2008 Who My Little Brother in the Army Is Voting For
posted by October 31 at 11:26 AMon
Two weeks ago, on a muggy Thursday in Jacksonville, Florida, I stood on a mansion-lined golf course watching my younger brother Mike put a ball on a tee and take a practice stroke, and thought distractedly to myself: We’re going to lose this state. This was right after the Obama line crossed over the McCain line on this Pollster poll-aggregate, so things were tending in Obama’s direction, generally speaking, but on the ground in Florida there was no hope afoot. The place is saturated in McCain lust. Of course, Jacksonville, a “city” of fast-food places and Hooters billboards and tire centers, never goes Democratic. Every road is a highway, there are almost no sidewalks, and the bits of sidewalks they do have are covered in scampering little lizards. At one point in the visit I went for a jog (which is difficult when the heat is punishing, the sidewalks are constantly giving out, and you’re always about to step on a lizard), and was nearly hit by cars twice. It’s not like they don’t watch for pedestrians in Jacksonville; it’s like they’ve never heard of pedestrians.
There on the golf course, Mike stepped to the tee, lifted the club, and—poooock!—knocked the ball straight/high/long down the fairway. Behind him, there was a white heron poking along the bank of a pond and, beyond that, staring straight at me, steely and proud, the white letters of a McCain/Palin sign in someone’s backyard. Mike got his degree in business administration from a college in California last year and then, in a move that still amazes me, joined the Army. One of the advantages of joining the Army with a college degree is that you can start as an officer, but such was the state of Army recruiting a year ago among people with college degrees that the guys behind the desk in the recruiting office had to dig up a manual to figure out how to sign him up when he walked in the door.
Mike’s a Republican, a semi-Libertarian, an action-movie fan, a born warrior, and easily the most virtuous of my three brothers—honest, humble, hardworking, funny, self-deprecating, easygoing. He doesn’t make a theater of his opinions, the way the rest of us do. He’s not a meat head. He voted for Kerry in 2004 because, as he explained to me at the time, “Bush is an idiot.” A couple months ago, bored out of his mind at an Army base in Oklahoma, he bought and read Barack Obama’s Dreams from My Father because I told him how good I thought it was, and then he did me better by reading John McCain’s Faith of My Fathers, which he liked better. I tried to make a case about the importance of Obama having written his own book, but it crumbled in mid-air. For a military guy, McCain’s war story is hard to set aside on a technicality. Most of the guys in the Army are voting for McCain. “Except for the black guys,” Mike says.
Ever since he read Faith of My Fathers, Mike’s been leaning toward McCain, but since he’s not big on pronouncements, his way of telling me that has been to say he hasn’t made up his mind. And cuz I love the guy, and cuz I know he knows what I think, and cuz I don’t want to spend the little time we ever get to talk hassling him, I haven’t been bugging him about it. But seeing Sarah Palin’s name in bright white there on the golf course, and later by the side of the road where our hotel was, and later in the front yard of a house next to the house where we went to a pre-wedding party for our older brother who was getting married—which is why we were all in Florida in the first place—I got up the nerve to ask Mike what he made of the possibility of Sarah Palin as commander in chief. This, I was pretty sure, would score me a couple points. But never one to fight, he grinned and said something neutral and changed the subject.
Our dad was in the Air Force. Our older brother, the one getting married, is in the Navy (he’s the one I wrote about years ago in this piece, parts of which are regrettably stupid [the lack of understanding of Iraq’s history, the part where I hold forth on what Iraqis “want”]). Our grandpa was in the Marines during World War II—was a hand-to-hand combat instructor, lost a bunch of buddies in Japan—and then a conservative politician in California. I sat next to grandpa at the wedding rehearsal dinner and asked him the Sarah-Palin-as-commander-in-chief question. Even though he is a true right radical (thinks teachers get paid too much, thinks the plight of black people has been “overdramatized,” he wrote a bill when he was in the California legislature that would allow Christian Scientist parents to let their children die of easily remedied medical conditions), I suspected that the idea of Sarah Palin giving orders to the Marines would freak his shit out. No such luck. He smiled and told me that he loved Sarah Palin because unlike most politicians, who don’t tell you the truth, she says what she believes, no matter what it is. Like how she doesn’t believe dinosaurs existed or whatever.
My dad, now a vice president at Northrop Grumman, the military contractor, lives in Virginia and is voting for McCain and there’s nothing that will sway him. He laughs whenever I bring it up. His wife, my stepmom, is voting likewise, though they both are resigned to the probability that Virginia will go for Obama anyway.
As for Mike—well, when I sat down to write this post, I didn’t exactly know where things stood. As far as I knew, his heart was still with McCain. He just finished field artillery (i.e., blowing shit up) school in Oklahoma and drove to Texas last week for his new assignment in El Paso. I sent him a text last night to ask him how Texas was treating him and whether he’d made up his mind about the election. He texted back to say:
I already voted Obama. Texas seems okay I guess. Definitely better than Oklahoma.
Are you getting shit from your pals in the army? Or do they not know who you voted for?
They know. Both my roommates voted too. They both went McCain but I guess they were on the wall.
I wanted to know what did it for him, what put him over the wall. He texted back:
Republican party, palin, and the neverending “redistribution of wealth” (that’s what the government does!) needed better argument. SHIT’S WEAK
Mike Frizzelle, ladies and gentlemen.