Saturday, February 18, 2006

Palpable Rage

Yesterday, my friends, was an amazing day.

Yesterday was the day I discovered that it's the beginning of the end for this criminal, kleptocratic government.

Yesterday was enough to turn me--an avowed pessimist--into a bold and hopeful optimist.

And yesterday brought tears to my eyes and made me want to cry, or just crawl out of my skin in rage and scream out to the world.

Yesterday I heard the voices of a working nation crying out in pain, anger and suffering. And it was a beautiful, heartwrenching sight.




Based on yesterday, I'm going to make a bold prediction: Democrats are going to win BIG in '06.  I say that with only about 90% certainty, however: because the last 10% is predicated on Democrats' being able to channel that rage into a revolution at the ballot box.


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I'm a focus group moderator, you see.  I mostly work out of the Los Angeles, but I do travel to other places to conduct business rather frequently, and fly back home when my sessions are done.


It was two nights ago that I flew out of Los Angeles to a city that will remain nameless on United Airlines.  It was a red-eye, and the flight was delayed by two hours.  When we actually got ready to taxi out for takeoff, the pilot said something that thrilled and chilled me simultaneously, causing me both fear for my safety, and also political exhilaration:


Sorry about the delay folks, but as you know, times are tough.  Every minute these planes are on the ground, they're losing money.  So our corporate overlords make sure we fly these planes to death and fill them to capacity.  So we're doing the best we can.


I couldn't believe I heard a pilot use the words "Corporate Overlord" on an aircraft.


Thereafter, we learned that there were no pillows available on the flight.  There was a lot of grumbling, but I was shocked to hear the woman just behind me say:


"Yeah well, I'll just bill my hours of lost sleep back to the White House.  Bastards."


The "White House"?  What airline was a flying?  "Commie pinko Librul" airlines?


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I arrived at my destination in [City.]  The cabdriver brought me at 7:30am to my destination, a hotel in a suburb far to the northwest of the main city I flew into.  I had breakfast before going into my room.  In the breakfast area were only two men.  One was reading the newspaper, and watching the Olympics on TV.  The conversation went like this:


"You hear about the whole Cheney shooting?"


"Yeah.  He's quite a character, to put it mildly."


"I know.  I don't buy it.  I just don't.  I think he was drunk of his patootie, and they don't want to say it."


"Well, this country needs to get rid of the whole lot of them, but the Republicans need to at least get rid of Cheney."


I finished my breakfast and headed off to sleep for a couple of hours before my interview.

--------------------------------


My interview was with the president of a major international, Japanese-owned firm.  To say too much about the interview would break my confidentiality agreement, but I can give you a paraphrased quote, with some times, numbers and positions altered to protect confidentiality, and certain statements abridged for clarity:


I believe in maintaining loyalty.  You gain respect by giving it, and having a sort of family feeling in your working environment.  And that means being accountable to people--especially to your employees....


You hear about the Enrons and the WorldComs and all these other companies that have been aided and abetted by this government's policies, and it's true.  I refuse to work that way, and this company refuses...


Our competitor, three years ago, was off of its sales projections by [x%].  So they fired [the same x] % of their workforce.  That's [x] number of people laid off, plus all their families, so that's really [3x or 4x] people.  The very next day, the same CEO gave himself a multimillion dollar bonus, and then the day after that gave the ex-president memberships to eight exclusive golf-courses and diner's clubs.  It's disgusting.  People won't stand for it for long--and it's just bad business.


I was stunned.  I couldn't believe that a company executive was speaking to me in these terms--politically enlightened, progressive, and absolutely disgusted with the way things are operating.

-------------------------------


I finished the interview, and another two groups after that, before taking a taxi back to the airport.  I told the cabdriver that I knew it would be a lot of money to the airport.  The cabdriver, surprised, asked me what I had been charged.  When I told him, he shook his head and said:

You must have taken the city taxi.  We don't charge that out here.  We charge about half of what they do...


You know what the problem is?  Everybody is out on the take.  Everything is so expensive these days.  Nobody's lookin' out for the little guy--and nobody's certainly lookin' out for each other.


I thought cabdrivers were pretty reliably conservative!  that had certainly been my experience...What was happening?  At this point, I could feel the anger welling up in these hardworking souls all across the nation. I started to get sick to my stomach with the feeling of empathy and shared rage...


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I sat at the airport waiting for my flight to Los Angeles (delayed yet again).  Sitting across from me in the waiting area were two ladies from Omaha, Nebraska.  They were extremely nice, and very intelligent based on the 10 minutes we had to talk together.


The conversation turned to movies and movie theaters.  They were complaining about all the advertisements in movie theaters.  I knew they were probably Republicans, so I decided to play a little jujitsu...


WOMAN: "These big theater companies know they can get away with putting on the ads because we'll still go to the movies!"


ME: "Well, some our congresspeople--our Democratic congresspeople, thank goodness--have introduced legislation that would bar them from doing that [which is true].


[at this point, both women looked at me crossly after hearing the words "Democratic congresspeople"!]


WOMAN: "Don't they have more important things to do?"


ME: "Well, yes.  But there's so much partisan fire on capitol hill that the big things don't really get done very much, but alot of little things do pass through.  So yes and no.  And besides, if things aren't getting done, you have to look at the majority party--they can push things through when they feel like it."


WOMAN: "I just don't think congress should be in the business of regulating that."


ME: "OK.  But who will regulate it?  I mean, you don't think they're going to police themselves, do you?"


WOMAN [pausing]: "No, they won't.  And somebody should do something, or soon there will be over half an hour of ads."


ME: "Well, congress is the only body that CAN do anything about it.  So either it needs to be done or it doesn't..."


WOMAN: "I guess you're right.  Somebody's certainly got to do SOMETHING, or they'll keep getting away with murder."


[At this point, the call came to board the Omaha flight.]  


Even these brainwashed Omaha Republicans, concerned about trivial things like movie ads, were fed up.  They weren't ready to vote for Democrats yet--but they were open to the possibility, even after just a short bit of dialogue.  Because they were just FED UP--with palpable rage.

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I finally boarded my flight to Los Angeles--late again.  I had a garment bag, which I wanted to hang up in the little compartment at the front of the plane for such things.  The compartment was locked, and I asked the flight attendant to open it.  The conversation that ensued was again amazing:


FLIGHT ATTENDANT: "Sure!  That'll be $50!


ME: [Laughter]


FLIGHT ATTENDANT: (laughing) "Hey, times are tough these days."


ME: "Yeah, especially in this industry."


FLIGHT ATTENDANT: [examining me in my tailored suit and tie] "Well, times are tough for just about everybody--unless you're an executive.


ME: [laughing with embarrassment] "Oh, I'm no executive--just a researcher.  I know exactly what you mean.  We workers get the shaft, but the rich just keep getting richer even while their companies go bankrupt."


FLIGHT ATTENDANT: "Mmm-hmm.  I know."


ME: "Well, welcome to George Bush's America."


FLIGHT ATTENDANT: [loudly and with passion]  "AMEN!"


It felt like a parallel universe.  This was no liberal blogger's meeting.  This was no Starbucks coffee shop in Westwood.


This was just talking to regular people--feeling the seething rage of the regular person: the flight attendant, the pilot, the taxi driver, the hotel people--even the corporate executive!


And when the flight landed and taxied slowly to the terminal, the pilot said:


"Contrary to popular rumor, we will not be charging you $50 per passenger to actually exit the aircraft."


----------------------------------------------------


This is it, Democrats.


The seething rage and fury of this country is at a boil.


I have never seen ANYTHING like this in my life.  The level of political consciousness--the level of sheer outrage at what is going on in this country--is enormous.  And the American people are ready.  Ready for a change.  They are ready for progressive leadership to guide them out of this hell that they are living every day, and complaining bitterly about every day to random strangers.


And all we have to do is channel it.


My message to my fellow progressives is this: Keep up the fight, people.  It may feel like we're losing battle after battle in DC, the Supreme Court, on the ground in all the halls of power.


But we're winning the battle for the hearts and minds of America in our outrage and our ideas--even if it hasn't yet translated directly into Democratic votes.


And my message to the Democratic party is this: Give us firm, unabashed progressive candidates that are ready to give the Republicans hell.  The people are ready to follow.  Just give them a chance and a reason to channel their anger into votes for DEMOCRATS.

1 Comments:

Blogger Forty_Two said...

I like to change things too. And that seems to disturb some people.

5:18 PM  

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