Life’s been strange lately. I’ve made a couple of quick trips back South to the U.S., and by South I mean it, in the case of Knoxville, TN, where born-again-ness and overt racism’s fermented like righteous bourbon, slowly over a long, long time.
Then we went to Kalamazoo, MI. OK, I’ll admit it: we went there for an auto race, in this case the uncomfortably-named Kalamazoo Klash (maybe the Howe family doesn’t quite get that notion that they are one K away from speaking in Klan-code, however unintentionally. And yes, such a code exists, as in a place I saw on TV during an ESPN broadcast of a race from North Wilkesboro Speedway in the early eighties—a place clearly identified in one shot as Kathy’s Kut-n-Kurl; no kidding, folks, that’s how some people think in that part of the world). Having lived in Toronto three years now, the American psyche’s becoming more distinct whenever we cross the border. The differences are enormous. Here in T.O. I would never expect to hear, say, racial epithets; cross that border, though, and all bets are off.
“America’s a free country,” remember. Therefore, among other things people are free to use the vilest language they like. On this point I feel a surprising conflict; I’d much rather know the guy beside me at the bar’s a racist, because I would never drink with him/her. Food and drink are sacraments, and if I refuse to have dinner with you, there’s a reason. Likewise drinks. Maybe especially drinks, because then I’m much more likely to tell you precisely what I think. I’m told my style in argument is to bite down hard on the opponent’s weak place and keep tearing. Not a good thing if said oppenent is, say, packing a Glock, or some such other weapon as the idiot in New Hampshire who wore his sidearm to an Obama town hall.
Now, think about this for a second. Armed white man. The first black president in U.S. history. A militant mob (controlled by the same variety of char that’s controlled the American right since the Goldwater days; honestly, nothing has changed besides the names and their collective IQ scores). What did they think the rest of the world would think?
Oh….that’s right. Never mind. Anyway, that’s my point. There’s no thought process involved where these people are concerned. It isn’t completely their fault. School systems and governments that for so long have countenanced less-than-truly-rigorous academic standards are as much to blame. Still, they’re convinced they’re right, largely because they’re white and armed.
This is America. Now.
I digress. I meant to talk about the Klash because it was a damn fine show, and I ran into a guy I remembered from Oakshade Raceway years ago. For some reason he remembered me, for which I’m grateful. Also, the outcome was in doubt all night. Before qualifying, Andy Bozell was the odds-on favorite; he wound up making the A main through a fan vote (I voted early, as is my wont, for Scott Hantz, who crashed out of his last-chance race and would never have made the A no matter how many of us had voted for him). Steve Needles took fast time but rolled a nasty inversion. Curt Spaulding and several other outlaw stars were players, no doubt. Also, there were a couple of cars that truly, and I mean truly represented the outlaw aesthetic. Terry Senneker probably should’ve won it but spun coming off turn two in the final fifty-lap segment, leaving the win to Needles who did a wonderful celebratory burnout the length of the frontstretch. It was his biggest win to date.
At the same time, once again I was appalled by the country we’d left. Under Bush and Cheney, the demographic Nixon’s cadre called the “Silent Majority” (that name intended as a countervoice to LBJ’s “Great Society”) was content to display magnetic ribbons on their cars; now, under Obama, and left to their own devices without a central voice telling them what to think and how to respond, these people have reverted to form: guns, threats of violence, and coded language to “disguise” what these people really want—to kill Barack Obama and, even more importantly, “restore” Anglo hegemony. On the road, I did not see bumper-stickers denouncing Obama, and that surprised me. Yet there was tension—and the further we drove into the American woods, the more deeply we felt it. In Knoxville, the church steeples rose in a strange, pale defiance; in Kalamazoo, just south of Grand Rapids where Erik Prince of Blackwater (now Xe Services) maintains his military compound, it was as though people awaited a counter-assault. Personally, I hope they’re right (after a fashion) and Prince is swept up and tried/convicted/sentenced/jailed as a war criminal, which he goddamned well is. It made me wonder about how German racing fans before WWII felt watching the Auto-Union F1 cars of the day—was there guilt or did the fans actually care?
Probably both, and that thought haunted me while I took photos of some beautiful outlaw late models. Now, I’ve done many things about which I am not proud, but I never thought I’d feel that way while sitting in an American grandstand getting ready to watch a large-payout mid-summer show. Some people around me were afraid of a hammer coming down, it was palpable, and why not? I hope they have every right to be afraid, but the fact is Obama doesn’t appear anxious to tread anywhere near the goal of prosecuting people who have obviously committed high crimes against the United States. If only he was half as willing as the American militia-types believe in their hearts he was.
But then there really would be insurrection. Forty percent of Americans would at least support the idea in some form or fashion, judging from the results of the last election and the ability of groups like FreedomWorks and that complete redneck pirate, the appropriately-named Dick Armey (who should of course receive financial support from Viagra or Cialis or some such), to motivate the “astroturf” “crowds” to show up at town halls and froth at the mouth with nothing more than obstruction points approved by people such as the aforementioned Armey.
Such is Obama’s dilemma.
So we returned home late, and with the garbage strike now over I thought I could smell Lysol in the air. All the same, the fact is that as soon as we got across the border, I felt something I hadn’t since we’d left: freedom.You can be arrested in the States for the language you use. As a matter of fact, you can be killed for it. I was threatened with same while teaching at Bowling Green State University in Ohio, and will never forget it, because I simply said the Bush/Cheney “presidency” was in fact a kakistocracy (“government run by the worst people in the kingdom,” according to Webster’s) and at base illegal since Bush did not win the White House in the first place. That was all. Really. And so for years I would not return, not until the kakistocrats were gone and I could be certain the money I spent was at the very least no longer going toward those traitors’ illegal, redneck junta.
I have never loved Toronto more than I do tonight, writing from here, home, across the border from birthers, deathers, Uzi-toting absolute lunatics bent upon nothing more than anarchy at the point of a gun. Or, rather, millions of guns. Sure, I know the level of gun violence in Toronto is likewise appalling because any death from gunfire is intolerable—because the victim is someone’s beloved, be sure. But the Canadian love for guns is nothing, nothing like the American addiction. That’s all it is, addiction. A few years ago, Congress briefly debated a law limiting citizens to buying one gun a month, and the NRA was able to motivate that “Silent Majority” (which is of course neither) into rattling Congressional cages. That didn’t take long. Too much kickback money at stake.
All the same, the trip confirmed for me that I was no longer completely American. Honestly, the experience was unnerving and all I wanted was to get back to the GTA where cats and peace awaited. Home is a matter of who takes you in.