Go with Bob

Samuel James.

I have a cousin named Bob. He’s in his seventies and he’s seen a lot. We were recently talking about the state of the country and he said something that completely blew my mind. I can’t quote him, because my mind was too blown to remember exactly what he said. But the rough idea was that in the two-party system we have here, the progressive side is supposed to lead the charge down the path to the best possible future for everyone, and the conservative side is supposed to make sure we take that path as responsibly as possible. Two sides, hand in hand, forging a path toward a better future for all!

Maybe that doesn’t blow your mind. I’m still reeling from it. It never occurred to me that a partnership like that would be the ideal. I mean, I’m sure I’ve come across the idea somewhere. I probably read it someplace, but to hear a person actually say it… I was glad I was sitting down.

I mean, can anyone my age or younger imagine the Democrats bravely jutting out their jaws as they courageously command, To the future!, while the Republicans responsibly say, OK, but let’s take care to remain steady!?

Maybe you can. Maybe that’s how you see the country. What I usually hear is Republicans fear-screeching, with varying amounts of hate speech, Hurry back to the past!, while, best-case scenario, Democrats follow along meekly, whining, I don’t wanna, but fine.

When I was a kid, George H.W. Bush beat Michael Dukakis to the presidency in large part due to the infamous “Willie Horton ad” that specifically appealed to America’s racism. It quickly became a common tactic used by “law and order” candidates. Four years later, Bush had to face Bill Clinton, who was cleverly talking all about his crime bill. Clinton was going to be the “law and order” candidate and Bush was left with nothing to defend himself with but his world-class charisma!

History went the obvious way, but something else happened, too. The center of American politics got moved to the right. Since the time of Nixon, when racist political dog-whistling went national, it had mostly been a Republican device. But twenty-some-odd years later, Clinton recognized the power of this political tool. He followed through with his crime bill, continuing (if not exacerbating) the American trend of mass incarceration.

Then came the Bush II administration, unleashing a new level of cruelty on the world, the end of which we’re probably not even close to seeing. Meanwhile, inside our borders, a newer, bolder Brown Scare! Now more scary than ever!

And just when we thought we might be getting through this, that hope was here in the form of our first black president, up jump the bigots! Then the Tea Party was formed, joining together the country’s finest bigots (with ear wax and worm parts, I think). They were some sort of vomit-inducing, racist Voltron or something.

Anyway, two years after Obama’s first inauguration, Gross Voltron comes to Maine and pukes Paul LePage into the governor’s office. And he’s got all kinds of cute, antebellum day terrors about black people coming up the highway to kill white men and impregnating their daughters, or whatever stupid shit he fantasizes about. Also, when he goes golfing in Jamaica, he’s got a black caddy whose son LePage sometimes claims as his own. This governor is Gross Voltron–level stupid.

The thing that continues to scare me is that somehow, as a country, we have never learned that a racist is rarely only a racist. Racists are bad because they commonly hate all races that are non-white. But they usually hate gay people, too. And women. They hate, and hate is an expression of fear, and cowards don’t lead.

For instance, in the current session of the Maine Legislature there is passionate debate over a bill to ban “conversion therapy” for children. In 2018 A.D., there are actually people who think it’s a good idea to try to force a sexuality onto children. They’re serious. They talk all about how they have a constitutional right and shit.

That’s how hate travels. You got some group of shitheels who fear gay people so much that they’re not only willing to abuse children, they want it to be legal to do so — which it currently, actually is!

Speak up and speak out. Make sure the lawmaker who represents you is on the right side of this. Seek a better world. Go with Bob.

Samuel James is an internationally renowned bluesman and storyteller, as well as a locally known filmmaker. He can be reached at .