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Tuesday, June 07, 2005

In November of 2000, when I was eighteen years old, I campaigned for Ralph Nader. I was going to community college in a rural town outside of Houston, and was finding it difficult to convince people that he was the best candidate.

"Would you like a flyer?"

"I ain't voting for no damn Socialist."

"He's not a Socialist. Granted, he is a proponent of--"

"Shutup, faggot."

And so on.

On election day, I went to Texas Green Party headquarters to watch what would be the disappointing returns for everyone left of center. Most of the people, I noticed, were either ex-hippies, very nerdy types, or wore some kind of patchouli fragrance. I was chatting with a party official, an older man who had big hopes for the future of the party. He was tall, had gray hair, and wore glasses and paint-spattered jeans.

"You know, we need names to put on the ballot for state congressional elections in 2002 and 2004. It'll help us create a presence for the party."

"How old do you have to be?" I asked him.


"I'm eighteen."

He exhaled deeply, closing his eyes. "Eighteen."

"But I'll be twenty-one by 2004."

We continued our chat about this and that, and about what classes it would be helpful to take if looking towards a career in politics. Economics, he said, was a good one, as well as classes in political science.

As the night wore on, people got drunker and drunker. One of the nerdy types was talking very loudly and abrasively about civil rights. Eventually I found myself chatting with Paint Pants again. By this point he was getting very familiar with me, putting his arm around my shoulder, and being very friendly, complimenting my intelligence, etc. I went to the toilet a little weirded out, but pleased that I was getting along with new people within the party.

"Have you, uh, known Gary for long?" a woman behind me in the line asked me.

"No, I just met him tonight," I said.

"Oh, so you're not together?"

"What?! No! Ha ha!"

"You do know that he's gay though, right?"

"No, no I did not know that."

I went to the toilet, and when I came out, I stayed away from the guy for the rest of the night. It was in those remaining couple of hours that I stayed there that I think I really lost a bit of the idealism that brought me to the Greens (strangely, only shortly after I gained it).

Maybe it was because it was my first election-night fête, and it was at the headquarters of a state political party, but the fact that no one really seemed to care about the results and cared more about getting drunk and trying to have gay sex with a bright-eyed eighteen-year-old kid was sobering and off-putting.

Four years later, I cursed and made fun of people who voted for Ralph.


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