Tuesday night, I went and stood outside of the Curb Event Center at Belmont University to see if I could catch a glimpse of John McCain, Barack Obama, or anyone else with some degree of fame who might be attending the debate.  Upon my arrival on the scene, I was dismayed by the overwhelming number of Obama supporters marching around with their T-shirts, signs, stickers,  and baked goods (being sold with profits going toward Obama’s campaign).  There were also at least three different booths set up in very close proximity to one another, and while I expected at least one of them to be selling McCain T-shirts and other paraphernalia, that wasn’t the case.  They were all for Obama as well.  And that’s OK, albeit a bit disappointing.  I mean, the enthusiasm for Obama seemed a little maniacal at times (it kind of reminded me of the scene from the movie Independence Day where all of the new age zealots gather in the desert to await the arrival of the aliens like it is some kind of second coming—Obamessiah, anyone?), but I guess some of that is to be expected at times.  For the most part, though excited and sometimes boisterous, the people were respectful and did not do anything that might mar Obama’s image.

Excepting myself and my significant other, I saw maybe about ten to twelve people who seemed to be for McCain.  The McCain supporters were rather subdued and probably just felt a little overwhelmed in that sea of Obama supporters.

Then came those in favor of third parties the crazies.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I’m in favor of people considering third parties.  I, myself, am very interested in the campaign for Chuck Baldwin of the Constitution Party (though I still haven’t made up my mind how I will vote on November 4th), but being for a third party candidate does not mean you have to act like a lunatic.  Now, it is anyone’s right to act like a lunatic and say whatever he / she wants to say, but I just don’t think doing so accomplishes very much in the way of winning people to a certain cause.  If anything, I think it turns people off.

The Green Party people came along dressed in green hardhats and various other kinds of green attire.  Many wore green T-shirts, but at least one or two guys were shirtless and with only a green cape flowing behind them.  They also had various accessories with them, such as pots and pans, but I do not really know the purpose for these items as I didn’t really see them getting used very much.  The greenies marched around back and forth behind us, chanting and yelling out various slogans, sometimes all of them in unison in a militant kind of way.  Looked a little crazy, but they were relatively tame.  Still, appearing crazy usually isn’t a great way to win people to one’s cause.

A little while after the Green Party entered the scene, a group, seemingly formed in support of all third-party candidates, came marching onto the scene.  They weren’t wearing any kind of a uniform like the Green Party people, but they were much louder, more rambunctious, and on the scene in much larger numbers.  The ringleader pulled out a megaphone and for the next hour and a half or so, he proceeded to very loudly denounce the two-party system and to rail against both of the candidates involved in it.  In a different setting, with people willing to listen to his points, such a thing might not be so bad as there is no harm in trying to change people’s minds.  But the sheer mania and obnoxious tone behind his ranting could not have been anything but a major annoyance to everyone who could hear him.  I am in favor of considering third-party candidates, but I could not not help but wish that the police (who were on the scene en masse at times) would either come and haul him off or at least shoot a little tear gas into the crowd (yes, I would have been hit too, but for the sake of shutting that loudmouth on the megaphone down, I think I would have been willing to take one for the team).

To make matters worse, this group wasn’t just promoting third-party candidates.  In addition to ineffectively promoting the third-party candidates and denouncing the two-party system, a number of the people in this group were also yelling about how our government was directly responsible for causing the 9/11 attacks.  It was at this point that I lost any respect I may have had left for what these people were trying to accomplish.  People are free to believe what they want to believe, but conspiracy theorism usually just makes them look crazy to the general public.  I’ve seen the videos telling about how 9/11 was an inside job, and while they are put together to weave a convincing tale that would make Michael Moore proud, I just don’t buy it.  I don’t believe most Americans buy it.  The people that do believe this almost always are the one who think President Bush is an imbecile, and yet they also believe that he was the mastermind behind the worst attack on the U.S. mainland in our nation’s history.  And of all of the many people who would have to be involved in such a conspiracy, I don’t believe it could be kept a secret for very long.

Then, from this same group, there were the chants of, “ONE, TWO, THREE, FOUR—WE DON’T NEED YOUR F%#%ING WAR!”  It continued on to a “FIVE, SIX, SEVEN, EIGHT” section, but I can’t remember how that one went.  They repeated it over and over again, and when a couple of people asked them to tone it down because they had their kids with them, the group just decided to yell even louder—to the point that you could hear the rasping strain in some of their voices as they were actually yelling as loudly as they could.

Maybe this approach actually works on some people, but I really do not believe it works on the vast majority of people.  At this particular gathering, it really just seemed like virtually all of the people in the crowd to whom they were preaching were completely annoyed by them.  One young Obama supporter couldn’t help but yell back at them about the greatness of Obama every time they would make some kind of a claim about how the two-party system is running our country into the ground, but for the most part the group was not directly confronted.

The third-party movement is a good thing, but radicalism is not the way to move it forward.  While he was still contending for the Republican nomination during the primary process, Ron Paul pleaded with his supporters to be respectful and not do anything that would make him or the cause which he represents to look bad.  Unfortunately, I’m guessing the same people that disregarded his call for respectful representation of the Ron Paul Revolution are the ones now drawing attention to their radical displays of anger toward and rebellion against the two-party system.

It is OK to be angry.  It is OK to stand up against the establishment.  But acting out in a radical fashion in the middle of a public gathering likely isn’t going to do anything but get a crowd riled up, unless those in that crowd are of the same belief as you.  And even then, the radicalism itself could be a turn off (as it was for me).

As Susan Powter used to always say, “STOP THE INSANITY!”

Talk to people.  Don’t yell at them and act crazy.

All in all, as ridiculous and nettlesome as all of it was at times, it was definitely an experience, and one in which I’m glad I was able to participate.  It’s not every day that a presidential debate takes place in one’s city of residence (well, at least, not in mine), so to witness much of what goes along with such an event was definitely interesting.

Oh, and I never did see McCain or Obama.  They must have gone in another entrance (can’t imagine why, what with the crowd’s behavior—I’m still surprised we didn’t get teargassed).  We did catch a glimpse of Nashville’s mayor Karl Dean, Tim McGraw, and Faith Hill rolling up for the event, however.

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Don’t forget to tune in tonight for the presidential debate in Nashville, TN at my Alma Mater, Belmont University!  Be an informed voter!

And while you’re trying to be an informed voter, don’t forget to also consider the ideas of third party candidates!

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