They hope I’ll think their question is casual and that I won’t suspect they’re worried about my sanity, but I see through it right away and I’m not offended. The question: “Barry, how can you stand by your prediction of a landslide for Romney?”
Actually I’m predicting a landslide against Obama. Oh, I know all about Obama leading Romney in key battleground states and Obama’s negative ads seemingly working in Ohio. The polling data, indeed, amount to a statistical “sand castle” against Romney. But have you ever seen what a tsunami can do to a sand castle? Or even a nice big wave?
Author William Saroyan wrote of his skinny uncle who used to sit cross-legged on a straw mat in the attic, endlessly “releasing inner forces.” There really are such things as “forces.” Most of them cannot be seen. Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee just gave us the best example. Dan Cathy, president and chief operating officer of the Chick-fil-A food chain, seemed to be on the losing end of a political-correctness rap – at least that was the verdict of the un-elected, un-appointed and unknown judges of such quarrels. Mr. Cathy came right out and said that he and, by inference, his spicy chicken sandwich empire, believed in the “biblical” interpretation of marriage. You know: one man, one woman! How could he commit such a flagrant violation? Women screamed. Men trembled. Cats darted through holes and spiders halted their webwork.
Then along came Mike Huckabee and declared Wednesday, Aug. 1, “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day” on his website.
And 21 million Americans responded. To end the story there would be a war crime in the culture war embroiling America. These weren’t 21 million Americans saying, “Uh, yeah. I’ll go along with biblical marriage.” This wasn’t plain old endorsement and assent. It was God-Bless-You endorsement and assent! It was a cultural and religious Normandy Invasion with hundreds of beaches and no German machine-gunners interfering. At Chick-fil-A stores all over America people were saying, “I’d like to treat the 10 people behind me in line.” When told they were all out of chicken, the highly motivated turnout asked if they could then buy gift certificates.
If you don’t understand the difference between “supporters” and revolutionaries with blood on their breath, then you’ll never co-sponsor my prediction.
Saroyan’s uncle would have understood what happens when forces bottled-and-throttled suddenly find release. Why, with this nation so clearly on the side of biblical marriage, did everybody think Chick-fil-A was in deep trouble, rather than on the cusp of the greatest surge in the entire history of the fast-food industry? I’m in love with that question. The bottlers-and-throttlers of public opinion had convinced the world that gay marriage is kissed by tongues of omni-consensual flame and none may dare say it Nay. (That, despite the failure of the gay-marriage forces to win a single free election!) Mike Huckabee gave the pro-Bible forces the locus and the focus to ignite their revolution. That’s all you need. The locus (the place or situation) and the focus (Here’s why we’re here!).
Those “inner forces” have been released so many times; it’s time we paid attention and respect. During the anti-Communist Hungarian Revolution of 1956, I walked into Zettl’s Little Garden, a Hungarian tavern in New York’s “Hungary Town” just as the TV was showing the chopping down of the Stalin statue. Those screaming, temporarily insane Hungarian anti-Communists didn’t abruptly become freedom fighters. They were that before the first beer. That video gave them the locus and the focus. Their bottled-and-throttled emotions were suddenly allowed release. When, where and however that “force” is released, look out!
The result is not always wise or safe. Correspondent Robert St. John, in his enthralling book, “From the Land of the Silent People,” about the Nazi conquest of Yugoslavia, reported from a bar in Serbia that the entire population wanted nothing more than hand-to-hand combat with Hitler’s intruders. Hitler’s mechanized forces annihilated Yugoslavia, but lived to regret they’d ever heard of the place once the anti-Nazi guerrillas got going.
We need the locus and the focus. And it need not be in an ethnic bar. During Hungary’s uprising against the Soviets, the top show on Broadway was “My Fair Lady.” There was a lyric about some awful man “from Budapest. Never have I ever met a ruder pest.” On the night freedom broke out in Hungary the cast changed the lyric over to some awful man “from Bucharest. Never have I ever met a ruder pest.”
They saluted Hungary by shifting the name from Budapest, Hungary’s capital, to Bucharest, the capital of Romania. The show stopped. The audience stood and applauded for five minutes.
When bottled-and-throttled inner feelings find locus and focus for release, look out! An “Appreciation Day” can do it. Chopping down the Stalin statue can do it. Changing “Budapest” to “Bucharest” on Broadway can do it.
And an election can do it, too. Inside that voting booth, mass media, peer pressure, fear of being called “racist,” neighborhood political bullies and could-be-tattle-tale phone-pollsters have no power. It’s you and Obama.
You give us the locus-focus; we’ll give you the hocus-pocus!