A Slice of Apple Pie

At 1 a.m. you have to expect that almost any political debate is going to turn ugly. Doubly so when in a bar, filled with regulars, littered with empty glasses and bottles, the Friday night before a presidential election. Never mind that this particular bar happens to be in one of the most hotly contested areas of Florida, a place that just might determine the outcome of Election 2004.

You’d expect it to get ugly, but you’d be surprised.

Me, a libertarian Republican, reluctant Bush supporter, rabid capitalist. To my right, a Republican who for some reason buys into Michael Moore. Across from me, a liberal girl with a “I’ll hug your elephant if you kiss my ass” shirt. Scattered throughout: A foreigner with a taste for politics, an inebriated libertarian with no love for either major candidate, a democrat trying to avoid a fight, and a quiet man, maybe homeless, who’s sick of all the lies and doesn’t want to hear political talk at all. The barkeep, an immigrant from the mid-east. His bar help, an independent who dislikes Bush but refuses to vote because she objects to politics-as-usual from anyone.

This was America. Gathered in a small bar just outside of USF. It might as well have been a Zogby sample, albeit a drunk one.

Its amazing to hear a room full of drinkers argue John Locke and Karl Marx from behind bottles of Guinness and Heineken. It makes you wonder if all of our American style self loathing, our perception that “most people are just stupid” is really true. After all, this wasn’t some lounge or salon. The beer came from an ice tray, the place was filled with smoke, and the music ranged from Garth Brooks to Rob Zombie. These were common folks, trying to have a night away from the everyday, looking for a beer and some respite from mundane lives in a mundane part of town.

You’d expect to hear some colloquial political debate, maybe some thick southern accents. You’d expect a stereotype. Instead, you would have seen something remarkable. A room full of tipsy philosophers, vocal and loud, but courteous. Boisterous voices and drunk shouts were followed by handshakes. Disagreements and debates ended in respect, if not admiration. Angry words diffused by a sense that once we reached last call we’d all still be countrymen, part of the same great, amazing, beautiful, frustrating place called America.

It was just little bar in the American battleground, nothing to write home about, filled with the same fears and hopes that we all hear about in the news everyday. I just happened to be there, happened to walk in with some friends for one last drink before bedtime, happened to be pulled in an argument that I did not want to be part of.

Instead of just the drink I had hoped for, I also got a little bonus, a little slice of hope.

If the heart of America is anything like the hearts of the people in that little bar, then maybe we’re all going to be ok after all, regardless of what happens on the first Tuesday of November.

Just a little hope in a dreary, angry world.

Posted by Damon Dimmick at October 30, 2004 4:39 PM