Last week I got a call from one of my favorite former students — let's call her Conchita — a wonderful woman in her 30s, now an English teacher in a Roman Catholic high school in California.
Her husband's dad had unexpectedly died, and they were in town for the funeral the next day. So that afternoon I drove to the funeral home. I hugged them, talked about their daughter. My wife had stopped by to see them earlier in the day. Suddenly, Conchita said something like "your wife said she was for [Barack] Obama.
"She was kidding, right?" No, I said. It's true. I have never seen my wife so excited about any candidate, ever. "But how can she be for him? He's a radical Muslim," Conchita said.
I was astounded. "That's not true at all. He is a Christian. He's never been a Muslim. What in the world gave you that idea?"
Well, she told me, her husband saw it on the Internet, and he was convinced it was true. Her spouse, by the way, is a supremely nice, personable and very talented young businessman who just started his own firm; I have no doubt that long before he is 40, his withholding will be more than my income.
These are not skinheads, trailer-park trash or refugees from the pellagra belt. They are classy young adults anyone would love having as neighbors, and they thoroughly believed that garbage.
If they are typical, this nation is in big trouble.
"How much of the campaign have you followed?" I asked Conchita. Well, she's been busy with her job, her baby, and another on the way. But she had seen the Saddleback Church pseudo-debate on religion, and wondered about something. John McCain had said his biggest regret was the failure of his first marriage.
Did I know what happened? I think my former student thought something like the gallant officer had spent too much time in the military, saving the world, and the couple had grown apart.
The actual facts are well documented: McCain dumped his first wife, a former model named Carol, because she had lost her looks, gained a lot of weight, and had to wear a catheter. She had been in a crippling car accident while he was in Vietnam.
That just wouldn't do. More importantly, John had a chance to marry big money. After running around on her with a variety of women for a while, McCain began dating Cindy Lou, whose father had made gazillions from a beer distributorship. He lied about his age at first; she, in fact, was nearly 20 years younger.
And oh, yes — he was still married!
Well, shucks, a war hero can't remember everything. Give him credit for this much: When he knew his rich girly girl was willing to marry him, he finally did ask poor Carol for a divorce. He even agreed to keep paying her medical bills, now that he was fixed for life.
Incidentally, he did have the decorum to wait a decent interval after the divorce before marrying Cindy. A whole month, in fact.
You may not want to envy Cindy McCain, however.
New hubby John was nowhere to be found when she suffered two of her three miscarriages. Or her stroke in 2004, when a friend's husband had to take her to the emergency room.
Not surprisingly, he hadn't even noticed when, in 1992, she became a Percocet and Vicodin addict, and began stealing the drugs from the nonprofit charity she founded. He finally got it when his wife was busted later by the federal DEA. (You or I would have gone to the slam, like thousands of other folks have in Michigan. Cindy McCain got off with community service.)
Why do I mention all this stuff?
Because it is true, well-documented and an interesting contrast to the utterly false slime the supposedly moral Republicans are posting on the Internet about the Democratic presidential candidate.
One small example, sent to me and many others by a moron signing himself "J.A. Neumann": It is a video clip in which Obama is praising and appears to be endorsing the practices of one Kwame Kilpatrick, the frequently indicted and hopefully soon-to-be ex-mayor of Detroit. The video is labeled August 2008, which if it were true, would mean that Barack Obama is seriously deranged. Actually, the video appears to be from NAACP's annual Freedom Fund dinner ... in 2005. Then a newly elected U.S. senator, Obama was saying the same kind of bland nice things about his host any banquet speaker says.
You can bet there is bound to be lots of this stuff. Democrats have to decide how they are going to deal with it.
The temptation must be strong to find some old video of Johnny Mac praising his GOP colleague, U.S. Sen. Larry Craig of Idaho, still in Congress after pleading guilty to a crime related to his attempt to suck off a policeman in an airport toilet in Minneapolis.
There may even be some footage of the GOP nominee with former Congressman Mark Foley, whom the Republicans assigned to keep children safe from Internet porn. Instead, he text-messaged some of the teenage boys who worked as House pages, asking them to measure their penises for him, and other worthy topics, such as whether they came by rubbing against the sheets or a towel.
Frankly, I hope the Democrats don't go that route. Everybody decent is just sick of this stuff, period — as you must be, after the taste of it I have given you here in this column. The difference between this and the stuff they are slinging about Obama is that what I have written here is all true, and has all been published before.
There may be tons more dirty linen that hasn't seen the light of day. My sources indicate that in all probability, McCain and the Republicans have far more they want kept hidden than does the Obama campaign. So, here's a novel idea:
Spend the next two months fighting about how to save this country, get it out of the financial and diplomatic mess it is in and turn it into something worth leaving our children. Work to make America and the world a better place than it is now, instead of lying about each other and obsessing over their private parts.
Yes, yes, I know. I am just an unrealistic, pointy-headed liberal.
Confidential Memo: To the sick woman who is writing me anonymous letters, claiming the Iraq war is mainly not President George W. Bush's fault, but a secret attempt by the "powerful Jewish lobby and socialist Israel" to spark a "Sewer Holocaust."
The whole goal, she tells me, is to kill Christian boys. The Jewish architects of this atrocity, by the way, include Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, who have concealed their Jewishness so effectively even they have never imagined they are Jewish.
That's great news, sweetheart, but listen up. I am not Jewish myself, but as you point out repeatedly, they control all the media.
Thanks to wickedly evil Jewish science, we have figured out your DNA and know just where you live and what your shoe size is.
One more letter, and we are coming for you at 3 a.m. Then, we will force you to listen to "Oif'n Pripitchik" and watch Yentl till dawn.Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org