Revisited: Shopping for some new politics

The National Rifle Association held its annual convention in my hometown of Charlotte recently. The spirited affair attracted not only 70,000 gun enthusiasts, but also an array of all the hottest right-wing luminaries on the planet. These speakers repeatedly told attendees exactly what they wanted to hear about arch-conservative politics, which is what any sensible presenter would say when preaching at gunpoint.  

I was actually tempted to attend the big “Celebration of American Values Freedom Experience”. My long-held progressive political beliefs have started to feel a little stale in our current environment. It’s pretty lonely being the only white middle-aged male in the entire Metrolina region who doesn’t think prayin’ and shootin’ and lookin’ out for number one represent a coherent world view in modern America. Responsible concern for the welfare of all citizens is so passé; narrow-minded reactionary selfishness is sexy and it’s fashionable. And being white is the new black.  

Unfortunately, I wasn’t too eager to be shelling out $35 to pay for admission, even if the ever-squinting Charlie Daniels was providing the music. And I still retain the admittedly old-fashioned liberal bias against being shot at close range. Even though weapons-carrying was inexplicably banned from the event, some of those rednecks could shoot you a look that was every bit as fatal.  

Still, I wanted so much to bathe in the reflected patriotism of the star-studded celebrity line-up. Sarah Palin, of course, was going to be there, as were Glenn Beck, Newt Gingrich and several other wingnut gods. If I couldn’t rub elbows with the elite of the anti-elite in a packed downtown arena, maybe I’d be fortunate enough to run into them elsewhere during their stay in the area.  

Well, wouldn’t you know it, luck was on my side Saturday afternoon. My son and I had taken a ride out to Carolina Place Mall in south Charlotte, and just as we rounded the corner at Cinnabon’s, right near the Sunglass Hut, we peered through the crowd ahead of us and saw them: it was Palin herself, clutching a large Abercrombie & Fitch bag containing either some new outfits or her baby, accompanied by the former speaker of the House chomping on a big buttery pretzel. I inched closer to the pair, eager to eavesdrop on any political wisdom they might be sharing.  

“You know, Newt, Auntie Anne’s pretzels are way better than that junk from the Pretzel Twister,” Palin said in her characteristic twang. “Couldn’t you just wait till we got to the food court?”  

“I wanted to finish before we get to Sbarro’s,” the pudgy author of the landmark Contract With America shot back. “I’m getting some pizza too.”  

“I just want to make sure we have enough time to stop at Visionworks,” said a man to Gingrich’s right I hadn’t noticed previously. It was Glenn Beck!  

“I need to pick up some eyedrops. They have a special formula that allows me to weep on demand,” Beck said.  

“Just as long as I have time to hit Cacique, Forever 21, American Diva and Modeline,” Palin replied. “You all can hang out at the ball crawl while I’m trying on clothes if you want.”  

“Let’s go to GameFrog!” Beck said excitedly to Gingrich. “If I drink a couple of Ballz, I am totally unbeatable on Dance Dance Revolution.”  

Suddenly, from behind us, three other men came running up to join the Republican titans.  

“Guys, guys, wait up, wait up! You act like you’re trying to lose us.”  

I could hardly believe my eyes. It was retired Col. Oliver North, implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal and now a Fox News commentator; “Motor City Madman” Ted Nugent, formerly of the rock group the Amboy Dukes and now a gun rights activist; and actor Chuck Norris. North was out of breath as he chugged up next to Palin.  

“Oh, you’re back,” Palin said, cracking her gum as she thumbed a text message into her cellphone.  

“I told you I wanted to grab a job application from Icecream of the Future,” North said. “I know a guy who says they’re hiring.”  

“They’re not going to hire you,” Gingrich said. “You’re a convicted felon. They check things like that.”  

“So how is covertly selling weapons to Iran, then funneling the profits to the right-wing revolutionaries in Nicaragua going to hamper my ability to scoop frozen dairy into a cup?” North asked.  

“Don’t be such a douche,” Beck interrupted. “Only a jag-off would work a kiosk at the mall.”  

“Let’s go upstairs for a minute,” said Nugent as he joined the group. “I want to stop in the Kill-A-Bear store.”  

“It’s not Kill-a-Bear, you idiot, it’s Build-A-Bear,” said Palin.  

“Alright, so I’ll build it, then I’ll kill it,” Nugent replied.  

“I don’t know about you all, but I’m heading over to Foot Locker,” interjected action star Norris. “I’m going to let the guy try shoes on me, then when he least suspects it, POW!, I’m going to give him one of my patented judo kicks.”  

“There’s no kicking in judo,” former Marine North told Norris. “It’s all about getting your opponent off balance, then using their momentum against them.”  

“In my brand of judo, there’s kicking,” a disgusted Norris responded. “You want me to show you?”  

“Hey, knock it off, you two,” Gingrich interceded. “There’s a mall cop right over there. You want to get us thrown out?”  

“There are a couple places I still want to go,” Beck said. “I want to stop by Piercing Pagoda to get a stud put into my scrotum, then I’m going to Hot Topic for an Insane Clown Posse t-shirt.”  

“What is wrong with you?” Palin asked. “What kind of American values are those? And besides, you think they’re going to work on your scrotum right out in the mall?”  

“Hey, dudes, check it out!” yelled Gingrich excitedly. “It’s one of those photo booths. Let’s all squeeze in and get our pictures taken!”  

“Cool!” said Nugent. “I’ll climb up top and drape my long hair over everybody.

“Wait,” said Palin. “Let me take off my glasses and put on this hat so I can disguise myself. I don’t want any record that I’m chillin’ with you losers.” 

It went on and on like this for at least ten more minutes but, frankly, I started to lose interest. Any hope that I was going to harvest a few nuggets of wisdom on how to reinvent America once again as that shining city on the hill is melting as fast as Col. North’s Orange Julius. The group walked six-wide down the wrong side of the hall, sat in the vibrating chairs without paying to turn them on, and generally disrespected everyone around them. As they walked into the distance, I heard Chuck Norris suggest they go to Barnes and Noble: “Let’s take a symbolic dump in their bathroom to show our disdain for the intellectual elite.” 

I did, however, manage to land a souvenir of my encounter with our would-be next generation of national leadership. On the floor of the photo booth lay a single discarded strip – 

From left to right: Palin and son; Palin with Nugent in funny noses; Nugent and Palin’s Trigg; Trigg alone, or maybe something from Build-A-Bear
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