June 9 WEEKENDER: Second Opinion – Scenic routes and American politics

A rainy weekend in Idaho had a group of motorcyclists talking Obama and guns.

Grand Forks Gazette WEEKENDER columnist Jim Holtz.

Grand Forks Gazette WEEKENDER columnist Jim Holtz.

I joined a group of fellow sport touring motorcyclists on the weekend down in Idaho, near the Lolo Pass, an area known for great, twisty mountain roads and scenery.

There were about 30 of us all staying in a motel/campground complex, five Canadians and the rest Americans from the Pacific Northwest.

The rain limited our riding activities somewhat. On the Saturday we were there, a steady downpour drummed relentlessly on the pavement around the motel.

Fortunately, the covered walkways outside the row of rooms provided gathering areas for the disappointed riders who were able to sit around and talk at length.

It took a couple of hours, but the individuals sorted themselves out into like-minded groups.

The polarization revealed by the coverage of the current American presidential campaign was apparent in the Americans.  The Canadians, of course, gravitated toward the Obama, John Stewart, liberal press side of the political issues along with about half a dozen Americans.

We all lambasted Fox News and the uninformed attitudes and opinions of so many Americans on health care, poverty, crime, immigration, etc.  All the usual stuff.

I felt sorry for the handful of Americans there who held the same views; they seemed quite deflated and powerless in the face of the ignorance that they perceived among so many of their countrymen.

“I don’t understand,” one of them said, a middle-aged guy named Bob. “The very people that universal health care and labor unions would help have been convinced by Fox News and the Tea Party that those things are bad.”

The relentless rain added to the political despair, of course, though not so much for another group of riders who were busy planning the next get-together to be held in Stevenson, Wash., in a few weeks.

They were the more conservative, Libertarian faction, nice guys, of course, with wives and families, but all independent types, sure of themselves, and of self-reliance in general, as the most important trait that a person can have.

Hard work and perseverance got them where they were and they were convinced that that was all anyone needed.

They were all white males of course. In their minds, less government was always better, along with less taxes, and fewer immigrants.

More was sometimes good, however, as in more punishment for criminals and more military spending.

At the end of the day, the rain had ended, too late for much mountain motorcycling, especially since at about 2 p.m. a number of us had given up hope of any riding that day and opened a couple of beers.

At dinner time, the group planning the Stevenson rally revealed that they had decided to hold an additional event on the Saturday of the ride, a pistol shooting contest, and so told everyone to be sure to bring a hand gun.

I think they felt a little sorry for us Canadians, and our misguided gun control laws.  “Hey,” one of them said when he caught me rolling my eyes, “What’s wrong with guns? You know, it’s right what they say, ‘Guns don’t kill people…’”

“You’re right,” Bob interrupted, then after a pause, “bullets kill people.”

I was pleased to see that quite a few laughed.

– Jim Holtz is WEEKENDER columnist and former reporter for the Grand Forks Gazette