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Eulogy for a Republican

My pal John passed away this weekend. He succumbed to cancer after a 3-pack-a-day habit. He’d been an army officer, insurance agent and counter clerk at the West Side post office. It was in the latter incarnation that I knew John, but at one time he used to live in the same condo complex as I, and therein lies a tale I’d like to relate.

One of John’s coworkers told me about his memorial service, and teared up remembering the bagpipes. I asked if nice things had been spoken about John. She told me with John there had only been good. I asked like what, considering to many customers John could be very surly. Immediately she replied there was nothing he wouldn’t do for anyone. I’ll come back to that one in a mo. Otherwise she remembered fondly John’s wicked sense of humor and his co-workers chimed in about his mastery of rubber band war. As an example of the former, John delighted in applying hand lotion to door knobs and critical postal utensils and then leave his coworkers to the consequences.

The only cross words I ever received from John happened when news reached him of my antiwar activities. He told me that during the Vietnam War, protesters had spit on returning soldiers. Had anyone done that to him, he would have decked them, is what he felt the need to tell me. I didn’t complicate his account by pointing out that the infamous spitting event had been contrived to smear the antiwar movement. Not one soldier nor any protester has ever come forth to claim they witnessed the much derided event.

But I did have a bone to pick with John, but never took the chance. He was on vacation when I stormed into the post office to give him what for, and afterwards I reconciled myself to his opposite political view. It was the eve of the last election, the week before actually, when John through despicable dishonesty put a big wrench in State Representative Mike Merrifield’s reelection campaign.

Retired high school music teacher Mike Merrifield lived in our condo community, and owing to the disparate political orientations of the units’ multiple owners, a consensus had to be reached about what to do about election yard signs. It was not enough to agree that inhabitants could post whatever signs they wanted outside their abodes, what about those with units deeper in the complex with no exposure to passing traffic?

At first the sign posting was a free-for-all, with Republican signs adjacent those of Democrats, whomever’s sign was let be. But soon signs were being replaced by their opponent’s. I knew something was up when fresh lawn signs kept winding up in the dumpster. Finally the homeowners had to reach an agreement. Everybody was opinionated, but only Merrifield was a candidate, and he didn’t have frontage real estate. If the neighbors around the edges couldn’t see themselves permitting any Democratic Party signs without wearing Merrifield down by surreptitiously removing his, no lawn signs would be permitted. As president of the condo HOA, John our Post Office activist presided over an agreement to forbid all lawn signs.

No sooner was the decision made, that John promptly called some friends with a video camera. Actually it was a PR outfit that did work for the local Republican party. They set up a video camera across the street, a little ways down the block, to lay in wait. Then someone put out a Republican lawn sign where it was agreed there would be none.

Later that morning the camera captured Mrs. Merrified pulling up the opponent’s sign. The video footage was sent to the TV stations and Merrified was widely derided, even by his fellow Democrats. Merrifield and his wife answered the reporters who besieged their front step that the lawn signs had been a contentious issue, and that his wife had acted in accordance to the HOA decision not to allow any signs.

But when the reporters sought out the HOA president, John, to confirm the HOA policy, John calmly cleared up the issue: He told them he didn’t know what those incorrigible Merrifields were trying to pull, because there had been no such agreement.

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