Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Memorable Moment: Politics, Sex and the 1 train

It was a Sunday afternoon, and the September sun poured through the window of the elevated train onto my New York Times Magazine. I felt an anxious guilt over putting my schoolwork on the back burner over the weekend. I squished the nagging voice – now that I am in J-school I imagine the ghost of Joseph Pulitzer hectoring me – and returned to the article about how income inequality harms the Republican Party.

Another voice, this one coming from my left instead of inside my head, said, “Do you think that’s true?”

The man sitting next to me wore a paint drizzled sweatshirt. He tapped my magazine and announced that the New York Times had gotten the story wrong.

The train dipped underground as he explained his disillusionment with politics. Poor people would not return to the Democrats because the liberals, in over 70 years, had not earned their loyalty by delivering what they promised. The Republicans, he said, at least had not courted voters in his poverty-stricken neighborhood, promising jobs and prosperity.

I was so engrossed I forgot my stop. His arms swung widely as he spoke, lurching his monologue from poverty to Barack Obama. A great orator, but a lousy speaker was his diagnosis.

The train pulled into the 59th Street station, and he hauled himself to his feet, giving me a quick goodbye. Before I could begin to digest his ideas, he poked his head between the closing doors to offer this last assessment.

“Obama looks like a boxer who just had sex with a woman [when he debates],” he said. “He looks all weak in the knees.”

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