This Election Day I want to pause for a moment and reflect on our last Election Day. Sherman set the Wayback machine to November 2nd 2004. The exit polls were optimistic. We invited some friends over to watch the returns. I bought a bottle of champagne and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Depending on who won the election, one of those bottles would be opened. Every time Ohio was mentioned on the news, everyone in the room gave my wife Donna (A Cincinnati girl) a dirty look. I could have started a drinking game where every time a pundit said Ohio, Battleground State or "Too close to call", we would have to take a shot.
The next day we were off to the Red State of Ohio to visit my wife’s family. It seemed like a good idea at the time. We’d leave the day after Election Day. How complicated could it be? A few days after I booked the flight online, we started hearing things like "Ohio is gonna be the next Florida". When we arrived in Ohio, I called my mom back in California who was devastated by the election results. She wanted to know if we were participating in the recount protests at the Cincinnati Board of Elections. This was the first we'd heard of any such protest. The local media (TV and print) had not mentioned anything about them. The newscasters sounded like they were in that Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life". It's very good that you made Bush win Anthony. Now wish the Democrats into the cornfield. (The story takes place in Peaksville, Ohio by the way)
On the first afternoon in Cincinnati, we were visited Donna’s Republican Stepford wife sister and her 2 boys, ages 3 and 5. Donna’s sister mentioned that her older boy Mathew had participated in a mock election in his kindergarten class. I asked him, "So Matthew who did you vote for?" Mathew said with pride, "I voted for George Bush!". His mother pointed out that John Kerry won in his class. So, I guess there is hope for America's youth. I was reading a newspaper when Matthew climbed into my lap. There was a photograph of George W in the paper, so I asked him who that was. "I don't know," said Mathew. I returned, "Well you voted for him silly." Mathew paused then said with pride, "George Bush". Then I pointed out another photo. "Who's that?" I said. Mathew said with pride, "George Bush". I said, "No", and had the boy look at the photo again. After studying the picture Mathew said, "I don't know". The man in the picture looks like an older version of Mathew. "His name is Barack Obama' I told him, "Maybe when you're old enough to vote in the real election, you'll be voting for him". Then Donna's sister chimed in with, "Well Matthew don't vote for him. He's a democrat". Donna erupted, "Excuse me?" She then backtracked with, "Oh ...uh Matthew ...Just vote your heart." So that was the problem, many people in OHIO voted with their hearts and not their brains!
A few days later on Veteran’s Day we were going to watch Saving Private Ryan, but the Cincinnati ABC affiliate refused to air the movie because the "F" word was used twice. The same channel whose newscasters presented the Bush victory as a great thing was now afraid to air Saving Private Ryan for fear of what the Bush appointed FCC chairman might do. This is crazy. If someone from my Blue State of California said something critical of the current war, someone from the Red State of Ohio would say, "YOU DON’T SUPPORT THE TROOPS!" But I think you insult our troops by not showing a great film that honors everyone who has ever served our country because the "F" word is used and our kids might hear it. This ABC affiliate seems to be okay with our kids seeing all the blood and guts. So instead we went to see Lewis Black in concert. It was like every freethinking liberal in Ohio was there. If you ever get to see Lewis Black Live in concert, go. He opened the show responding to the Cincinnati ABC affiliate not showing Saving Private Ryan with something like, "YOU PEOPLE ARE F***ING NUTS!" or was he responding to the way people in Cincinnati put chili on spaghetti? No one in the audience thought his language was indecent, given the context in which it was presented. We are entering very dangerous territory when we look at a great piece of filmmaking like Saving Private Ryan, or a brilliant comedian like Lewis Black and just take inventory of the words and not pay attention to the context.
In defense of my wife's hometown and home state, there are many kind generous people there. Many wondered how Bush had carried Ohio. Something for us to remember. There are a lot of people in the red states who think like people in the blue states. In the airport gift shop, I saw a little stuffed winged pig with the motto, "Ohio... Where pigs fly." After gathering our luggage at LAX, we stepped outside to find a cab. I took a deep breath, and gagged. It was great to be home.
For this Election Day I’ve purchased a bottle of champagne and a bottle of Jack Daniel’s. Depending on who wins, one of those bottles will be opened. I will also be having some Rolling Rock beer in honor of Tim Russert.
To quote Tim Russert’s dad Big Russ, "Only in America".
Stay Tuned And