True! Nervous, very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The Conventions had sharpened my senses — not destroyed — not dulled them… I heard all things in heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad?
Far from driving me mad, the Conventions compel me to declare my willingness to occupy the highest office of the greatest nation in the history of planet Earth. I am called from obscurity to serve Country First, as indicated by the little stars-and-stripes pin on my lapel. Friends, I humbly accept the call. Allow me to mention how genuinely, how uniquely, how inexpressibly more than the next guy I love America. At the same time, allow me to stress how genuinely, how uniquely, how inexpressibly just like the next guy I nonetheless remain. Yes, friends, I confess it — I am ordinary. I’m no elitist.
Mother used to get me up for a bowl of gruel at 4:00 a.m. Once I’d done my homework on the back of our only coal shovel, I’d blow out the candle, draw daddy’s gun down from the rack and drill a moose before dawn. I don’t recall how many houses we owned back then, but we were far too poor for a knife, so I’d field dress the beast with my teeth, then trot off for school. Mama’s Irish blood inspired me never to take any crap from bullies along the way, and by God I learned to be a fighter. If Jesus ever calls me to take on foreign riffraff (and I have a hunch he will), let me repeat, I’m a fighter. I’ve also been called a maverick from time to time. It’s nearly impossible to convey in words the extent to which Corrupt Corporate Washington is shaking in its boots at the prospect of my election. Friends, I am the voice of Change.
Grandpa marched in Patton’s army. And while I would be the last to suggest that it indicates my superior fitness to lead this superior nation, allow me to note that I myself am a War Hero. I hesitate to bring it up. Have I mentioned what a rambunctious maverick I’m regarded as? Yes, Mama’d wake me at 3:00 a.m., which may well be the reason I’ve remained so ordinary while still developing the extraordinary qualities needed to lead. I’ve run stuff and organized and legislated and loved God and played point guard on my high school basketball team, and Patton marched in Grandpa’s army, and hell yes I’d nuke Iran, and open the door for Armageddon if it makes Israel happy, and I’m developing a sudden passion for Georgian democracy, and my heart bleeds openly this time around for the city of New Orleans, and this isn’t about me it’s about you, and my son Airstrip is off to war and my daughter Formica is testing my commitment to Family Values, and here’s to victory in Iraq, and don’t forget that despite my extraordinary love for God and Country, I’m just as ordinary as y’all, and if I’ve left anything out, let me conclude with the deep and maverick thought that’s just galloped into my head…. Gawd Bless America!
The Conventions had sharpened my senses, not dulled or destroyed them. How then am I mad?
PS: On October 3, 1847 Edgar Allan Poe was found delirious and “in great distress” on the streets of Baltimore. Four days later he was dead. His death is generally linked to the circumstance that October 3, 1847 was election day in Baltimore. There is good evidence to support the theory that Poe was a victim of “cooping” — a practice whereby political gangs kidnapped vulnerable bystanders, cooped them up, got them drunk, and bullied them round the polling stations to vote over and over again for a corrupt candidate. It is very possible that Poe, whose mental and physical health was fragile, was literally killed by someone’s greed for votes.
The crude tactics of 1847 are still with us, face-lifted and plasticized perhaps like so many of the politicians who employ them, yet indicative of that same underlying greed for votes. The Democratic Party has conducted itself with relative dignity. This is not necessarily a compliment — relative to today’s average high-profile Republican, an earwig attains nobility.
John Liechty [send him mail] currently teaches in Muscat, Oman.