Still, it’s true. I totally chickened out from a planned moment of exercising my free speech.
Not so long ago, my campus entertained Senator John McCain. You all know McCain, right? The man currently competing with Tony Blair to be crowned Bush’s poodle.
A sassy friend of mine and I decided we would attend McCain’s little talk and heckle him. We had big plans, too. Given that McCain promised to discuss immigration reform, we thought we would shout out, “THOUGH YOUR PROPOSALS SEEM SLIGHTLY MORE REASONABLE THAN YOUR REPUBLICAN COLLEAGUES' IDEAS, WE FEEL YOU SERIOUSLY UNDERESTIMATE THE SOCIO-ECONOMIC FACTORS THAT MOTIVATE MIGRATION ACROSS AN IMAGINARY INTERNATIONAL BOUNDARY AND YOU REJECT THE IMPORTANCE OF A MULTI-CULTURE, MULTI-LINGUAL NATION.”
Upon reflection, we decided that the above might be a bit wordy. Instead, we shortened it to “SELL OUT!” We also planned an ending with “QUEER RIGHTS NOW!” given McCain’s recent decision to
Our grande plans, though, quickly came unraveled as our nerve evaporated. McCain drew a robust audience of adamant supporters from this campus. Arriving late on the scene, ushers relegated us to the furthest balcony of the auditorium. Shouting, we quickly deduced, would require some serious lung power. More importantly (and something that does not speak well for our character), we became cowed by the sheer giddiness of the people who surrounded us.
A young student look earnestly at me with Bambi eyes, exclaiming, “Isn’t this exciting? We get to see Senator McCain!”
“Um,” said I.
“He is a real American Hero,” the student gushed with, I imagine, a slight erection.
“Well, I appreciate his service,” I tried to offer as an olive branch, “but as a gay man, I am angry that he has done nothing to defend my rights and seems to be getting into bed with religious extremists.”
“Uh – Oh,” the student said looking a bit like I had eaten his piece of birthday cake. He immediately forgot about me, though, as he turned away and started fumbling with his phone’s camera settings.
McCain’s time on the stage elicited a quasi-rapture from the audience. People applauded when McCain commended Bush’s handling of the war. People applauded when McCain gave homage to the “young men and women currently defending freedom.” People applauded when McCain made balloon animals out of condoms. Okay, he didn’t actually do that last bit.
My point, though, is that the audience was an applauding machine. He received questions from the audience along the lines of, “Gee, Senator McCain, how did you get to be so smart?” or “Senator McCain, do Democrats really eat kittens?” Our balcony section, for mysterious reasons, did not have a microphone or any other means to ask questions.
My sassy friend and I tried to muster our shouty voices during several instances, but each time chickened out. True, we gave a running commentary to each other throughout the speech. This annoyed everyone around us, including Bambi-student. Our only moderate success was to start a feeble chain of applause when McCain noted the Senate’s approval rating was 25 percent at the moment. We applauded loudly and, proving that people are sheep, many others followed our lead. McCain looked a bit baffled and actually said, “Please don’t applaud that.”
What did I learn from my attendance? Regretting not doing an act of civil disobedience is a bitch. I could have at least tossed my golden tiara at him.
Starting tomorrow, I am going to work on building my internal courage in the face of massive crowds of zealous right-wingers. Well, maybe not tomorrow. I want to focus my energy on regrowing my goatee tomorrow. The day after that, though, I will build up my intestinal fortitude – after happy hour.