When last we met, we told you that we would be taking a brief detour to meet one of the café’s true “angels” and also one of its true “devils.” Last episode we met the angel. Guess who’s up now?
* * *
The Last Chance Democracy Café: Bob
by Steven C. Day
To the muffled chorus of a dozen “oh shit’s, Bob walked into the lounge. “I see you commies are back,” he scowled at the wise men. Scowling is Bob’s one true gift. He works in scowls much as Picasso worked in oils, Mozart in concertos and George W. Bush in deficit spending — a true master of his craft.
Bob’s a Republican, which in itself is no big deal. The Last Chance Democracy Café has quite a few Republican regulars. We always try to be accommodating to them — you know, by talking slowly and not using too many big words. Some of our Republican customers live close by and treat us as their neighborhood bar, overlooking our politics. Others simply love a good argument and know they’ll find one here.
Bob comes for a different reason. Bob comes because he’s a bully on the hunt for victims.
Tall and lanky, looking every bit his 55 years, Bob has a nondescript face — the sort you might expect to get if you bought one at K-Mart. Although he sports a military-style buzz haircut that any C-minus cosmetology student could easily trim, he gets his hair “styled” at a $200-a-cut salon because, well, because he can. Somewhat along the same lines, his wife gained a certain notoriety a few months back when it was reported that she had undergone 94 separate cosmetic surgeries, setting a new North American record. Rumor has it that in honor of his wife’s newly remanufactured body, Bob has been limiting himself to just one girlfriend at a time.
As you’ve probably already guessed, Bob’s rich. He came into his money the good old-fashioned American way, inheriting his father’s bottling business 10 years ago. He’s managed to run the company only halfway into the ground since then, so he still has enough money to be a player in big-dollar GOP circles. He’s what you might call a fully integrated Republican: He supports both the pro-big-business-silk-stocking and the “anti-sin”-Religious-Right branches of the party (he just doesn’t think the dictates of the latter apply to him personally).
He comes into the café once or twice a week, insults everyone in sight, stiffs his server and then huffs off.
Being both politically conservative and a bully hardly makes Bob unique, of course. That combination, in fact, seems increasingly to define the breed — Newt Gingrich, Tom DeLay, John Ashcroft, William Bennett, Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly — even Bush himself. Bullies all. And like bullies everywhere, when it comes to getting what they want they don’t worry too much about little things like ethics, fairness or even basic human decency.
They wanted, for example, to retake control of the senate in 2002. Well, what better way than by impugning the patriotism of Max Cleland — a man who only sacrificed three limbs fighting for his country in Vietnam. So, sure enough, there were the television attack adds showing Cleland’s face right next to Osama bin Laden’s, as though they were comrades in arms. And to the never-ending shame of the voters of Georgia, it worked like a charm.
Another thing they wanted, of course, was to massively increase the power of the federal government to infringe on civil liberties as part of the war on terrorism. But what to do about those civil liberty nuts, always whining about things like due process of law and freedom of association? No problem! Just send John Ashcroft up to the Hill to say, “To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this. Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve. They give ammunition to America’s enemies, and pause to America’s friends. They encourage people of good will to remain silent in the face of evil.” Yeah, that ought to do it. That’ll shut the bastards up.
More recently, they wanted to push through an unpopular “Medicare Reform” bill that was actually an HMO and pharmaceutical industry enrichment bill. Hey, consider it done, dude. Just hold the vote open more than two-and-a-half hours longer than the rules allow and use the extra time to browbeat an uncooperative GOP congressman by threatening to destroy his son’s political career. So what if that violates the rules of the House and probably (considering the little bribe they tried to throw in for sweetener) federal law as well? Who’s going to do anything about it?
Then, of course — and this one’s a classic — they wanted to push through a few of Bush’s ultra-right-wing judicial nominations over Democratic opposition. Here’s an idea: Just break into the Democrats’ private computer files to read (and in at least one instance leak) their confidential strategy memorandums. Like Patton said after defeating Rommel’s troops: “Rommel you magnificent bastard! I read your book!” In this case, the Republicans got to read the Democrats’ book without the Democrats ever knowing it had been “published!” And what was the GOP’s response (with a few honorable exceptions) when they finally got caught? Why, it was all the Democrats’ fault, of course, for not having a more secure computer system. You know, in the same way in which it’s your fault, not the burglar’s, when your house is broken into, because you should have had a better security system. A surprisingly lame defense? Not really. Remember. It’s one of the characteristics of a bully to never admit being wrong.
And where was the loyal opposition through these and all of the other outrages? Speaking as a lifelong Democrat, I have to tell you there were times during the last few years when I actually wondered whether my party’s representatives in Congress had been assimilated by the Borg. You know, those alien invaders in the Star Trek series who use cybernetic implants to control people, destroying their individuality and causing them to chant over and over again, “Resistance is futile! Resistance is futile!” Kind of fits, doesn’t it? Now, in fairness, here recently congressional Democrats have actually started showing signs of life — not as much as might be wished, but enough perhaps to justify sending the mortician home for the night.
But my God, what took them so long? I mean, how many times did Bush & Co. have to hit them below the belt before they finally figured out these guys don’t play fair. This isn’t rocket science. Ask any school kid. There’s no compromising with a bully. They won’t meet you half way. They won’t make nice to you because you make nice to them. You can’t reason with them. When faced with a bully, eventually you come down to one of two choices — stand your ground or reconcile yourself to getting your face rubbed in the snow. It’s that simple.
And as it happens, Tom, who understands this fact quite well, had finally had enough of our own little bully, Bob. “I know you’re a busy guy, Bob,” he began. “So I guess you’ve probably missed the news for, oh, the last 15 years or so, but there really aren’t any communists worth mentioning around anymore . . . Russia and China have gone capitalist. You remember — the Berlin Wall falling and all that. And all of the old 60s radicals are now investment bankers and neoconservatives. You may want to update your insults.”
“No, you guys are still commies.” This, by the way, was as close as Bob ever comes to witty repartee.
“Fine,” said Tom wearily. “Then tell me what you mean by the word communist.”
This irritated Bob. “What the hell are you talking about?”
“Define your terms. You just called us communists. Tell us what you mean by that.”
“Well, that’s a stupid question.”
“Okay, then, give a stupid answer.”
“So I take it then that you don’t know what a communist is.”
Bob’s face was getting red. “Of course I know. Communists believe . . . well, you know . . . they believe that the government should own everything.”
“Well, if that’s the definition,” said Tom, “then I’m sorry to disappoint you, but clearly the three of us aren’t communists, because we definitely don’t think that the government should own everything. Let me give you just a couple of examples . . . For one thing, we don’t believe the government should own a multi trillion dollar Star Wars missile defense system that won’t work anyway. And we sure as hell don’t think it should own The Last Chance Democracy Café . . . I mean, Lord, by the time Bush got done paying Halliburton for transporting the alcohol it would cost at least $10,000 to buy a beer.”
“You son of a bitch . . . You know perfectly well that’s not what I meant. What I’m trying to say is that communists want the government to control everything.”
A crowd was starting to gather, sort of like what happens when a fight breaks out at school.
Tom smiled. “Good. Now we’re communicating. So in other words, as you see it, the controlling factor in determining whether a man’s a communist is whether he wants the government to control other people’s lives. Right . . . ?”
“Yeah, just like your hero Clinton, the biggest slimeball, by the way, this country has ever known!”
Tom sighed. “Bob, I know it isn’t what they taught you at conservative school, but the truth is that attacking Bill Clinton isn’t always a logical response to every political issue . . . So again, are you telling me that what makes someone a communis . . .”
“Sure,” agreed Bob, “whatever. But about Clinton . . .”
“Fine,” Tom continued. “Then let’s talk about abortion for a minute. I happen to know that everyone at this table believes that the government has no business telling a woman what she should do with her body. What do you think, Bob?”
“You know I’m against abortion,” sneered Bob. “Now continuing with Clinton . . .”
“Well, sure, I’m against abortion in most situations myself, but the question is whether the government should force women to use their bodies the way you and I think they should.”
“Abortion should be illegal . . . okay? Have I made myself clear enough for . . . ?”
“I take it then that you think the government . . .”
“. . . should outlaw all abortions?”
“Even if, say, the woman was raped?”
“All abortions!” snapped Bob angrily.
“Even if the fetus is horribly malformed . . . that happens sometimes, you know . . . you believe the woman should still be forced . . .”
“I don’t know how to say it any more clearly,” hissed Bob, shaking his head in annoyance. “All abortions, period!”
“Okay, fine, then another thing I know everyone here agrees on is that the Supreme Court did the right thing — for once — when it ruled recently that the government can’t make it a crime for two adults to engage in consensual homosexual sex. What do you think about that one?”
Bob scoffed. “I should have known you guys would be queer lovers.”
“So I take it then that you think the government should outlaw private homosexual conduct.”
“You better believe it. Somebody’s got to look out for the moral character of this country!”
“And I’m sure everyone is thrilled to know that your on the job, Bob,” said Tom. ‘But on another topic, let me ask . . .”
“Hey, I didn’t come here to play 20 questions,” snapped Bob.
Tom nodded contritely. “I know. I understand. But bare with me for just one more. You’ll like this one, I promise . . . I just wanted to find out what you think about the Taft-Hartley Act, you know, the employer written federal statute that makes unions so mad because it prevents working people from conducting certain types of strikes and otherwise restricts union . . .”
“If the damn unions are against it, you know I’m all for it,” smirked Bob.
“So it doesn’t bother you for the government to try to stop working people . . .”
Bob waved his finger angrily in Tom’s face. “Hey, you try running a business with those union pucks sticking their noses into . . .”
“So you think the government . . .”
“I’ll tell you what I think. I think all unions should be outlawed. So what do you think of that?” barked Bob defiantly
I suspect that everyone listening to the conversation knew what was coming next. Everyone, that is, except Bob.
“I have to tell you, Bob,” said Tom in a solemn voice, “but it sounds to me like you’re the one who wants the government to control people’s lives. I never would have believed it . . . but it’s beginning to look like . . .”
“Now wait just one damn minute . . .”
“. . . you’re a communist, Bob.”
“Oh, screw you.”
“Come on Bob, can’t you do better than that?”
“I said screw you!” screamed Bob, his voice quivering with rage.
“I guess you can’t do better than that,” replied Tom smugly.
As an awkward silence enveloped the lounge, Bob looked increasingly like the man who mistakenly “dressed” for a nudist colony when he was actually attending a Southern Baptist convention. Everyone was waiting for his comeback. It never came.
“I’m through wasting my time on you freakin’ communists,” he said finally.
Then he stomped off to insult the dart players.
Winston, who had been carefully studying the tragically empty status of his whiskey glass, looked up. “For a second there,” he said in a deadly serious voice, “I was afraid that he’d discovered our secret communist handshake.”
“Then we would have had to kill him, I suppose,” added Horace.
Tom, feeling quite pleased with himself, just smiled.
* * *
When not busy managing a mythical café, Steven C. Day lives with his family in Wichita, Kansas where he has practiced law for 25 years. Contact Steven at .
© Copyright Steven C. Day. WGAw #974001
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