Northern Exposures:

Clinton Does the Democratic Primaries

Aside from the daily dose of social Darwinism provided by the Manchester Union Leader, New Hampshire's only statewide daily newspaper, the paradigm of Ignorance in defense of intolerance is no vice has been held in place for decades by the Catholic Church, though the south is full of Catholics who stopped attending mass after Vatican II, when the transubstantial rites of cannibalism switched from Latin to English. (One woman in Derry told me the secularization of the mass was an egregious example of "coddling the young," like the local Rock the Vote registration drive, which unsuccessfully tried to force the Supervisor of the Checklist to register students at the local high school instead of at the town hall. When the Democratic candidates moan about "the first generation of Americans to do worse than their parents," they're waving a blank rhetorical flag. Among working-class parents in this neck of the woods, what was good enough for them is good enough for their brats, and if their brats do a little worse, boo hoo.)

Resentment is running high at the Henry J. Sweeney American Legion Post #2. One woman in a beige parka steps up to the microphone to denounce the State of the Union address, specifically the Marie Antoinette capital gains passage about Puritans lying awake at night, obsessed with the idea that somebody somewhere might be having a good time. (Our Halcion-sedated chief executive should've recognized Peggy Noonan's winsome hen tracks as relics of the good old days, when people without trust funds didn't realize they were "hurting.")

It takes a member of the press corps, the Voice's Alisa Solomon, to mention the A-word: for this bunch, apparently, "health care" doesn't necessarily extend to the politically charged issue of AIDS. Or perhaps it does, but they'd really rather not discuss it. Clinton exudes a pat, uninterested answer about more money for research et cetera, adding that "President Bush has only mentioned the word AIDS about three times since he's been president," Alisa later notes that this is the first time Clinton has mentioned it at all.


She's real Catholic, see. she fingers her cross and says there's one do it my way or I push your face in. We knee you in the john if you don't get off your mustang, sally. - Patti Smith

The Buchanan crowd is something else again. The palace Theatre, a porn movie house throughout my teens and later boarded up like most Manchester businesses off Elm Street, has reopened as a legitimate theater. And a grand-looking place it is, with raked seats and ormulu sconces and delicate chandeliers, like a vintage Keith Circuit vaudeville hall.

There is one black man in the cream white audience, wearing a tight black suit, applauding feverishly, a true believer who will gladly salt himself when they throw him into the stew pot, as long as he can be the last one in. Onstage, former Manchester mayor Bob Shaw lectures us about "a little tea party we threw down in Boston a few years ago,: flanked by another local hack, the city chairman of Buchanan for President. While the candidate speaks, these two mavens perch on folding chairs nearby, in badly tailored gray suits, one porcine gangling, and rabid looking, the other scrunched up like some demented antique dealer with dreams of world domination, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, cackling and stomping their feet. A tableau of jolly idiocy. Potent ecstasy from the audience of functional dipsomaniacs and blue rinse jobs with ropes of synthetic pearls and minks women circa 1970. LaRouche defectors, Chamber of Commerce ghouls, and assorted bits of space debris. An extremely fat man with inflamed pimples rocks in his seat behind me, muttering "Right on!" every time Pat scores some soaring polemical eureka.

The thrust of The Speech is that America has to be Number One. Not simply Number One in standard of living and capitalization and investments and technology and aircraft construction and care sales, but Number One in unbridled odiousness. The tautological form of the Speech presents a self-evident case that the U.S. is not simply part of the world, but superior to everything in it. Like anyone else from Rockinghand and Hillsborough counties, I am able to instantly translate The Speech from its slightly euphemistic idioms into plain English:

We must show these sordid fuckers, the Japs, that we are better than they are because, goddam it, we're Americans, We're white, we're the greatest nation the world has ever known, and we invented everything. Flat screens and chips and VCRs and semiconductors and the Waring blender. And it's all being taken away from us by a bunch of satanic Nips and totalitarian wetbacks who've titled the playing field by Christ a level playing isn't the point anyway, we've got to win!

The Europeans—whose gene stock, granted, is the only one worth preserving, are evilly attempting to wrest Boeing and Burger King from America's grasp. Race filth from Taiwan is gobbling up McDonnell Douglas. My god, the bastards will be seizing control of Disneyland unless this belligerent turd at the podium with his socks falling down isn't listened to, and then the residents of Manchester, New Hampshire can kiss the eternal glory of being an American goodbye. Poor little Mickey Mouse is gonna wind up a squalid, syphilitic frog, or a sex-crazed wop, or a stinking guinea, or a bloody wog, or, god help the little rodent, a flaming African jigaboo.

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