As the campaign trail continued to stretch its long miles ahead of us, Dad must have been hedging his bets and saying his prayers that his old friend, political boss and fellow Brother in Christ was reading the same Bible verses he was.
But Alas! as we all know, and those of us who were aboard the Vacation Bible School Space Ships for Christ can surely attest, there are many pages in that Book.
Indeed, there is a verse for every occasion. Verses for birth that, depending on who you hold more responsible for the conception, congratulate the parents, “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children born in one’s youth.” or the LORD, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you.”
Verses for death that resound from the deathbed of Moses forced to die outside the Promised Land to the graveyards made today for those who have not yet reached the lands they were looking for themselves. “A voice is heard in Ramah,” Jeremiah tells us, “mourning and great weeping, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.”
Verses of true love and verses of a certain heartbreak. “My beloved is mine and I am his,” finds its grip beside “I opened for my beloved, but my beloved had left.” “I looked for him but did not find him. I called him but he did not answer.”
Birth. Death. Sorrow. Sex. Revenge. There are verses for them all.
Dr. D flipped his Book and found what he was looking for.
So while Dr. D went to work helping God’s hand accomplish the appropriate level of fire and brimstone for a certain Congressman from South Carolina otherwise known as Dad, the Republicans were concocting their own stew.
The 2008 Republican Convention.
As the shadows of the Midwestern summer began extending into fall in St Paul, Minnesota, Sarah Palin broke the glass ceiling at the Xcel Center in the most unlikely of ways: she was not qualified to be Vice President, not to mention, Heaven Forbid, President, but she let it be known that the people who made up the qualifications were a bunch a prigs anyways. So to hell with ‘em.
That idea turned out to be a hit.
Having gotten off the bus from Denver in St. Paul as a political correspondent for High Country News, my brother joined my dad after the revelry was over and the dignitaries found it within their compassionate souls to mix with the press.
It turned out one particular fellow needed the press more than the press needed him, leastways when the press was his son.
Crestfallen about the state of his party and certain of the political demise it portended for him, my dad alternately phoned my mom from his hotel room and took walks with the High Country News correspondent.
The local correspondent’s lack of despondence himself seemed owing to a few factors, namely, that the Republican National Convention was resolutely not for his party, ergo secondly, Palin and Team were providing phenomenal material, well worth the Greyhound ticket he had conned out of High Country News to get him there and finally, there was this girl.
Having met the winner of his affections the night before, he was now busy envisioning sweet domestic harmony with her during the long Minnesota winter.
Sweet dreams they were, and more than enough to keep a fellow occupied and to remind us that all is not lost when it comes to the souls of twenty three year old guys.
When I drove over the pass from Paonia to pick up the Correspondent in Denver, however, it seemed the effects of the Republicans had merely been latent in St. Paul.
My brother, I discovered, was suffering from a severe case of Republican-authority-inducing PTSD.
Deciding to run from the police instead of merely explaining to them that he had forgotten to turn his lights on after stopping at a gas station, the Correspondent wheeled down some back streets, screeched into park in a tree-lined neighborhood and ran into the night.
Instantly resolving not to sit there like a duck, I ran for it too.
Having somehow avoided the slammer for that remarkably ill-advised stunt, we found ourselves back in the safe hamlet of Paonia, outpost of hippies and miners and outlaws by the banks of the North Fork of the Gunnison River.
Both a renegade and a newly minted voter at the age of eighteen, I watched the 2008 presidential race results come in with my brother in his Colorado miner’s shack that I’d been squatting in for the past four months.
By this point, of course, the cracks in the Inglis kids as upstanding-young-Republicans vanguard had long become chasms.
We thought we might just die if our guy didn’t win.
And doing the only thing that seemed appropriate at that point in the night, we sprinted down the streets of Paonia in revelry.
After motoring around for a bit, my brother joined the plus 21 crowd at the local bar in town while I wondered around for a while longer.
The stars were inexplicable that night, and it seemed like the world could be an alright place for an eighteen year old.
Back at home base, however, Dr. D. was preternaturally aware of the cosmic shift that had taken place in the Inglis household.
Having forgiven nothing about Dad’ op-ed about marriage equality in the Greenville News and his subsequent moves towards his kids’ way of thinking about the world and the lives of the people in it, Dr. D cast about for a worthy opponent to run against his old friend.
And settled on...
As it turned out, the Perfectly Pinioned was capable of being all of the above, given his penchant for hair gel and his strong belief in changing smoothly and conveniently with the political times, and this was only the beginning of his remarkable attributes.
In any case, as the opponent practiced his hair of the hour, the Republicans were desperate to show that they too, knew how to be Tea Party.
Using the 2009 State of the Union address for his own platform instead of the President’s, Joe Wilson—naturally, from our proud state of South Carolina—shouted down the President when he dared to speak about immigration and national health care.
Not once did old Joe Wilson breach a decorum that had never before been breached, but twice.
Sitting in the seat in front of old Joe blasting off, Dad did something the rest of his Republican colleagues didn’t.
He put his head in his hands on national TV.
And when a vote was brought to the floor to reprimand Joe Wilson for his lack of respect for the president, which didn’t look too good because of the added layer—or perhaps The Layer—of a white Congressman from the tidal marshes of the South shouting down the nation’s first black president, Dad did something the rest of them didn’t do either. He voted to reprimand.
The Fighting Fourth began to roil at what their Congressman was up to, voting against their own kind.
As the winds tightened around the eye of the storm, it turned out the Inglis campaign’s attempt to convince its constituents that the country was not yet being Fed to the Wolves and the Liberals was not what folks wanted to hear.
Let’s face it. Doomsday predictions make a body feel good. Meanwhile, this Uplift campaign...
The feelings of the times were more appropriately expressed as the following:
At one of the town meetings to discuss Obamacare, the denizens of the fourth district came in droves to let their feelings be known.
There seemed to be some unfortunate mismatch between the buoyant welcome advertised and the crowd gathered underneath.
Indeed, although Dad had acted against the position of each and every member of his Kitchen Cabinet by promising to vote against the Affordable Care Act, as any Republican intending on saving his head had better well do, the voters seemed not to have gotten the message.
Perhaps they sensed that his heart was not behind the Obama bashing.
Suffice it to say that circumstances were looking rather inauspicious for a Dad re-election. While his polls with the kids were climbing, the populace looked to be on the brink of a messy break-up.
Our feelings about the election forecast seemed to be reflected in the change in our campaigning tactics. During the 1998 Senate primary campaign, my brother showed the rest of us how sign waving was done.
With that kind of gumption behind him, Dad won that race.
During the 2010 election, however, door to door reflected a resigned march towards the galleys.
And as we all know, prayer only gets us so far. God has a legion of requests at one time and while he's supposed to be omnipresent from Sierra Leone to South Carolina and all the spaces in between, evidence would suggest he does not like to make it felt all too often.
Which is why the Presbyterians came up with the idea of God saying No to prayers. It sounds better than God just never answering the phone.
Anyhow. Our prayers landed us at a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall by Poinsett Highway.
God must have known that what we really meant to ask for was not a victory against all odds but unlimited chips and salsa.
And a concession speech.
And so the long nights of driving through the shadows of the cotton fields and by the trailer parks and the plantation mansions with their live oaks stooping to sweep up the Civil War era peeling paint and on out through the sea mud smell of the tidal marshes to come to our grandparents’ house on the banks of the May River during the Senate campaign and the long days of waving signs in front of the Stax while senior citizens and nearly certain Republican primary voters went in to get their Pancake Special and answering who was the oldest of you five and what are you doing on my porch, which is a question people mostly ask with their eyes when they are in the South, and jumping out of accelerating vans to attach flyers to doorknobs and running along yards and sidewalks to jump back in and say Did you see that footwork? during all the Congressional campaigns—all those things were over.
And who is to say whether we or the world were better for it.
The Bible probably has a verse for it, but sometimes us mortals feel what we feel and don’t want to be told about unbearable cries in Ramah or beloveds leaving us or whose vengeance is whose saith the Lord.
After all, we have our own story.