“I thought I was the only one,” the
stranger said in a low voice.
It wasn’t 1957, or even 1977. It was
last week, at the grand opening of a supermarket in town.
He was gray-haired, tall, dressed like
a ranch hand. His smile was sheepish, his eyes conspiratorial.
He wasn’t talking about finding a
kindred gay soul. He pointed to my pin, the “H” arrow of the
Hillary Clinton presidential campaign. I smiled back at him. We
enthused, we commiserated, we talked about the conservative places
we’d moved away from. I wanted to assure him that our town was
liberal, that there were more of us, but, where were the political
We were a month away from the
presidential election. The stranger made me realize that I hadn’t
seen anyone wearing a Clinton pin either. Or a
he-who-shall-not-be-named pin. No bumper stickers. This election is
intimidating: no one wants to show her or his colors.
I admit to feeling a moment of disquiet
when I attached the pins to my vests. My neighbors know I’m gay and
act very accepting, but there are bound to be Hillary haters in this
over-fifty-five community. What was I letting myself in for?
Then the stranger told me the story of
going door to door in 2008, asking permission to install Obama lawn
signs in front yards. Part of his rural county borders Harney County,
Oregon, where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Occupation took
place in January, 2016. Nevertheless, he did his bit and planted
those signs all day.
The very next day, said the stranger,
his signs were all torn down and smashed up.
He was feeling gunshy when we met and
happy to find another Clinton supporter. He asked where to get a
button like mine. There was no place local so I sent him to the
Remember the days when there were party
headquarters in practically every town? Big banners on storefronts,
red, white, and blue bunting. Cars with loudspeakers that trawled
through neighborhoods, playing patriotic music and touting their
candidates? Volunteers or even paid workers who pressed buttons on
passersby? Often, the buttons were tiny tin circles you attached to
clothing by folding a tab at the top?
All those funds go to TV, the USPS, and
the web now. I get one to two emails a day from the Clinton campaign,
not even counting Facebook and Twitter promotions. There are no face
to face human appeals or exchanges. My sweetheart answered the phone
the other evening and spoke for a while with a young woman about a
candidate for our state election. One of the questions my sweetheart
asked was, “Who is he running against?” The campaigner had no
It might infuriate me to see someone
wearing an opposition pin, but this graphic silence is worrisome. Is
the atmosphere in the US so uncivil that we fear to speak out? When
one candidate hints that assassination might solve some problems,
what craziness can me and my pin expect from politically frustrated
followers who are desperate to get their candidate elected?
A day or two after my encounter with
the liberal stranger, a cashier at the McDonald's drive-in spotted my
pin and asked where to get one. The servers were bogged down and as I
idled, she told me how worried she was that he-who-shall-not-be-named
might be elected.
A friend sent two more pins. Now I have
four. No, I don’t wear them all at once. I haven’t done that
since my gay liberation, feminist, peace and civil rights activist
days. You kind of had to back then, there was so much going on.
Every contact since then, between my
pins and me and the townsfolk, has been has been heartening. The
women don’t always say something, but they spot the pin, look up at
me and, I swear, their eyes twinkle, or at least their crows’ feet
wrinkle into smile lines. But their lips are sealed.
I still haven’t seen other Clinton
buttons or bumper stickers. Maybe it’s because I don’t go out
much. Yesterday, though, I saw my first he-who display. Big clean
new-looking white SUV with a red, white, and blue over-sized bumper
sticker. Stuck out like a very sore thumb in that parking lot full of
Subarus, muddy pickups and little old Toyotas.
Has silence settled over the whole of
the US? Are voters in denial of this good vs. evil election? Why
aren’t we the people speaking up in ways we used to? I can’t help
but wonder if some folks fear repercussions should the demagogue sit
in the White House. Or perhaps it’s simply that women tend not to
be boisterous in word or political gear. Are not generally raised to
speak our minds.
Because the last words of the now
smiling stranger in the grocery store were these: “I believe it’s
the women who’ll win this one for us.”
[Editor's Note: Lee Lynch is the author
of over 13 books. Her latest, An
American Queer, is available at Bold Strokes Books.
You can reach Lynch at LeeLynch@ontopmag.com]
Copyright 2016 Lee Lynch.