’s room on that boat for a few more.” I’m uncomfortable. I’m cringing. My shoulders are tightening. Am I a coward for not confronting him? Trust me; I’m not generally a coward. I simply know that once I start I will not stop. My family warns others to not engage with me because once “I’m in the game,” I’m in it to destroy you. I don’t believe in taking prisoners. A battlefield strewn with the dead is my goal. I don’t fight pretty. So I grunt and order another beer, a real beer, not piss water.
He wants to know if I have kids. I mention that my oldest is a freshman at the University of Arizona. “I hate those f*ckers,” he says. “I’ll never forget tearing their goalposts down after we beat them in the Territorial Cup back in the 70s. Those were happy days. My oldest daughter wanted to go there and I put a stop to that. I told her that she’s going to ASU whether she likes it or not. No kid of mine is going to school in Tucson. Sun Devil for life.” That’s smart, I think. Dictate the college your kid will attend based upon some imagined sports rivalry between two teams that consider a .500 season to be a success. “You know what I really hate about Tucson?” he says. “Those f*cking liberals. That place is crawling with them. I hate those goddamn motherf*ckers.” I brace myself for him making a joke about Gabby Giffords being shot but thankfully he resists and saves me the trouble of breaking a leg off a chair and stabbing him through the chest with the jagged end. I’ve heard enough of those jokes and snide comments from right wingers, turning a national tragedy, along with the death of a child, into an opportunity to score vulgar political points.
I learn that we, we being me and my fellow “f*cking liberals,” are out to undo everything he’s taught his children. He’s taught them what to think and now we have come along and told them to think something contradictory. His daughters have to live at home and not at the dorms, lest they room with a “gay liberal,” who will “brainwash” them. He tried to get his youngest kid’s fourth grade teacher fired for saying that it’s okay that a student in her class has two mothers. Liberals are America’s enemy. They want to “destroy” America, though I’m not quite sure even he and his ilk know what they mean by destroy. Why am I not shocked? Why am I not outraged? Why am I not standing up and thumping my chest and screaming “I am a f*cking liberal?” Why do I just sit and stare at the TV screen? Because I’m used to this. It happens all the time; not always to this degree but more and more this is a common scene all across America.
The receptionist at my son’s doctor’s office takes the opportunity to call President Obama a communist and blame him for the rising cost of healthcare every time I pay my deductible, even though the doctor himself, whose opinion when it comes to the issue is far more credible, is a fan of the Affordable Healthcare Act. The parking attendant at work, his radio blasting Rush Limbaugh in the morning and Sean Hannity in the afternoon, makes it a point every day to tell me what new act of treason the president has just committed. My dry cleaner, my mechanic, a stranger in line at the grocery store. And they all seem taken aback when I don’t join in on their bash-the-president hate fest and instead just greet them with a blank stare. If I told them what I really thought, that each day I am amazed by the common decency and dignity and intelligence my president brings to his job, their tiny heads might explode from shock. The fact is, they assume everyone not only shares their hateful worldview but that we walk around all day as they do, obsessed with it, hearts blackened, enraged, paranoid, absolutely consumed. They truly believe that all of us, every last one of us, agree with them that our president and his wife are to be despised, impeached, jailed, deported. It’s why they still claim President Obama “stole” the 2008 election, an election he won by 10 million votes and in an electoral landslide. I mean, how could he possibly have won? Everyone hates him.
They don’t believe the poll numbers right now, numbers indicating a healthy lead for Barack Obama. It’s a liberal media plot, softening us for his upcoming “theft” of the 2012 election. Fox News is just the latest to join in on this “Poll Trutherism,” even though their own polls indicate the same lead. And if he does (hopefully) win, they will spend the next four years claiming voter fraud, spewing hate, insisting the election was stolen. Why? Because everyone hates him, right? Outside of a handful of f*cking liberals, nobody voted for him. The right wing media are already attempting to delegitimize his second term, as they did during his first term and did throughout Bill Clinton’s eight years as president. And those who feed off the hate that spills from their car radios, from Fox, from the internet, believe every lie they hear. This is what happens when you live your life in a vacuum, an echo chamber of hate, believing only that which fits your own worldview and dismissing all the rest as lies, spin, and a product of the liberal media. Visit conservative websites and Facebook pages. Read the comments. They insist Mitt Romney is actually way ahead in the polls and any poll that disagrees with that point of view is part of the plot.
The game is over. ASU has won and yet I feel deflated. The Human Ass grabs his car keys. Drunk, he plans on driving himself home. Great citizen, I think. “Sorry about your kid,” he says. “Going to that loser college.”
Okay, I have to say something. “My son goes to U of A because it suits his needs better,” I say. “I let him choose where he studies. His choice, not mine. Same with his major. Instead of teaching my kids what to think, I teach them how to think, how to research and process information. The last thing in the world I want or my wife wants or the world itself wants is for them to be clones of me. I like when they see the same facts that I see and come to a different conclusion. I love when they tell me that I’m full of shit. That, my friend, lets me know that despite my many bad habits and personality defects, that at least in one aspect, I’ve done something right. I’ve prepared my children to think for themselves. Beyond loving them, there really is no more important job a parent has. To encourage their children to find their own way.” With that, I head outside, not sticking around to hear his response, and wait for my Designated Driver to show up, hoping I get home in time to kiss the little bastards goodnight.