Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Republicans, NASCAR fans and Alzheimer's

Republicans and NASCAR fans remind me of my mother, who has Alzheimer's. We drove down to the Florida Keys to visit my son and his wife. I had a great time visiting with the kids. I gorged on grouper and yellowtail and shrimp po-boys and blackened mahi-mahi. I sat on their balcony and reveled in the 80 degree temperatures, the clear turquoise water, the red and yellow and purple flowers, the palms swaying in the breeze. I watching the pelicans diving and the seagulls circling and crying. I saw a baby Iguana and a Frigate bird, like a flying Batman logo in the sky. We went to the Hard Rock Casino and I came out a couple hundred bucks ahead. I shopped for Key Lime stuff (you can get Key Lime-flavored everything in the Keys) and sandals and straw bags. I mostly avoided the negativity of the computer and the television.

Unlike me, Mom was ready to head back to  Indiana the day after we got there. Like a little kid, she kept asking, "are we leaving today? I'm ready to go home."

The thing is though that home is no longer this house where we've lived for the last 22 years. Home is a time and place in the past. A time when she was younger and self-reliant. It was a time when she still drove, when she was renown for her cooking. It's when all her sisters and sisters-in-law were still alive to go out to lunch together before hitting the garage sales. It's a time she now sees through rose-colored glasses. It wasn't really as perfect as she remembers but compared to her life now - when she can no longer be trusted to turn on the stove and can't get dressed without my help and totters to the bathroom hanging on to furniture for balance - perhaps it was.

When we made it back home, the first thing she asked me was, "where am I going to sleep tonight?", as if she hadn't been sleeping in the same bedroom for the last two decades. The second was, "how long are we going to stay here?"

So, she's just as discontented now that she's back home and she was in Florida and that isn't going to get any better because the "home" she dreams of no longer exists.

Upon my return to Indiana, I hopped back on Facebook. I began watching the news again. That's when I noticed that NASCAR fans and Republicans (who are most often one and the same) have a lot in common with Mom. They too are unhappy with the present. They too see the past through rose-colored glasses. NASCAR bends over backward to please its fans, probably more than any other sport. At the current time, that manifests itself in the new race car NASCAR and the auto manufacturers spent years and millions of dollars to develop. It is sexier and the three brands are different from one another unlike the generic Car of Tomorrow. It is lighter and racier. Of course, at the time I returned from Florida, we were only three races in. The new car is a work in progress. The teams and drivers have to learn how to tweak it to get the most out of it. The racing has been great this year but you'd never know it if you listen to the sour grapes coming from the comments on the NASCAR websites.

Because none of that counts for many, many NASCAR fans who already have their minds made up. The racing sucks, the drivers suck, the new car sucks, the tracks suck and most of all, NASCAR itself sucks. Stock car racing, they say, isn't exciting like it used to be. This simply isn't true. You can go back to the archives and see that the winner in those old races finished laps ahead of their competitors compared to today when the cars are often separated by 1000ths of a second. NASCAR fans revere those old-time outlaws like former bootlegger, Junior Johnson, who used every trick in the book to gain a competitive edge but they hate the crew chiefs who do the same thing today, scorning them as "cheaters". Drivers back in the day were rough and tough, whereas today's drivers are wimps. Compare any current driver to Dale Earnhardt to a old-school NASCAR fan and you'd probably get a punch in the mouth.

Like my Mom, NASCAR fans want something that no longer exists and probably never did. It's not NASCAR's changes that make them so dissatisfied, it is their own, and nothing will cure that because time moves on no matter how much we try to stop it.

And then to politics....Republicans are much the same as NASCAR fans. They hate today. They hate our president, and yes, judging from the comments and posts I see on Facebook, race has a lot to do with that. They hate the fact that America is changing and whites are no longer the dominant ethnicity. They hate that women are more independent than they used to be. They hate that the majority of Americans believe gays should have full equality. They hate that they are probably going to have to accept a comprehensive immigration plan...not because they want to but in order to remain a viable party. They hate science and scorn the belief in climate change.

They want to go back although I'm not sure when their ideal era was. The Fifties when most people were white and men worked while women stayed home and had babies a la Leave It To Beaver? When the vast majority of our legislators were rich white men? When gays stayed in the closet, blacks kept a low profile and non-Christians kept their mouths shut?

Hell, judging by the CPAC conference some of them want to time travel to an even earlier age - before Emancipation and women voting and child labor laws.

The party of no and negativity is stuck in some idealized past and they are fighting tooth and nail to hold back the future. They won't be able to do it, of course, anymore than NASCAR fans or my Mom can. Mom's behavior is explained by Alzheimer's. I don't know what the rationale is for Republicans and NASCAR fans.