I sat at the bar after a good morning on the construction job. I was drinking a local IPA and reading an essay written in 1972 by Kurt Vonnegut about the Republican National Convention in Miami, which he covered. It was written almost half a century ago but it might have just as well been written yesterday for how dead on it was and is about American political life. Just switch out Trump for Nixon and Bernie for McGovern. Vonnegut described the American political party system as the Winners and Losers and the Winners always win. Both the Democrats and the Republicans are in the Winners’ party, but Republicans don’t bother trying to hide their contempt and hatred of the poor and the Losers.
But they need Losers to win. So they someone get the Losers to vote for the Winners because it is, according to Vonnegut, and axiom of American voting that the Losers never vote for Losers. It all makes perfect sense in our current political climate.
The only thing different this time is that the clowns are not Jerry Rubin and Abbie Hoffman mocking the Winners but the late night talk show hosts mocking the Winners. Vonnegut called that kind of mocking “social lubricant” for the machinery of the Winners to kick the shit out the Losers. They actually need it to win.
Great Vonnegut stuff there at the bar in rural Oregon.
It was silent as I read. TVs played but the sound was off. A little background music from the 80s drifted in the ceiling. A few couples behind me ate greasy fried food. Talk was muted. They were playing Keno.
An elderly man walked in and sat two stools away. He set down a pack of Marlboros and a fancy new i-Phone. He ordered water and clam chowder. He was wearing a militaristic blue ball cap and a hoodie with lettering about fishing the Bering Sea.
He punched up his phone and began listening to a speech by Trump at an ear-splitting level. It just kept going and going, talking about Winners and Losers. It burrowed into my brain.
The bartender was nowhere around, but what was she going to do anyway?
I thought: Should I ask the man politely to turn the sound down? These guys live for this kind of confrontation, and martyrdom. It makes Losers feel like Winners.
How could anyone be so dense as to play something so loud at the bar? I don’t care if was Trump or Bernie or a Star Wars movie.
He was glued to it. It was inches from his face. Maybe he was going deaf, I don’t know. He was deaf to something else, that I know.
I didn’t feel like saying anything so I got up and moved across the bar to a table by the window. I could still hear the speech. I drank up my beer and left.