So it's been a couple of days since this incident and I have been trying to figure out what I want to say about it.
Disclaimer.1: Please understand that this is not boasting or bragging or just telling "war stories." This was a real incident that I think illustrates something important in our current politics; something becoming increasingly dangerous.
I guess I should start at the beginning then... See, Mrs. Mojo and I went to the rodeo here in our little town of Lakeside in east San Diego County the other night.
Disclaimer.2: I like rodeo and my wife has forgotten more about horses and riding than most any three people will know in a lifetime.
God as my witness, all I wanted to do Friday night was go out with my wife, have a beer and watch some rodeo...
At the beginning of these things nowadays, there is a bit of pro-patria political theater, and they usually ask veterans in the grandstands to stand up and get a round of applause, and when they do, I stand up. It is usually a fairly innocuous and benign display.
About 30 minutes into the first round, the rodeo clown/arena field announcer (as opposed to the booth announcer) starts bantering to kill time while they're loading more bulls into the chutes. And he starts in with a schtick he probably does at every rodeo he clowns at: "So I wanna take a poll... since it's an election year, how many proud conservative Republicans are here tonight... stand up, let's hear ya..."
There is a lot of folks jumping up and shouting and clapping and all that; then he starts, "okay... now let's see if there's anyone..."
And I'm thinking "oh just don't...please just don't," because I know what comes next.
"...dumb or brave enough to say they're a Democrat."
Through the smattering of laughter a huge voice booms out "YEAH... RIGHT HERE!" And I'm only a little surprised to find that the voice is coming from me and I'm on my feet.
And I look around... and in a rodeo stadium of about 2,500 people, I am the only person standing.
The look on the clown's face was priceless. Like I said, he probably does this schtick at every rodeo he works, and he is looking like this is the first time someone's called him on this...
Now, I won't say there wasn't a little bit of calculation here. Right now people are looking at me and thinking this all a joke bit, or that I'm some kind of space alien. But after I said that there were cartoon crickets... seriously... you could hear a pin drop.
There were two choices for me here: 1. Punk out and just sit down sheepishly, or 2. Throw Down!
My calculation was that most of these people there were just like me in one important respect: all they were looking for this evening was to have a beer or two and watch some rodeo, and they were not emotionally, psychologically prepared for this.
But if I punked, then I would have run the risk of inviting the reaction of any typical bully. So I chose option two.
I spread my arms out and started looking around, digging down and finding the command voice I learned in the military and some later training, I started in: "What?! Who's got something to say about that?!" And as I turn around facing the rest of the stands and I find I am staring down some 2,500 beered up rodeo fans...
At this point, my brain is furiously pumping rather unsubtle doses of combat preparation hormones as this odd little drama is nearing some kind of endgame.
The clown/announcer looks like he saw the potential for something bad to happen in regards to his attempt to play the crowd, so he quickly regathers his compsure, and tries to continue the bit to get me to sit the hell down, "well, how about that... hey... so how about that Obamacare... you in favor of that?"
My answer (still in command voice): "You mean the Affordable Care Act? Hell yes... we need health care for everyone." Another calculation; he wants to bring this up, fine. I dare him even on the most simplistic and base level to engage. It had the desired and expected result. This was a rodeo, not a healthcare policy debate roundtable and that was clearly where I was prepared to take this...
He said something like "well okay then..." joked it off and moved on to the next thing and I sat down.
A few minutes later, he invited me down to the arena edge to shake my hand and thank me for being a good sport. I said something that took him aback a bit:
"Hey, if I can stand up as a veteran, then I can stand up as a Democrat." He seemed to like that.
A few more minutes later I'm back in the stands, and the guys starts in again: "I don't mean to get philosophical here but..." and again I'm thinking "Oh God, just don't. I just wanted to come watch the cowboys and have a couple of beers,"
"...but that fella who said he was Democrat just said something pretty powerful to me, and I thought it was worth repeating..." There was a small knot of applause, mainly from others in the stands I saw standing up earlier as veterans.
Well... that happened, I thought. Then had to go grab a beer and walk off some of the adrenaline for a minute.
While I was walking around, I was asking myself: "what the hell got into you up there?" Turns out the answer to that question is actually pretty easy. If you are reading this, chances are you have read the Wire before. You know who we are and what we are about and we make no pretense to anything else.
I exhort people to a particular point of view, sometimes pretty stridently. I use this space as a place where I can take a public stand for those things I believe.
If I didn't stand at that moment, I could never write another word here ever again.
Oddly enough, I was feeling bad about all this because this was horribly mortifying for Mrs. Mojo, who is uncomfortable in crowds to begin with, and hates massed attention, much less hostile massed attention.
And make no mistake... there was a genuinely dangerous moment or two of a "Chinese standoff;" where this could have all gone very bad, very fast.
Because the joke here was this: The point wasn't to see if there were any "Democrats" in the crowd. He knew there were probably a few. This was just garden variety social "hippy punching." The point was to tell anyone identifying as "liberal" or "Democrat" that we are hopelessly outnumbered so just sit down and shut up. Just lie down.
That's not me. Not ever.
And on an evening when I just wanted to go out and do something fun with my wife, to be put in that position, kind of ticked me off. Sure, you can criticize my choices here with a perfectly good argument about "choosing one's battles."
But I fear we are entering a time and place where we are increasingly not afforded that luxury. I felt like I was being asked at that moment: "you gonna put up or shut up; where are you at?"
I suppose I have my answer...