Freedom Farts for Democracy

Quite recently, I attended a get-together in D.C. supported by a large Corporate Lobbying Firm — the type of folks I am typically hyper-critical of. Though in this case, we were united for a common cause and I would get a glimpse into the world of true Democracy; scented with a pungent aroma emanating throughout the hallowed halls of freedom (note to readers: when eating in the Congressional Cafeteria; avoid consuming a pound of black beans prior to meeting with Congressmen).

The world of the high-priced corporate lobbyist would be somewhat anti-climactic as I knew what they were about and how they functioned, yet I was shown the human face of those who use connections, money and power to determine the path of legislation to benefit the corporations seeking more control and/or more profit through our Democratic Process.This time however, I was riding their coat-tales to get my own taste of using this system to my advantage.

It was all about the game — the hustle if you will — rather than moral absoluteness. The rush of the deal and bustle of men in suits which cost more than I’ve ever made in a month making hourly rates five times what I make in a week is what this world is about; yet it is a world of humanity despite the devastation that this system ultimately bestows on that same humanity. I saw the human face of corporatism and that face was not so dissimilar from mine — just a matter of paths and perceptions; motivation and money.

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My lobbyist chaperon for the day was a man of about 50 years old, give or take — a man of confidence, knowledge, wit and charisma. I’ll call him Bob the Lobbyist for the sake of anonymity. Bob made no secret of his right-wing leanings and direct influence on the republican takeover of the mid ’90s, yet was pragmatic enough to know the limitations of his ideologies and the inherent foolishness and hypocrisy of the GOP world of which he was a player of the highest order. Through his time in the trenches of political guerrilla warfare, he knew what the game was all about and why he played it.

We shuffled through the endless corridors, elevators and escalators of the House Office Buildings — a maze of underground walk-throughs between buildings that were the heart of collusion and deal-making. A maze of American Democracy that still tripped up Bob, even after years on the go through the same corridors visiting the same players making the same deals for the same sides of perpetual politics.

While not in meetings and walking briskly from one office to another, Bob was constantly on his Blackberry re-arranging and re-scheduling and re-shuffling his agenda for the day and days ahead. Never fully at rest, yet simultaneously at peace with the process that now defined this puzzle of his life; his archetype of multiple personalities that would fit each situation and ultimately serve the end results he always knew he would win.

Bob made his mark as a campaign director for some of the more notable and notorious Republicans of the 90s. Despite his pragmatism and diplomacy, he was much more content being behind the scenes, where the real action exists. Through years of deal-making and muckraking; working class Bob from Altoona — the behind the scenes maestro of the right — would become Bob the Lobbyist.

Acting as a hired gun — or a one-man independent consultant if you will — for the corporations and front groups that account for many of the atrocities of Imperialism and Corporatism that I and my leftist brethren have fought to stop, Bob spoke of the wheelings and dealings of his past; not with pride nor with shame, but with an impartial and nonchalant ambiguity that comes with years of deal making and a love of and need for the game. Moral absoluteness is not a part of the equation as Bob seemed to be fully aware of human factor that was the inevitable collateral damage of the career he has made for himself.

As we took a lunch break in one of the house cafeterias, I was able to get a glimpse of Bob’s human side. He gave some hints and glimpses into who he is and why he has chosen this life of his. It wasn’t by any grand design or type of destiny or unwavering self-righteous world view or a delusional theocratic desire to shape the world as God would want; it was simply by circumstance.

He never had any political or ideological inclinations until he happened to find work with a GOP campaign after toiling in the Union-controlled meat packing plant for a few years after college. This would set into motion the series of events that led to that very moment in that cafeteria. The idealistic — though realistic — leftist wordsmith and the right-wing corporate lobbyist were working together, sharing laughs and jokes; for now, we were united for a common goal.

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As Bob gently poked at his salad, chatting about his various gigs lobbying for Big Tobacco, Big Oil and the Military Industrial Complex, I scarfed down my large plate of black beans, rice, chicken and asparagus while I spoke of my past and how I came to be sitting at that table at that moment in the cafeteria of that Congressional Office Building. I found that Bob and I had similar backgrounds and even some similar core beliefs (contextualized through differing lenses).

As we continued our quest through the halls of Democracy, Liberty and Freedom, the black beans and asparagus were creating the perfect storm of flatulent goodness. As we wondered through the corridors of American Democracy, I made it known my need for relief. I let out a few little toots when no one was down wind or up, when Bob exclaimed: Let Freedom Ring! I ripped a few large and ferocious freedom farts right there in the halls of Congress; spreading the pungent aroma of Democracy to the amusement of a power broker to the rich, powerful and moneyed interests of Democracy.

I take no pride and no shame in my involvement with Bob. I am doing what I need to do — in my own mind; rightly or wrongly — to make a living for myself and support those I love and care about. My path crossed with the path of Bob the Lobbyist that day by chance; yet for that day, we were on the same side using our voices (one much louder than the others) to fight against legislation detrimental to both our interests. There is a gray area that we all must enter — devoid of morality and absoluteness — to do what we can to advance our cause. There is also most certainly a lingering aroma in the halls of Democracy as Todd the Publisher and Bob the Lobbyist were united for a common cause.

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