My favorite lunch break activity is to head down the street from work to Barnes and Noble
. For $1.90 I can get a cup of tea and scan the headlines of all the major magazines. The tables at Barnes and Noble are made to seat two, so this is also a good way to meet new people. I have met models, hedge fund technicians, and German lawyers in this way. Yesterday, I met a McCain supporter.
He was short, bald, and reading a book of Shakespeare tragedies. But I have learned that most people have interesting stories to tell so did not demure when he started a conversation. It turns out he was originally from Egypt. We talked of languages and he taught me the traditional Muslim greeting: Assalamu alaikum. When I learned he was a Hillary sympathizer now leaning towards McCain, I was immediately interested. A Muslim supporting McCain! I gave him kudos for contradicting my stereotype assumption that Muslims would automatically support Obama. This could get interesting. I turned up my Obamania full volume. He was amused at my enthusiasm.
: "So, this Obama, he is a little like a rock star to you, no?"
: "Well, yes, no, see, I'm glad we finally have someone in politics who can put together a complete sentence. But the real reason I like Obama is because of the issues he supports"
surveyed me. "But Obama, he is all talk. He has no experience."
: "But he manages to talk about the right things. Just look at that speech he gave on the Iraqi war. Way back in 2002."
: "But Obama is all sweet talk. He has no experience. Name me one policy, one
policy that he has taken a stance on."
: "See, early in 2007, before I had even heard of Obama, I made a list, for a Toastmaster's speech, of the issues that politics was failing to deal with. These were the reasons I refused to vote, because they weren't being dealt with. Obama has brought all these issues back into the political debate, and this is the reason I support him."
: "You should give me your phone number so we can go out to dinner and you can show me this list."
: "Welll...I can give you my e-mail. Let me give you my e-mail. I'll link you to this site I just found, called weop-ed, and you can see some of the things I've posted...wait. (He was looking confused) Do you have an e-mail?" He didn't.
: "Ooooooo. You don't have an e-mail. You are a McCain supporter." But I didn't have the heart to belabor this point further. I returned to the line: "I love Obama because of the policies he--"
: "What policies? Name me one policy." He took out a pencil and paper and prepared to intimidate me.
I was in my element. He wanted a list? I would give him a list. I outlined Obama's health care program, steps A, B, and C, complete with how it successfully incorporated both the the best of government support and free-market policy. I discussed his stance on terrorists from 9/11 until the current day. I quoted The Audacity of Hope and Fox News reporters alike. I waxed eloquent on his sensible, bi-partisan approach to abortion. I worked myself up over the importance of renewing education in the face of a decline unprecedented
in American history.
took notes. At the end of each of my carefully worded, well organized points, he protested, with increasing vigor: "But he has no experience!" We reached the issue of race. "And" I said, (point number 6) "I love his stance on race. He is representative of the new generation of --."
's face became smooth as marble. He said: "I, I
am not discriminating against some one because of the color of his skin. I am from Egypt. In Egypt we have have people of all sorts of colors. We have people who are as white as you or I. We have people who are brown. We have some people who are black. But mostly in the south. Yes, it is mostly in the south that people are black."
(teasing): "You're brown, not white!" (He was
a little olive).
: "But the color of his skin is not what is at issue here. The issue is his experience
: "But is experience really
the issue? As you see, he has a very consistent policy and track record. That is one of the things I like about him. I love how you can see his policies have evolved over time, but you can see how he's been consistent from early on."
: "Ahh. I see. You love this Obama."
: "Yes!!!!!!!!! I do. I love the issues that he supports. I love his wife."
was less than happy about this last point. Women aren't supposed to love other women, they are supposed to be jealous. But he persisted: "No" he said with twinkling eyes "You love
him. You are in
love with Ba-rack Obama."
If he was going to accuse me of being merely emotional, I could accuse him of, well, other things:
"Well" I responded "it is true that McCain has a lot of experience."
I think the guy actually thought I was going to concede. "Yes!" he said, seriously, gruffly, "McCain has a lot
"Yes" I said, "he has many years of experience."
McCain Supporter looked at me with softened eyes: "Yes, he has lots of exPERience"
"Yes" I said "he has as many years of experience as it is possible for a human being to have without keeling over."
He still didn't get it so I repeated: "As many years
McCain Supporter's eyes bulged: "Do you mean", he thundered "you are DISCRIMINATING AGAINST McCain because of his AGE???!!!!"
"Yup!" I said cheerfully, just like you are discriminating against Obama for his, and against me because I am a woman, and enthusiastic."
But it seems that I had reached the point of no return. It appears that you can challenge a man on his veracity, race, color, technological abilities, policies and beliefs, but not on his AGE and exPERIENCE.
McCain Supporter retired, with great dignity, behind his Shakespeare tragedies. I retired behind my Forbes, Fortune, Rolling Stone, Vanity Fair, Vogue, Teen Vogue, British Vogue, and Atlantic Monthly.
I was left with mixed feelings about this conversation.
I am not happy about the age gap in politics. I believe in respecting one's elders, believe that there might be something about accumulating years that gives one a better perspective. I will even admit that I am perhaps too emotional and too easily swayed by well-put-together words. But what can I do when a person refuses to continue a debate with me? What can I do if a person uses "experience" as a cover-up for not discussing the issues? What can I do if he does not even have the means of continuing the debate and supporting his viewpoints? Because my McCain supporter, like his candidate, probably does not even know how to turn on a computer.
...If there are any McCain supporters out there over the age of 45-50, I would like to hear from you.