In 2009, President Obama tried to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo) and transfer prisoners Stateside, some of them to southern Colorado’s so-called Supermax prison. Congress, including most of Colorado’s delegation — Democrat and Republican — said no and the proposal withered.
Now, in 2015, the idea is again in the air, and Supermax is again under consideration.
Colorado’s Congressional delegation has changed a bit since 2009, but its tune hasn’t. Sen’s. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) cite existing law that prohibits such a move, and Gardner also worries about Coloradans’ safety, as does Rep. Doug Lamborn (R): The people of Colorado do not want the world’s worst terrorists housed in our own back yard.
Hello!? The world’s worst already are. In Supermax! For the home team, there’s: Vincent Basciano, Mafioso; Larry Hoover, gang-leader; Theodore Kaczynski, Unabomber. The visiting team features: Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11 conspirator; Faisal Shahzad, Times Square might-have-been bomber.
Honestly now, are these nasties likely to make it out of what is fondly known as The Alcatraz of the Rockies and into our literal back yards? So far, no one has, or has even tried.
But what if a Gitmo alumnus did try to escape?
First, he’d have to get through a phalanx of hi-tech sensors, race past vicious attack dogs and armed guards, scale a wall that an Olympic pole-vaulter would quail at, only to face razor wire so sharp it could get a full scholarship to Harvard.
Then, if, by some miracle, he makes it out, his problems have only begun. If he is wise, he has escaped in the wee morning hours. Soon, dawn is touching the eastern sky and it is time for the day’s first prayer. He may be on the run, but he still must satisfy his religious obligations. After all, if he conveniently neglects the faith that justifies his chosen vocation, he might as well be a Unitarian.
Before he can pray, however, he must do his ablutions, which requires clean water. There are houses, but it’s not a good time to knock. The Arkansas River is nearby and mountain-clear, but he might want to avoid its vicious rapids that kill scores of rafters each year.
Somehow, he manages to ritually cleanse himself. To pray, he must face Mecca, but where is it? There aren’t any road signs and he can’t ask. He knows he’s in the western U.S., and Mecca must be sort of easterly, where — Allahu Akbar — the lightening sky seems to point the way … sort of. But sort of isn’t sufficient. Oh, the shame if he gets it wrong and prays toward Nashville or New York City!
Even if he actually gets it right, he has lost precious time and knows that he will lose more, since there are four more obligatory prayers today … and tomorrow … and … Pressure is mounting, but where is he to run? If he’s smart, he scrambles out of Florence, Supermax’s hometown. If he’s lucky, he avoids Canon City to the west and Pueblo to the east and heads southwest toward the mountains — the Sangre de Cristo (the irony of his finding shelter in the Blood of Christ will, sadly, be lost on him).
His choice, however, does have its downside. The area is very dangerous. There are rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions. But, far more deadly, there are guns. He is walking straight into the heart and soul of NRA country, where every pickup has a shotgun rack and every hip a holster. Imagine the humiliation of a world-class terrorist being taken down by a mom packing heat or by a teenager, hunting squirrels with his .22.
All told, we have little to fear from hosting a few unpleasant visitors. Indeed, if common sense prevailed, the NIMBY/IMBY debate would focus on what really counts — $$. Supermax has been an economic boon to its hometown, and the arrangements to house this new group would bring more money.
Prisoning may, as the mayor observed when the Gitmo issue came up six years ago, be a recession-proof industry, but best not to take any chances.
I’m dreaming of a … and you know the rest. Dreams are great, but reality can be harsh: I Want a Red Ryder, Carbine-action, 200-shot Range Model, with a Compass in the Stock … YOU’LL SHOOT YOUR EYE OUT!; All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth … YOU SHOULD HAVE SPECIFIED HOW BIG. SORRY, BUT YOU’RE GONNA LOOK LIKE A DERANGED RABBIT; Peace on Earth, Good Will Toward Men … OK, BUT THAT MEANS ALL MEN, FROM POPE FRANCIS TO WHITEY BULGER.
Obama knows the story. It’s December 2002, and …
Barack: Woo, I had the strangest dream last night …
Barack: Well, I’m President and I’m in this really long hallway at the White House and …
Michelle: You had me at ‘President’ …
Barack: Yeah, it was quite a dream, so I’m in this hallway and I meet some visitors and I ask them what I should do for the country and they say, ‘Health-care reform so that everybody is part of the system and no one gets left out because they’re poor or sick, but also no one can grab a free ride and …’
Michelle: Pretty articulate for a dream! But, before you get carried away, were there any Republicans there?
Barack: I’m not sure. There was a guy with Madras pants and golf clubs. He didn’t have any golf balls, so he wanted to use my …
Michelle: Definitely a Republican!
Barack: I guess so. Anyway, this guy turns into an escalator and we ride him up to the roof where there are helicopters dropping leaflets that are really health-care sign-up forms, but, whenever someone tries to fill them in, they wrinkle up and blow away.
Michelle: The people?
Barack: No, no, the sign-up forms.
Michelle: I don’t like the sound of that.
Barack: It wasn’t a problem. I tell the people to wish real hard, sort of like Tinkerbell, y’know, and they do and these sort-of idea-balloons appear over their heads, like in the comics, and they’re signed up, just like that.
Michelle: What about the Republican?
Barack: You mean the escalator? Well, it’s funny, he turns into Osama Bin Laden.
Michelle: We really need to get rid of that guy.
Barack: Anyway, Bin Laden runs around with a pin popping the idea-balloons, y’know, the sign-up forms.
Barack: So I push him off the roof.
Michelle: And …?
Barack: And … well, nobody really notices. They’re all shouting, asking what they’re signing up for, so I try to explain, but it gets dark and real windy and suddenly a hole opens up and we’re falling and I’m trying to explain, but all I can say is: ‘Bulls 105, Knicks 87; Bulls 105, Knicks 87; Bulls 105, Knicks 87 …’ I couldn’t even get to the other scores.
Michelle: I think you’re missing the point. But, wait a minute. Were you wearing pants during this whole thing?
Barack: Well, at first, I think I was wearing Boy Scout shorts, but then I think all I had on was my jockeys.
Michelle: I don’t like the sound of that.
Barack: What do you think it all means?
Michelle: Not sure. I like the ‘President’ idea. And the ‘pushing Bin Laden off the roof’ is good. But the health care stuff, I dunno; sounds like it needs a lotta work. Maybe do Bin Laden first term and save health care after you’re re-elected.
Michelle: But I’m mostly concerned about the no-pants thing. You’ve gotta wear pants! A
President without his pants on?! That’ll never work!
When I signed up last spring for the Ground Game, ground was what I was on: harassing mall crawlers and, in my innocence, registering more Republicans than Democrats; patrolling downtown corners, explaining that the President really doesn’t want to confiscate your gun or nationalize your car dealership; knocking on doors in endless, horizontal suburbs.
My ascent up the canvassing ladder really began when I got more urban and shifted turf to apartment and condo complexes teeming with Obama targets — three-in-a-flat young women; college students; Mexican-Americans; African-Americans; Somali cab drivers; young graduates starting their careers; single mothers.
It was then, on a wicked-hot summer day, that I encountered The 33 Steps, in a pleasant complex with 240 units — 6 units in each of 40 self-contained buildings, each building with 3 floors. If you’ve been paying attention, you know how many steps there were to the top 2 units.
It may be that Obama’s team crunched numbers better than Romney’s. I wasn’t so sure. I hiked the 33 to the top units far more than the 16 it took to the middle ones or the 0 at street-level, in seeming violation of the laws of probability.
I’m not complaining. By Election Day, my thighs were those of a bicycle racer and my lung capacity, an Ethiopian marathoner’s. No improvement in reasoning capacity, however, which may be just as well, since I might have realized that, with an answer-per-knock rate around 20%, and an Obama-favorable rate around 70% of that 20%, a single hooked, but not yet netted, Obama voter cost about 200 steps.
33 Steps was not my only beat. Just down the street was an enormous apartment complex — 9 buildings, none with fewer than 12 apartments per floor, and one with easily 50 on each of its 5 floors, all in open-balcony format. I could have roller-skated to most of my target doors and taken the elevator to roller-skate the next level. Best of all, there were no locked gates, complicated phone-entry devices, or menacing property managers. With a stout heart, a full water-bottle, and about five hours of free time, thoroughly knockable.
Though my end was just, my means were sometimes devious. In buildings with ostensibly locked lobby doors, some weren’t. In better-secured buildings, I could at times ooze in, following heedless kids. Occasionally, residents would breeze out, and the door, swinging lazily shut, would, by chance, catch my foot. Rear entrances were, shockingly, often not as secure as front doors; in one case, I walked past renovators by posing as someone who knew what he was doing.
On a few occasions, tenants cited No Soliciting rules, but it was half-hearted, and, in one instance, a man followed me, not to confront, but to apologize for being rude when he had suggested I should cease and desist.
For all the stair-climbing and the increasingly raw knuckles (too few doorbells), and besides the satisfaction of the slow accumulation of Obama supporters, there were some genuinely touching moments:
— the woman, an immigrant from Mexico City and a first-time voter, who, the day before Election Day, thought she had lost her mail-in ballot, vowed to search for it, and came running after me as I was leaving the complex, waving her found treasure;
— the college student supporting Obama because he’s the reason I’m able to continue my studies;
— kids from a mutli-ethnic apartment building, watching American patriots firing muskets at Redcoats, in a Saturday-morning Revolutionary War reenactment in the park across the street;
— the boy who guided me from door to door, and, when I told him I was working for the President’s re-election, asked why, if he was already President, he had to be elected again.
With hundreds and hundreds of doors knocked, and despite occasionally skirting the edge of law and custom, I was struck by how remarkably civil people were, whatever their political leanings. I had to wait until Election Day to actually have a door slammed in my face, by an angry Romney voter. Finally, I thought, a chance to say Fuck You, at least to a closed door. But, by that time, who had the energy and, anyway, why bother!?
Rick Santorum says President Obama is a snob because he wants every American to go to college. Apparently, Santorum wants some Americans not to go to college. I wonder if he’s given any thought to whom he’d want to exclude. In case he hasn’t gotten down to those details, let me suggest that the most simple-minded way (and, by this, I mean no disrespect to Mr. Santorum) to separate the chaff from the wheat is to exclude those who are already underrepresented at our colleges and universities:
African-Americans and Hispanics — they’re not beating down the college doors, so why not just accept the situation that circumstance has handed you. Besides, if too many members of any lower socio-economic group — whatever their race or national origin — get a college education, who’s going to collect our garbage and shovel our sidewalks?
Males — they’re fading as a percentage of college students in any case, so why not just do the educational equivalent of euthanasia. Besides, if too many men got a college education, who would make Bud Light commercials for us? (A decade or two ago, this would have read, Females — their place is in the kitchen, opening a Bud Light for us guys, but college admissions has finally realized that women are smarter than men.)
Immigrants — if they had wanted to go to American colleges, they should have learned English as their first language. And if they’re illegals, they should have insisted that their parents leave them behind on the south bank of the Rio Grande.
Southern whites — no reason; just Northern prejudice. The Old South that we knew and loved has been ruined by uppity whites with their so-called “eddication.”
Children of auto workers — if “twelve-and-out” was good enough for Daddy, it should be good enough for Junior.
Aspiring politicians — who demonstrates better than Rick Santorum that college just makes you dumb as shit?