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|August 21-27, 2008
Back to Letters
World of Warcraft at the DNC
by Ben Corbett
After living out of a suitcase for the past year, I finally decided to get a permanent place to live. On The Hill in Boulder this time. This, following an extended lost weekend in Denver, bouncing from one infested motel to the next when the police raids on neighboring crack dealers got too stressful (through the walls hearing, “They’re closing in! They’re coming!”). It was a year of self-imposed exile, like being an expat in your own country. Just me, my laptop, a bag of clothes and a box of books and notes, pirating wireless networks, hustling work, roaming mode. Which has its upsides. Call it Zen. You just keep moving, staying one step ahead of the ghosts and guilts and attachments that most Americans desperately cling to while chasing this phantom called love. And I learned a lot.
For instance, once needing absolute silence and stillness, now I can write anywhere, under any conditions. Even driving in a car. One night, my Mexican gang-banger girlfriend was passed out on the motel bed, snoring loudly in a stupor of Kentucky Deluxe. She’s one of those people that sleeps with her eyes always opened to slits, which is weird because you never know when she’s awake — learned behavior after getting ripped off too many times when passed out. I tried pinching her nose, rolling her on her side, shaking her around, kinda slapping her lightly. Nothing worked! I was running against a mean deadline with a major magazine feature, and she just... kept... snoring. So I went into the bathroom, closed the door, laid the laptop on the commode, spread my notes out, and spent the next six hours typing up the feature on my makeshift porcelain desk.
“Great work!” the editors exclaimed after I turned in my copy the next morning. “Brilliant stuff! By the way, we have another assignment for you. Game?”
Always game. Always. Which is basically what the Democratic National Convention is shaking out to be. A knee-slapping tragicomic convergence in Denver of 100,000 people taking themselves way too seriously. Even the protesters are serious. And so are the cops. Which is a recipe for the kind of intensity that may even blow it for Obama. The last time I felt this strong of a foreboding sense of disaster was a month before Woodstock ’99, when a friend and I agreed that inviting Slipknot, Insane Clown Posse and a handful of other death-tripping bands to a peace festival certainly spelled trouble. We intuitively knew there was going to be a meltdown. It’s what they call “having a nose for the action.”
“Just think about it,” my friend said. “A quarter-million people moshing all at once. Anything could happen.”
“Exactly,” I agreed. “The whole thing is going to explode into violence. There will be death and dismemberment. We have to go see this.”
And we went. And it happened. And now Woodstock and any once-warm feelings affiliated with it are now dead. Burnt to cinders. Producer Michael Lang is still crying in his beer over that one.
The last time the Denver cops used tear gas was Superbowl Sunday night after the big win, when mobs of victorious fans started looting Denver’s 16th Street Mall and Larimer Square. It only takes two or three idiots to start a little havoc when there’s a drunk crowd of 10,000 surrounded by frightened cops, and it spreads quick like that virus in the British zombie flick, 28 Days Later.
The two biggest activist groups setting up camp at the DNC are “Recreate ’68” and “Tent State.” I mean, with names like that the possible scenarios are endless. Meanwhile, the police are turning an empty warehouse into a detention center, complete with razor wire fence, preparing for mass arrests. More, Recreate ’68 is giving tactical workshops this Saturday from 12-6 p.m. at Lincoln Park on how to survive street warfare with the cops, from health and safety to self-defense.
I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a fragrance in the air, and it ain’t Chanel No. 5. What always seemed puzzling is the tendency of activists to raise their fists toward liberals. When Clinton was president, the number of demonstrations and anti-war protests were the greatest they’d been since 1974. And there wasn’t even a war! Yet as soon as Bush was elected, when protesters were needed more than ever, they all shriveled up and crawled back in their holes, afraid of being tagged terrorists and summarily executed by John Ashcroft & Co. Now that Bush is almost gone, they’re coming out in force again, yet shaking their fists at the liberals — easy targets and known pushovers.
The problem here is that if the convention does indeed break out in violence, it’ll likely cost Obama that 10 percent lead he’s wiggling in front of McCain’s weathered face, and maybe even the presidency. And when McCain is in office and throwing together another troop surge for the Middle East, all the activists will, once again, have their heads buried in the sand, waiting for a liberal to beat on. One has to wonder which side they’re working for. Or perhaps there aren’t any sides anymore. Perhaps politics, as some have been suggesting, are all just one big gray blur. A pointless cause for weekend hobbyists.
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