It’s been many years since I’ve been called a communist.
In high school, I was often called so for my interest in the Soviet Union, for learning Russian, for fighting Reagan’s and Bush I’s policies. It was mostly in jest, however. And if I were called such in a serious (as serious as late-night high-school discussions can be) debate, it was by such lightweights who would offer as their best argument: “Well, name for me a single socialist country that works — and Sweden and Norway don’t count, and the other Scandinavian countries either, and not France.” Actually, it was just one lightweight who argued such, and I was dating him anyway, so I wasn’t offended.
I was called a communist to my face today in anger. I wasn’t speaking Russian. I hadn’t drawn the hammer and sickle on my Keds, like I did in 11th grade. I wasn’t reading “Das Kapital” on the bus or working for world revolution. I was marching in a Fourth of July parade.
The parade I was in is the second-largest in Minnesota, behind St. Paul’s. It lasts three hours and they say 50,000 people come to see it. A good friend of ours asked us to march in a “Minnesotans for Kerry” group, and we agreed to do so. We wore our union t-shirts.
I was riding on a trailer with signs. Matt was marching with Maia on his shoulders and John holding his hand. We were in a fairly conservative town in a conservative county, and were not expecting palm leaves and hosannas. But there were fewer boos and more applause than I had hoped.
Things fell apart on the main street, however. He must have been very drunk, but he spoke clearly and was not weaving. He and his friends were in front of the town’s main bar and had obviously started early. As we came up to the bar, he lunged forward and shouted, “Minnesotans for Kerry? Minnesotans for Kerry? Aw, jeez, what a bunch of JERKS!”
He came to the curb and pointed straight at me. “This is an American parade and YOU, you COMMUNIST, YOU have the nerve to be marching down this street! COMMUNIST!”
It was funny, really. I held up my sign and waved it at him. But even as I was smiling, it got ugly.
He began to swear, clearly and with conviction. “You FUCKING COMMUNIST. You FUCKING THINK that you can get people to vote for THAT FUCKER, DON’T WAVE THAT FUCKING SIGN AT ME.”
I wasn’t anymore. I’d put the sign down and had my hands on the railing of the trailer, ready to vault. I was screaming before I knew it: “Shame on you! Shame! There are kids around! This is a PARADE.”
People marching swarmed to him. Matt strode over, as furious as he could be with a toddler squealing on his shoulders. “How dare you?” he bellowed over the drunken man. “How dare you talk like that in front of my children?”
The man’s friends pulled him back, insisting he didn’t mean it, even as he kept yelling. The parade moved on, and marshalls waved to our driver to keep it rolling. The drunken man was bundled back into the bar, Matt stalked off.
A communist, eh? Don't I wish.
ETA: I see that my mention of "b a b y c l o t h e s" in my last post has inspired the ad engine to spit up "w a l m a r t." I reject this entirely.