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Vote For Phish Waschboard

"Guns don't kill people," said my opponent in the "debate." "People kill people." He delivered the kicker with a self-satisfied smirk and held out his fist for some appreciative dap from his homey for the point he'd scored. "Fine, as long as we're using that kind of specious logic, let's define the real culprit. Guns don't kill people, bullets kill people. They're the ones penetrating the flesh and organs, so they must be responsible, right?" I said. "Yeah. Like a bullet is just going to jump off the table and fire itself into you," he said. "Some person has to put that bullet in the gun and shoot it."

I heaved a mighty sigh. "Look, this argument is not about semantic trickery. No one is denying that responsibility for an action lies with the person who conceived and executed it. The essence of the gun control argument is that it's too easy for the wrong people to get guns. That, and the profound psychological effect a gun exerts on the owner. It simply becomes too easy to kill. The shooter can distance himself to a point where he almost can blame the gun. It requires a minimum of commitment and effort, unlike bludgeoning or stabbing."

"What are you even talking about? I stab motherfuckers all the time. I just stabbed someone this morning," said the opposition.

"Okay, for the sake of this discussion let's say that not everyone is as comfortable with stabbing as you are. Although, you know, good for you. But a person not accustomed or acclimated to violent behavior will become twice as likely to be either a perpetrator or victim of deadly violence once he gets a gun. It's been exhaustively researched and thoroughly proven. The large majority of gun homicides in this country are not from hired assassins or gang wars or serial killers. They're from people shooting their friends, families, neighbors and acquaintances in fits of rage. The arguments that preceded the shootings escalated to the point they did because of the presence of guns. And when the flashpoint is reached, the gun is right there for the final word. Do you know what inevitably and immediately follows killings of this nature? Sincere, profound regret. That's the kind of thing that gun-control advocates are trying to prevent. That and eight-year-olds capping their little sisters for riding their Big Wheels."

My adversary shook his head sadly at me, as if evincing real sorrow at my hopeless ignorance. "All I know is, the Second Commandment of the USS Constitution guarantees me the right to shoot any motherfucker that comes into my yard, and that shit was handed down by God," he said.

I blame myself for being sucked into an argument with a Big House Republican. You might be surprised to learn that of all convicts claiming a party preference, about 90% are staunchly Republican. They may never have voted in their lives or have the remotest idea of how government works, but they damn sure don't want gays to get married or women to have the right to choose. And I think the modern architects of the party might be surprised to learn just who it is actually swallowing their garbage rhetoric and being deceived by their childishly transparent obfuscations. I feel like nice, normal people—conservative, liberal, socialist, libertarian, whoever—probably hear the message of hate and divisiveness and exclusion and aggression espoused by these candidates and think, Well, that's just crazy and I want no part of it. Big House Republicans, though, and their similarly-minded brethren on the street, eat that shit up with a spoon and ask for more.

"Look," I said. "The Republican Party—the real party, at its core—does not care about family or "Christian" values. They don't care about abortion or gay marriage or gun rights, except insofar as these issues are handy tools with which to stir up the rabble. What they want is to be free to do business without government interference. That's it. They want to be minimally taxed while they exploit the working class and our natural resources. Wake up, dude. As a convict and a member of a minority group, you really don't want to hitch your wagon to that train?"

"What, I'm supposed to vote for a broad for President? Get real. Women do not have the mental capacity to run a country. They have all these hormones and shit. That's just science, bro. You should know better."

And there you have it: the Big House Republican.

Whenever I find myself embroiled in a political argument, I inevitably feel both soiled and ridiculous afterward, as if I'd been caught in the amorous embrace of a farm animal. I feel that I have wasted time, energy, and my dignity on what amounts to a pointless abstraction. I believe that a person's political leanings are the absolute least interesting thing about them, unless you are one of those people who are constantly agitating and organizing and whose political stance colors every aspect of your life, in which case you should know: nobody likes you. Seriously. Even your family wishes you would just reel it in and find a hobby.

Arguing about politics is a waste of time that fosters baseless antipathies and creates rifts where they don't need to be. There are so many better things to argue about, like, should Steven Spielberg be allowed to make movies? (Answer: no. The man is a menace and should not even be permitted to watch them.) What actor best personified the character of Darren Stevens, Dick Sargent or Dick York? How many licks are required to reach the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop? And what constitutes a "lick"? Is NASCAR a sport? There are umpty-zillion other topics more fruitful and interesting than any variation on the Democrat v. Republican theme, and even though I personally hold some fairly strong opinions on the matter, in my heart of hearts I wonder if there is really any difference between the two.

I wonder too if politicians only exist to propagate themselves, like viruses or algae, and if every single one, along with every legislative body and government edifice, were somehow magically transported to the bottom of the ocean, would anyone even notice? Doubtful. I believe the economy and the rest of our massive infrastructure would continue chugging along, and all the people who'd so fiercely lashed their identities to political parties would be feeling sheepish and silly, having gained some perspective on what is really important.

The last time I voted in a general election was in 2004. As I recall, the general tone of the electorate was something like, okay, we somehow allowed an incompetent scoundrel to weasel his way into the White House, but all is not lost. We need only clear the decks, start fresh, and begin to repair the damage.

At least that's how I remember it, but I must've had my finger somewhere other than the American pulse, like squarely up my … — because that's not how things worked out at all.

In the days leading up to that fateful Tuesday, I was on a semi-epic tear that concluded at Dick's in Mendocino at closing time. Outside the bar I explained my predicament to the young lady I'd been chatting with. "There is no way in hell I am fit to drive, and I can't leave my car here," I said. "I gotta go vote tomorrow. Very important. If you drive me home, you're welcome to have sex with me, or not. Actually, I can't guarantee anything. I do have some bud, and plenty of food. What do you say?"

She agreed, oddly enough, and off we went to Albion, where we smoked a joint and I made omelets. We went to sleep just as the sun, or rather the gradual gray suffusion that passes for sun in an Albion November, rose. The last thing I said was, "Make sure I wake up in time to go vote."

A few hours later, I was shaken awake only a mere sliver into what I owed on my sleep-debt. Staring at the ceiling, I began trying to sort out what was what and who, who. Initially, all I could safely ascertain were a couple of baseline facts, that I was a human and we were on Earth. After a few minutes of concerted effort, I narrowed down my identity and specific coordinates. Now for the hard part.

"Hey," I croaked to the person bustling irritatingly about the room.

"Hey yourself," she said. "Ready to go do your civic duty?"

"My what?" I asked, clearly confused.

"Vote, remember? You wanted to go vote."

Vote. The word stuck in my head like a too-big bite of sandwich lodged in the esophagus. Vote. Seemed like a verb, which entailed doing something. That didn't bode well. Ah, vote! Realization slowly dawned. "Right, right. Gotta go vote."

"Plus I need a ride back to Mendocino. Rise and shine, I already made coffee."

I dragged myself out of bed, stood there for a moment as my inner balancing mechanisms struggled to orient my position relative to earth and sky, and poured a cup of joe. It only slightly penetrated my fog, so I had a couple of beers, a bong hit, and even scraped the baggie and pipe. I could find only enough for one good hit of the ol' ring-dang-doo. Finally, I felt fit enough to drive and to do my part in setting America to rights again.

My voting style is, like my distinctive and colorful approach to life itself, unorthodox. I like to punctuate and editorialize the process with comments and sound effects. "BAM!" I'll say, imagining the extricatory powers of my ballot. "Out with ye! Hah! Welcome to Washington, you momser. Don't louse it up. My God, are these really all my choices? I've seen better candidates in prison," and the like. 1 also like to toss a courtesy vote to the candidate with the oddest-sounding name, regardless of party affiliation.

Well, even with my super-important contribution, it wasn't enough, and the country remained in status quo for the next four years, at the culmination of which I was safely nestled in the bosom of CDCR and unable to participate in the elective process.

My very first presidential vote was cast for Jimmy Carter in 1980, a responsibility I took seriously and a defeat I took personally. In '84 1 again backed the losing horse, and after the '88 election I began to get a little discouraged. Was I ever going to be on the winning side? In '92 I was in a lockdown rehab facility and unable to vote, and in 96 I was in prison.

So much for the glorious Clinton triumphs. In 2000 I was back in the game and ready for my first victory. Hell, Al Gore was money in the bank. A shoo-in. Bush was a palooka, a sacrificial lamb. All hail President… what the fuck? Are you kidding me?

Okay, whatever. We'll get 'em next time. Which brings us back to '04.

In '08 I was back in the jernt, and in '12 as well. For those of you keeping score at home, you'll note that every time I voted the Republicans won. It doesn't take a genius to figure out who's going to in this one, and I say dammit, if I have to sacrifice my freedom to keep this country on track, then I'm glad to do it. You're welcome, America.

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