Once Nixon was elected, it became very hard for anyone to ignore politics, even a fifth grader. In 1972, there were already rumblings of the dirty tricks which would later be called Watergate. Mark carried around a loose-leaf binder on which he had lettered "Impeach Nixon!" in ball point block lettering. The next few years were to form the basis of his political cynicism and indifference, as many giants of American government were found to have feet of not just clay, but quicksand.
Gerald Ford was well intentioned, and once he gave Nixon the pardon which was the reason for his appointment in the first place, was a reasonably good president. Reasonably good, because he was only in office a short time and didn't do much. Jimmy Carter was the great hope of liberals, and the last gasp of political unity in Mark's family. Carter ran as an outsider, uncorrupted by the log rolling of Washington, DC. He was elected as an outsider, by the disenfranchised minorities and rural folk. He served as an outsider, and had to sweat bullets to get anything done at all in DC. Mark also recalled that Carter was threatened by the Killer Rabbit, which tried to swim out to his fishing boat. A Secret Service agent bashed the rabbit's head in with a paddle, protecting the president. Carter had more in common with Reagan than might be apparent at first glance.
It was a moment of truth for Mark, when he realized that corruption in politics might not be the worst thing. Idealistic incompetence could be deadly. So, with regret, he worked on John Anderson's independent campaign in 1980, and voted for the first time.
It was a lost cause, of course, and many people teased Mark about throwing his vote away. In fact, he heard that a lot over the years, as he tended to vote Independent or Libertarian when he did choose to vote. His vote for Anderson in 1980 was his last until 1996, when he voted Libertarian against Clinton and Dole. The idea that he couldn't vote FOR a candidate, but had to vote for the lesser of two evils to try to keep the greater out of office, was anathema to him. It seemed silly to vote at all. It seemed like throwing his vote away, to cast it for one of the two mainstream party hacks, since one of them would win anyway. As the years wore on, the Republicans and Democrats became less and less distinguishable to him. Both parties wanted their bums in, and the other bums out, and to milk the people for all the money they could. Mark's malaise was pretty common during those years, as voter turnout dropped below 50%, Then in 2000 was the ultimate, the second unelected President in his lifetime.
Oh, people voted for Dubya all right. People voted for Gore, too. It was entirely unclear how many people voted for either one of them, as the dirty tricks in Florida came to light. Even more disturbing to him was the fact that voting irregularities in other states, not just Jeb Bush's domain, were coming to light. Perhaps the whole voting process was a sham, a cynical mockery.
Some folks (including some liberals) Mark knew were convinced that it really didn't matter. The common man was stupid and selfish, they said, and would vote themselves bread and circuses every time. Joe Average was entirely swayed by television spots and spin, and the savviest politico with the most financial backing would always win. The government (liberals) or the businessmen (conservatives) knew best, and would take care of poor silly Joe. Mark found that incredibly patronizing.
Rush Limbaugh built his career on the kind of disillusionment that Mark was facing, combined with the insufferable smugness of the confidently elite. Apparently intelligent people, or at least folks with nice clothes and large vocabularies, were jingoistically echoing Limbaugh's latest bumper sticker philosophy. The middle class white male pride movement eerily resembled the rhetoric of the good old Ku Klux Klan.
As Mark passed Waubaunsee, he recalled that Waubaunsee Bay, Michigan, was where Laura grew up.
Waubaunsee Bay was a boat town, a fishing village, as you might guess from the name. When Laura and Mark were up for Laura's son Ervin's wedding, they took a day and toured. Laura showed Mark the various houses they lived in, where her family's business used to be, and the elementary schools she attended. The elementary schools brought home to him most directly the feeling of small town living she had experienced.
It was revenge, of course, for the time he took her around Charlottesville, the town he considered home in his childhood, and showed her the same kind of sights. He showed her his high school, his middle school, his elementary school. He showed her the streets where he had lived, and the shopping centers he use for hanging out. He showed her some of the secret treasures of Charlottesville. He had lived there for eleven years, longer than she had spent in Waubaunsee Bay, and so it was an even more strenuous tour. Then they went to his 20th high school reunion, where he saw none of his old friends, but plenty of folks who still remembered him. He had no idea who they were, but played along. He also admired his lovely wife's dancing, and knew he had made a much better impression than ten years before. Then he had been fat and depressed and working for a tobacco company. Now he was slightly less fat, slightly less depressed, and working for a warmonger. On the other hand, the other folks had deteriorated a lot in the meantime, so he felt less conspicuously pathetic.
He had subjected her to an agonizing trip down memory lane. He hadn't made her swim in the lake, though.
Later, after visiting her grandmother, they swam in Lake Michigan, which was about the coolest thing Mark had done that week. It was positively freezing. They laughed and splashed. After that, they went to Battle Creek and ate at a restaurant after changing clothes in the parking lot. Laura wasn't embarrassed about that, she even, on more than one occasion, dropped her pants in a deserted parking lot to pee. Not this time, however, she just changed her clothes as they sat in the SUV. He changed quickly, blushing the entire time. Then he sat back and watched her. She took her time, and Mark was reminded of their continual fantasy game of public sex. They never quite got there, Mark was far to embarrassed, but the idea turned him on terrifically. He suspected that if he really believed people would be excited instead of disgusted by the action, he wouldn't be quite so shy.
They had other fantasies they never acted on. Hers tended to run to control situations totally opposite her daily desires. She wanted to be dominated by Mark, to be spanked by him in a father-figure role. She most assuredly did NOT want him in that role normally, though she kept putting him there even when he didn't. They fantasized about tying each other up. The one time they tried this, Mark thought he'd employ the aid of some ice cubes. It was kind of fun, for the first few minutes, but then the various nerve endings were numbed, and it was game over. He also learned that he wasn't a good enough actor to sustain a domineering role. After that, though they talked about it often, they never tried again.
Mark had a lot of fantasies he never shared with Laura. He was a big fan of the schoolgirl/teacher scenario, the domineering female boss/resistant male worker, and he also read a lot of lesbian and three-way porn on the newsgroups. He knew that Laura was especially sensitive to the idea because of her past history. He'd never act on these fantasies, of course. He was very concerned about power dynamics and coercion, and never had any desire to rape. Boss/worker and teacher/student situations always seemed to have a serious element of coercion in real life. He and Laura were both too much into monogamy to consider the threesome, and the idea of lesbian sex made her queasy anyway. She said "Rhonda and I would have made the perfect couple, but we both noticed there was a significant shortage of penises in the arrangement." However, Mark was sure that if he was able to get the situation going in real life the women would find each other extremely interesting and leave him holding his dick.