This column is a speech I gave at an Idaho Democratic Party function in October. I don't get asked to do many speeches, possibly because my delivery is so stilted, dry and unfriendly that the audience probably thinks I'm having a problem with gas.
But I work harder on a speech than I do on a regular column, knowing I will have that live audience in my face. By the time I've finished, I am usually pleased enough with my efforts that it seems a shame more people weren't there to hear it. Ergo, I have no compunction about getting double duty out of a speech by running it as a column. Or in this case, two columns. Here's the first.
I was asked in June if I was interested in speaking here tonight. I explained to the lady who contacted me that I am a horrible public speaker, that I talk either too fast or too slowly, that I mumble, mispronounce my words, lose my train of thought in the middle of sentences, and frankly, that I would make no sense whatsoever unless I read the speech verbatim without any hint of spontaneity, and without making any eye contact with anyone in the audience.
"I'm sure you'll do fine, Bill," she answered. Then, I wouldn't swear to it, but I thought I heard her say under her breath, "We aren't expecting much more than that out of you, anyway."
I call this "My Hopeful Speech." The coordinator gave me no guidelines to follow, other than she felt something hopeful was in order, an antidote to this depressing year of radicalism the right has inflicted upon our nation. Far too many citizens have in one form or another been assaulted in ways that even two years ago we would have thought absurd and impossible.
Our public workers, our teachers, our firemen and police, our federal agencies, the very people who work to protect us from threats ranging from ignorance to crime to food poisoning to environmental hazard have been villainized, marginalized and defunded. Our president can't open his mouth without a barrage of filth and nonsense erupting from people who have less respect for the truth than a neighbor's cat has for your flower bed. And we have grown increasingly aware that a handful of kingly rich right-wingers are strong-arming America into a shape we hardly recognize.
With such circumstances in mind, all summer long, I watched the news unfold like a hawk circling an empty lot, expecting that out of all those weeds and Tea Party litter, there would eventually pop up little gophers of hope that I could strap together into one combined trend which would elevate our spirits here tonight and give us the energy, the faith and commitment to battle on. Just since agreeing to speak, I have seen ...
• Michele Bachmann, Rick Perry and Herman Cain announced they were running for president. And isn't it remarkable what the GOP considers presidential material anymore?
• Also ... juvenile delinquents from the Tea Party gang chose to play chicken with the American economy in the debt ceiling travesty.
• Also ... we learned that another of those Koch-funded stealth organizations, the American Legislative Exchange Council, has been for at least 30 years, passing legislation through the back door to right-wing legislators for approval. In Idaho, we have the unctuous Wayne Hoffman, whose Freedom Foundation is spoon-feeding our Republican majority with pre-digested legislation. (To be fair, those Idaho legislators might be writing their own bills, if only they weren't so busy letting their cronies Phil Hart, Tom Loercher and John "Fibber" McGee off the hook for the stuff they do when they think nobody's looking).
• Also ... state after state, including Idaho, has imposed new rules dealing with voter identification. As time goes on, we come to understand more fully that the voter suppression and general chicanery that defined the elections in Florida in 2000 and Ohio in 2004 were no aberrations, but were very likely what we can expect from Republicans until that unforeseeable time when somebody starts going to prison for it.
• Also ... more than 80 new bills were introduced in state legislatures, all designed to whittle away a woman's right to make the decisions regarding her own health and reproductive choices.
• Also ... it became obvious that the Republican "Prime Directive" is to keep the wealthy's wealth safe and secure from the threat of even the most modest of tax rate hikes. It is less clear if they actually believe the drivel coming from their own mouths--that billionaire hedge fund managers and those who stash their money in Cayman Island banks are the "job creators," or that the bottom half of the economic spectrum should be expected to pay more taxes on what they can only wish they had.
• Also ... the right has shifted evermore rightward. Take Mitt Romney. If he were a ratchet wrench, we could hear the clicks coming from his neck as he struggles to unscrew himself from his record in Massachusetts.
But if the GOP candidates weren't scary enough themselves, the audiences they attract are absolutely ghoulish, applauding as they have done for the most executions or the libertarian ideal of letting uninsured coma victims die.
By now, you're probably wondering when I'm getting to the hopeful part of "My Hopeful Speech"--Next week.