One thing my pal Mulenga Harangua and I always enjoy is a good walk. Something about walking together makes the talking so much more enjoyable. I don't know why, but ideas and words seem so much more vibrant when combined with moving feet.
We met over in Rivertown where the Soup Kitchen Saloon used to be. I saw blues stars there like Memphis Slim and Willie Dixon, but the place is shuttered now. One time my cousin came into town with Harry Connick Jr.'s big band and after their show all the guys wanted to go to the Soup Kitchen. They had heard that was the place to go in Detroit. Not anymore. It shut down in the 1990s when Mayor Dennis Archer was trying to create a casino district in the area.
Mulenga was waiting in the lot across the street from the old storefront as I approached for a meander around the neighborhood. The temperate winter weather had encouraged us to plan the walk but as it turned out, the day we went out there was snow flying down near the river. When he saw me he pulled a harmonica out from under his layers of clothing and blew a couple of notes.
"So, you're playing the harp now?"
"Well, I just know 'Home on the Range,' but the Republicans who came to hear Mitt Romney's speech at Ford Field seemed to like it. I played it over and over and collected almost $30 out there last week. There weren't very many of them, but two different guys gave me $10. They seem to like music even if it's off-key. I saw that news clip of Romney singing 'America the Beautiful' down in Florida."
"This has got to be one of the singingest election cycles I've ever seen. First you had Herman Cain out there singing 'Amazing Grace' to the melody of 'Danny Boy.' Then you had Obama out there channeling Al Green. Then he was out there singing the blues with B.B. King and Mick Jagger."
"At least he was smart enough not to sing the whole song either time." Mulenga blew a couple of tentative notes on the harp. It sounded like he was trying to find "Sweet Home Chicago," but he got lost on the way.
"Well, I'll be glad when the primary is over and I don't have to hear all the commercials. They'll be back when the general election kicks in but at least we get a break now."
"We get a break on the commercials for a while, but those Republicans don't seem to be giving a break to anyone who isn't a heterosexual white man."
"What do you mean?" We reached the river, and I leaned on the Riverwalk railing and watched the water flow past.
"Well, it seems like every week at least one of them does or says something offensive to somebody. Like when they had the panel on birth control and the only people on it were men. It's a no-brainer that if you are going to have a panel on birth control, women should be involved. Even I know that. Then in Virginia they had that vaginal probe bill. It was defeated, but that certainly didn't make them look good to even propose it."
"A useless sonogram to attack women who are already in an emotionally tough situation, it wasn't a smart move." I gazed at a freighter working its way down the river.
"Then there's the gay marriage issue. When the California appeals court struck down the gay marriage ban, Romney, Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum couldn't wait to condemn the ruling. You'd think they were running for pope."
"Careful now," I said. "You don't want to upset the Catholics, though Santorum is doing his best to get them riled up."
"Then, last week they had that debate in Arizona where they all piled on the illegal immigration issue. It sounded like they were ready to break out the trowels and start laying bricks to secure the border."
"So you want to let the illegal immigrants just flow across the border?" I asked.
"I don't know what to do about that. It's just that nobody invited the Europeans over and here they are. And I've got to think that there are enough Hispanic voters in the southwest that it's better not to alienate them."
Mulenga brought the harmonica up to his mouth again. He pursed his lips to blow but fumbled the instrument and it fell into the river.
"Shit! Well, that's over. I was just getting into it."
"Don't worry. I'll get you another one. But tell me more about the Republicans and how they're putting so much hate out there."
"Well, we already know how they've been slamming black people, particularly President Obama, calling him the welfare president and all. You wrote about that in your column a few weeks ago."
"Yep, thanks for paying attention to it."
"I did more than that. I'm spreading the word. It would be even better if I had an address and could vote."
"That will take some doing, but it looks like you understand what's going on out here. So let's add it up here. Republicans are slamming women, gays, Hispanics and blacks. It looks like the Asians are getting off the hook."
"Not at all. Didn't you see that Pete Hoekstra ad against Debbie Stabenow during the Super Bowl, where the Asian actress portrays a woman speaking broken English and exhibiting negative stereotypical behavior?"
"No, I missed it. After I heard about it I searched around but couldn't find it. Apparently Hoekstra scrubbed every trace of it from the Internet. Even the actress who did it has apologized, although I see Herman Cain came out and said he liked it. That didn't surprise me."
"Well it goes to show you what they're willing to do even to the 'good' minority group. The rest of us are going to catch it for sure. For some reason these guys feel like they don't need any partners in democracy, especially the Muslims."
"What's new on that tip?"
"Nothing new, it's just the same old, same old with Muslims. They hate our freedom and want to impose Sharia. Oh, yeah, Obama is one of them. Didn't you hear about Santorum questioning whether Obama was a real Christian?"
"Maybe it comes down to they don't like democracy if they have to share it with everybody else. There's too much chance others might vote for something different than good old European supremacy. There's a website from a group in Minnesota called WeWantVoterID.com. They have a picture on the site with a black man dressed in prison garb and another guy with a big sombrero standing in line at a voting booth. The point they try to make is that they shouldn't be voting."
Mulenga pushed himself away from the railing. "Let's get out of here. You know, I think I need to get an address so that I can vote. I think that's the best way to overcome all this. I want to vote to repeal the emergency manager law too." Mulenga whistled a wicked blues riff.
"Hey, I don't think you really need that harmonica."
"I need it just in case Obama needs an accompanist."