Friday, September 14, 2007

Divided We Stand

If you read my account last month of the day we spent with those Republican cowgirls, you already know Starr Ann enjoys messing with the conservatives now and then.

So last night she thought it would be fun to find some Republicans to watch the presidential address with. We weren't game for going back to a straight bar quite yet, but Starr Ann came up with an inspired idea. We could pop over to the Circuit City in the next county, pick out some conservatives to get friendly with, and watch the president's speech with them on multiple screens.

First Republican-looking people we spotted were an older couple, real dressed up. Starr Ann and I drifted over by where they were comparing smartphones and glancing over their shoulders at the televisions every now and then. The lady, Connie, was saying that Jeff would probably like the one with the bigger display. Her husband, Les, took it out of her hands and inspected it a minute before saying, "Yes, this one looks like him. How long do you think it'll take for it to get there?"

We figured Jeff was probably some spoiled frat boy who was about to get a new toy from mommy and daddy.

Starr Ann said something, loud enough for Les and Connie to hear, about wishing it would hurry up and be time for our president to speak. The reaction that got from Les and Connie cinched it in our minds. They were Republicans, all right. Both of them turned toward us with looks on their faces like it was almost Christmas and Bush was a cross between Santa Claus and their favorite rock star.

Our strategy was to have them convinced we were big Bush fans and then, as the speech progressed, voice our slow realization that 30,000 new troops minus 5,000 troops does not add up to a troop reduction. We thought it'd be fun to see how they handled that.

So we were all buddy-buddy with Connie and Les by the time the show started. Not more than five or seven minutes into it, Starr Ann and I were about to begin our ciphering of the situation, because already it was very clear Bush was not going to split with his general and surprise the nation with a genuine pull-back.

As Starr Ann was about to say her part, we both turned to Connie and Les. They'd stopped looking up at the forty or so screens with Bush heads talking on them and were staring at each other with tears in their eyes. Connie started shaking all over and went limp. Les dropped their son's new smartphone as he reached out to brace his wife, and I was lucky enough to catch the phone before it hit the floor.

Starr Ann and I felt like the couple of jerks that we are. Those people were at Circuit City buying that phone because they'd just gotten home from work and found the latest letter from Jeff, who turns out to be anything but a spoiled frat boy. He's an Army corporal from a family that got caught in the subprime mess and lost their home a year back. He joined up, without telling anybody beforehand, to help his mom and dad get out of financial trouble. In the new letter, he made passing mention of his friend's new phone. Connie and Les couldn't wait, even long enough to eat supper or change clothes, to go out and get one for him.

They're real nice people, but not very realistic. They had themselves all worked up and believing this fantasy where Bush was going to come out and surprise the hell out of everybody with his speech. They're so desperate to get their son back in one piece, they'd actually talked themselves into believing the president was going to do the right thing and announce huge changes in the way he's handling the war. Of course, that did not happen.

Starr Ann and I took Connie and Les to dinner after watching the rebuttal. Poor Starr Ann. She knocked herself out, being as charming and funny as she could, trying to pick up Les and Connie's spirits. There's only one thing that'll do that, though.

It was a nice night out, and Starr Ann and I dropped the reins so the horses could find the path for themselves in the dark. We held hands all the way home, and barely said a word.