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Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Patriot

posted by on April 1 at 11:53 AM

I just returned from a few days in New York, where, among other things, I killed some time in Park Slope on Friday afternoon by getting my hair cut. You ask: Is he really about to build a Slog post out of getting a haircut on a Friday afternoon in Brooklyn?

Yes, he is. (And now he’s also going to stop talking about himself in the third person.) Apologies in advance if you’re already searching for the Zzzzzz key, but really: What would the blogosphere be without people filling it up with accounts of their meaningless little highly consequential lives? Empty, I tell you. Empty!

So there I was getting my hair cut in Park Slope, a neighborhood that is about as Seattle as you get in New York. Wider streets, mellower pace, bars that are about sitting and talking rather than standing and being seen. The man cutting my hair, it turned out, was an immigrant from Dagestan—a Sephardic Jew whose ancestors had been bounced out of Spain during the Inquisition, wandered through the Middle East, and eventually settled in an area of Russia near the Black Sea. Recent years have seen an upsurge of anti-Semitism in Russia, and that turn of events pushed this man, who looked to be about 30, to emigrate to the U.S.

We began talking about the presidential election. He said he’s never voted before, but he has citizenship and plans to vote this year. It being Park Slope and all, I just assumed he’d be a Democrat, but when I asked how he felt about Hillary Clinton he told me, without any hint of fear about sounding sexist around me or his female coworkers, that he doesn’t trust a woman to lead a country of over 300 million people. I asked about Obama. He said: “I want change, but not that kind of change.” I figured it wasn’t wise to anger the man who was cutting my hair, so I just absorbed this and asked about McCain.

“He’s a patriot,” the man replied quickly.

That’s who he’s voting for. The patriot. End of story. Not the woman or the black guy.

I don’t know how many other Americans have already made up their minds and coded the election this way—the patriot vs. the woman or the black guy—but I’d bet the man who cut my hair is not the only one. We get way down in the electoral weeds on this blog, and I love going there, but it’s sobering to remember how few Americans do the same and how many of them are likely to make decisions based on simple-minded coding grounded in sexism, racism, and knee-jerk nationalism.

I asked the man what party he belongs to. “No party,” he said. “Independent immigrant.”

Then he complained about how expensive it is to live in New York and put me through some extended braggadocio about his eye for beautiful women. I felt bad for the guy. He had a lot to prove. I tipped him well.

RSS icon Comments


It's typical for first generation immigrants to be reactionary. This is what Karl Rove was trying to get his stupid party to wake up to, but they're too reactionary to figure it out.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 11:56 AM

And as long as a substantial number of people vote based on these sorts of child-like emotional reactions your barber was articulating, we'll continue living in a clownocracy.

Posted by flamingbanjo | April 1, 2008 11:58 AM

Generally speaking, most of the Jews I'm around are voting for McCain. They like him because they think that he might be best for Israeli/US relations.

Personally, if you look at McCain's background, he is probably the unluckiest person to ever serve our country and I don't get the sense that he is playing with a full deck anymore - PTSD plus dementia? No thanks.

Posted by Soupytwist | April 1, 2008 12:07 PM

funny how mired down in identity politics we are, isn't it?

the woman or the black man? get real. we'll be lucky to get clinton or obama into the white house since that's what we've reduced them to...

Posted by kuh | April 1, 2008 12:07 PM

Yes, but why did he think McCain is a patriot?

Because he's a POW?
Because the media says so?
Because he likes war?

Posted by w7ngman | April 1, 2008 12:10 PM

Elenchos, I'll be having dinner with Rove, Dick Cheney and McCain in a little over a month (no joke); I'll be sure to pass along your suggestion.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 1, 2008 12:10 PM

Yeah, sure you will. Do you think Will in Seattle will bring his friend Queen Elizabeth? Maybe you can all ride in his 100 mpg hovercar.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 12:14 PM

I'd be willing to take your blogeriffic ruminating over other people's supposed reporting most days of the week.

Posted by Nay | April 1, 2008 12:14 PM

I love visiting my brother in Brooklyn. Everyone speaks Russian. The Jews, the Muslims, and the Christians. All of um from the former USSR. And they all seem to get along. They're all "patriotic" as a good product of the Soviet system should be. Tow that party line fella! And be sure to oogle the women, don't wanna be seen as a fem now do we!

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | April 1, 2008 12:15 PM

Generally speaking, most of the Jews I'm around are voting for McCain. They like him because they think that he might be best for Israeli/US relations.

Odd. I am a Jew, and about 90% of the Jews I know well enough to know about their politics will be voting for someone other than McCain this November.

Posted by thehim | April 1, 2008 12:18 PM

Isn't this the plot for Grand Theft Auto IV?

Posted by kid icarus | April 1, 2008 12:19 PM

My better half's family out in Eastern WA farm country - all of them extremely intelligent, hard working people without a hint of cynicism to their being - were genuinely interested in knowing what someone living in San Francisco thinks about this election. A bottle of whiskey and a few hours later, and the consensus among them could be boiled down to this:

Hilary - No way. Not because she's a woman, but just, NO WAY.

Obama - Preppy elitist, annoying. Something about his gestures and disposition... game of squash?

McCain - DAMAGED GOODS. "We've all had friends come back from Nam like that, you don't want a guy like that running the country."

It's (rather, was) Ron Paul country out there, and no one had a problem with my choice of Obama, but for what it's worth, there's my anecdote.

Oh, and yeah, Russian immigrants - despite their background - aren't real likely to vote for "the black guy".

Posted by Dougsf | April 1, 2008 12:20 PM

No, that's GTA: Emerald City.

Posted by Will in Seattle | April 1, 2008 12:21 PM

Fifty-Two Eighty, who are you, and why would you even joke about having dinner with those awful jackasses?

Posted by Hernandez | April 1, 2008 12:22 PM

I wouldn't be so sure about that, elenchos, from reading his posts, it sounds like he's pretty involved with the NRA. And their annual meeting is next month. And those guys are supposed to be there. Just saying.

Posted by Elvis | April 1, 2008 12:25 PM

Allow me give all you left coast Marxist liberals a view from The Heartland (BLEEEECH!)...

Most Americans don't bother to scrutinize news, or fact check, or anything us wonks do. They basically have their tiny little minds made up to fulfill whatever meme they are currently buying (Obama's a racist Muslim, Hillary is a cunt, McCain is a tough-as-nails war hero).

So, when you go out into the real world, don't be surprised when people reveal some rather ignorant views and pass them off as hard facts. Welcome to America.

Posted by Mike in MO | April 1, 2008 12:27 PM

You tipped the racist, sexist well? Why?

Posted by Ed | April 1, 2008 12:33 PM


Just what I've been saying. The urban ethnic vote is the swing vote and Obama being weak in that quarter is a huge problem. I called it the Catholic vote but the more accurate descriptor is white, working class, non privileged.

Of course a New York voter doesn't matter as the D's will win NY but this kind of voter does matter in OH PA MI FL and other battleground states. Rev. Wright is anti Patriot and for many of these folks it just cannot be overcome. Saying he's really okay becuase of centuries of slavery -- not particularly convincing to the swing voters we are talking about. They had no part in prior racism and are working hard and struggling. They live with fear of crime. I know a czech dude buying vacant row houses in Baltimore and "the community" tried to hold him up to throw them a free park. His response was "hey you just heard that black funeral director say he was expanding his business, you didn't ask him for anything, why are you asking me for free add ons, this property has been vacant for 25 years do you want it to stay that way?" Then he has to pay off the drug dealers on the corner to go away during the open house.
He moved here in about 1980. Not going to tell him America is racist and unfair and we have to put up with stuff like Rev. Wright says.

Anyway Clinton has the potential to reach the types of voters by focusing more on economics and even being not quite so left on the war. Obama as an ultra liberal with the black nationalist pastor problem and backtracking will be painted as an anti patriot. There is a risk he could lose, like Dukakis, Kerry, McGovern, etc.
He already shows weakness in this sector and this is a large part of why he just can't seem to win OH PA MI FL NJ MA. And why he's now tied or behind in places like MN MO and MA as against McCain.

@1, 2, 3, 5, 9 you may be corect these voters are wrong you are smarter them them you know better than them as to what they should think but they get to cast their votes, you don't get ot cast their votes for them.

Picking someone whose 20 year pastor is anti American and who had anti American and anti Italiam and anti Jewish stuff on the web stie till they scubbed it the other day should be a concern if you want to win in the fall. Not saying Obama can't do it but jesus if you can't see a huge problem there it is just denial.

Archie Bunkers, Joey Venuto, Stefansky of Dagestan, the Greek dude owning a restaurant in large city in Michigan, some Jews who really don't like Farrakhan, these are the swing voters who decide elections. Running someone who is easily and truthfully painted as tolerant and accepting of outright anti Americanism has huge risks. The news today is they are scrubbing the web site of that church. Gee, I wonder why? Because it said the Italians crucifed Jesus. How much more backtracking do they have to do? IT's all cached anyway.

And going into the general election after not seating FL and MI 3 months earlier?

It's really time to start thinking about how to win the general election.

Posted by unPC | April 1, 2008 12:38 PM

@14, what Elvis said.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 1, 2008 12:38 PM

@12.. that was interesting. I haven't heard the whole damaged goods thing about McCain (usually it's the war hero thing). My aunt and uncle are Christian evangelicals from Iowa, who looooved Huckabee, but I haven't spoken with them about the election since he dropped out... I wonder what they think of McCain...

Posted by Julie | April 1, 2008 12:40 PM

Mike in MO is so right.

Obama's high-falutin', faincy speeches may sound good to those of us living in the Seattle Reality Bubble, but he's finished if he doesn't start screaming about homos, Messicans, bombing Aay-rabs, and Jay-zus.

How many AmeriKKKans actually follow the news, anyway? 5%? Maybe 10%?

FSM help us, it's like throwing a cinder block to a drowning man.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 1, 2008 12:41 PM

@19 Oh, I believe you, dude. TONS of important big shots post on the Slog every day. Tons. In between meetings with the King of France and special ops missions, they flame Mudede's architecture posts with their blackberry.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 12:42 PM

Eli, are you sure you stuffed enough arrogance into this post?

Posted by john cocktosin | April 1, 2008 12:45 PM

John @23: that kind of arrogance is what happens when you visit Park Slope. What a godforsaken, yuppified joke of a neighborhood...

Posted by Boomer in NYC | April 1, 2008 1:03 PM

Tavis Smiley commenting on McCain as patriot on Real Time Friday quoted Fredrick Douglas "A true patriot is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins."

The pins and flags that McCain and Bush sell as patriotism is just an empty pimping for the military industrial coxplex. This tapes been playing since 1979 though, and it must still be effective if Bush III is still close in the polls after the 5 years of this debacle and the disaster that is the US economy (FYI, one-day rallys are the product of hedge fund trading, not economic strength).

Posted by left coast | April 1, 2008 1:05 PM

Almost forgot, love Brklyn and wish that we had a rag like the Voice to put on an awesome show like Siren out in Coney Island. That said, Zero-Zero on Cap Hill is a better place to get your haircut than anyplace I went to Manh, Brklyn or Qns.

Posted by left coast | April 1, 2008 1:11 PM

Nice April Fool's joke.

Posted by brappy | April 1, 2008 1:11 PM

#20 - I thought their attitude on McCain was interesting too. This conversation took place in a kitchen with an NRA plaque on the wall, as well. But yep, the parents all there thinks the guy has a screw loose, given his past.

There's a disturbing tone on SLOG here, one of WE KNOW BETTER than THEM... what the fuck do we know better? I've got my opinions, for my reasons. So does everybody else.

None of us know these candidates, and we're all just forming our opinions based on the time and energy we have to put into it. Living in a metropolitan city doesn't intrinsically provide you with the wisdom to see through all the bullshit, it just gets you pandered to in a different way.

Posted by Dougsf | April 1, 2008 1:20 PM

"Anyway Clinton has the potential to reach the types of voters by focusing more on economics and even being not quite so left on the war."

Big fucking deal. The country isn't made up solely of white, racist, labor union members. Why should I have to endure fucked leadership because I happen to share a country with a bunch of morons?

Posted by AMB | April 1, 2008 1:23 PM

@10 - I wonder how much of it is generational? All the Jews I'm around aren't a day under 60, so it might be more that than anything else...

/Lame Gentile

Posted by Soupytwist | April 1, 2008 1:37 PM

why is it republicans and religious nuts have no problem sharing their opinions and forcing us to listen but liberals will just politely listen in order not to anger anyone.

Posted by unred | April 1, 2008 1:40 PM

#31 - Unless you're talking about cable news and talk radio, I don't find that to be true.... I'd say the amount of ass-clowns-that-need-to-settle-down populate that ranks of all sides pretty evenly.

Posted by Dougsf | April 1, 2008 1:50 PM

Dougsf @ 28,

Actually, it’s well documented by decades of poli-sci research that most Americans hold political views that are illogical, ignorant and incoherent.

I highly recommend that you read this article, but please have a stiff drink ready to deal with the Terrible Truth that it reveals:

“Converse claimed that only around ten per cent of the public has what can be called, even generously, a political belief system…

…after analyzing the results of surveys conducted over time, in which people tended to give different and randomly inconsistent answers to the same questions, Converse concluded that ‘very substantial portions of the public’ hold opinions that are essentially meaningless—off-the-top-of-the-head responses to questions they have never thought about, derived from no underlying set of principles. These people might as well base their political choices on the weather. And, in fact, many of them do.”

Posted by Original Andrew | April 1, 2008 2:03 PM

#33 - I don't have a problem believing that. I just don't think geography or education precludes one from having irrational political views.

Interesting article though so far, thanks.

Posted by Dougsf | April 1, 2008 2:21 PM

VERY interesting article, but not wholly surprising - I know people who give a lot more thought to what clothes they're going to put on in the morning than to who they're going to vote for. Ladies and gentlemen, yes, this is for real, and these really are your fellow Americans.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 1, 2008 2:34 PM

And oh, I never really gave a good answer to Hernandez. I never really gave a good answer to elenchos either, but that was intentional. Hernandez, whether anyone on Slog likes it or not, I am deeply involved with almost all levels of the NRA. I won't tell you how involved because that would give away my name, and I don't want to do that. I don't know if I qualify as a liberal (elenchos calls me a libertarian, and I guess that's not too far off), but I'm no Republican either. Unfortunately, there aren't too many pro-gun opportunities to sit down with Obama or Hillary, or I'd probably be doing that too.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 1, 2008 3:01 PM

Charlton Heston everyone. I wish you'd make the most of your pro-gun opportunity with George and Dick.

Why does CNN act like it's a surprise everyday that there has been an incident of gun violence? It's not news if it happens every, single day. No examination of the one reason that is the cause of it all, just a daily body count.

Posted by left coast | April 1, 2008 3:09 PM

@ 34 & 35,

Tragic, isn’t it?

So there you have it. The results of our elections are really no better than chance, and our stupidest voters actually choose our leaders based on nothing at all. Combine that with the superstition, magical thinking and rampant anti-intellectualism that are the norm in the US, and it’s easy to see why the last few years have been such a disaster.

The article does go a long way towards explaining how we became a right-wing country governed by our worst citizens, but it’s gonna take tons of sugar and tequila to make this medicine go down.

Posted by Original Andrew | April 1, 2008 3:10 PM

Fifty-Two-Eighty, you already gave away your real name. It's Walter Mitty.

Posted by elenchos | April 1, 2008 3:21 PM

Left Coast, I will almost certainly be the most liberal person they will encounter in a long time. But I will be there with my own agenda, which really is the Second Amendment, and doubt that other issues will come up. Or if they do, I will probably be respectful and not push it. These folks are strong supporters of the NRA, for whatever reason, and it's in nobody's best interest to turn it into a freak show, even if if might be tempting.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 1, 2008 3:37 PM

When someone says: "McCain is a patriot.” you say: "No he isn't."

Then you say it again. Then you say, "Republicans have been in power for eight years, and the country is far worse off than it was at the beginning of those years. A patriot would work to improve the country he loves. Follow the money to find out what the Republicans love. McCain loves Halliburton. McCain loves Exxon. McCain loves the rich. And he'll say anything to fool you into thinking he's a patriot while he gives tax breaks to the rich, takes away your rights, and sends your kids off to fight in endless wars for oil. McCain is not a patriot. If he were a Patriot he would have fought Bush to preserve America. Instead he worked to sell America out."

You gotta be dramatic ‘cause that's what the mouth-breathers will respond to.

To all the wishy-washy posters that think that all opinions are equal: Stop it. Just stop. There is such a thing as informed opinion. Whether or not the policies of a given politician are in the best interests of the country should be considered as criteria for supporting them. Making decisions based on identity politics against your better interests is stupid. It practically defines the word stupid.

Posted by Speachifier | April 1, 2008 4:46 PM

Here's a little wrap-up view of The Patriot that's certainly worth any thoughtful voter's consideration.

Posted by RHETT ORACLE | April 1, 2008 5:38 PM

Love the link @42, didn't one of our Presidents run on a campaign that McCain had an illegitimate black baby? If the Republicans could use that, I don't see why the Democrats couldn't.

@40, how is dinner with Rove, Cheney and McCain not a freak show? Do those clowns think the 2nd amendment protects Blackwater as a private Christian militia?

Posted by left coast | April 1, 2008 6:30 PM

No, no, left coast. I'm tempted to say you missed my point, but I'll give you more credit than that and guess that you're just saying that to, shall we say, rake some muck. Maybe I'm just more pragmatic than you, or maybe I'm just an old fuck, but the war is long and the battles are hard, and you need to pick your fights.

Posted by Fifty-Two-Eighty | April 1, 2008 6:56 PM

unred @31: why is it republicans and religious nuts have no problem sharing their opinions and forcing us to listen but liberals will just politely listen in order not to anger anyone.

Cut Eli some slack. Dude was in a barber's chair. Does Sweeney Todd mean nothing to you?

Soupytwist @30: I wonder how much of it is generational? All the Jews I'm around aren't a day under 60, so it might be more that than anything else...

Considering this guy just got off the boat, generationally he's about 90, not 30. We can only hope that his children will be more tolerant, or better yet that he will have no children.

Posted by cressona | April 1, 2008 9:03 PM

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