YOU BET I WOULD by Peter Nolan Smith

During our 2009 trip through the American Midlands filming Barry Flanagan statues Brock Dundee and I detoured from our route to meet Colonel Rockford Ret. in Iowa City. The three of us began the evening at a sports bar. The bartender had just returned from his third tour in Iraq. We toasted his return with tequila shots. After the third Cuevo Gold Brock Dundee, Rockford, and I stepped outside to smoke a cigarette.

A trio of Bud Lite drinkers were disparaging the President in the alley.

“I don’t know how we elected a nigger.”

The fattest was leading the hate parade. He looked like he had played second-string linebacker in high school, but this fat boy hadn’t touched his toes in years. I clenched my fists. I hadn’t seen my family in months. Thailand was on the other side of the world. I was not in a good mood.

“Don’t start anything.” Rockford grabbed my arm. He was still a hippie. “It’s not the place.”

“Assholes.” I glared at the trio. I was more a punk and repeated the word louder.

This time they had heard me and turned to face us.

“What your problem?” asked the fat boy’s friend. His head was shaven to the bone and his body had been morphed into a smaller steroid version of a WWF wrestling wannabe.

“That’s no way to talk about the president.”

“And why not?”

“John Wayne said it best about JFK,” interjected Rockford, whose favorite westerns were EASY RIDER and OLE YELLER.

“And what was that?”

“I didn’t vote for him, but he is my president.” Brock beat Rockford to the quote, then added, “I might not be American, but I do like John Wayne.”

The three of us traded opinions about our favorite John Wayne films. I picked TRUE GRIT and as a director Brock classically voted for John Ford’s THE SEARCHERS, while Brock surprised us with his choice.

“WE WERE EXPENDABLE. It’s set in the Philippines. A PT boat crew trying to escape the Japs.” The old appellations lived long in Iowa.

I watched the three conservatives bunch together like they were discussing a stratagem, then the fat one ranted about having a black Muslim communist illegal alien as president. I clenched my fists, but remembered that I was passing through Iowa City. Tomorrow I would be hundreds of miles away.

I stubbed out my cigarette and walked toward the entrance to the bar. The skinniest of the three was feeling his oats and loudly told to his friends, “This country was founded on Conservative values; church, family, and flag.”

“That’s it.” I stormed over and pointed my finger in his face.

“This country was founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, so shut the fuck up about ‘Conservative values’.”

“I can say anything____” The butch muscle boy started to say.

“Do yourself a favor and shut your piehole and I don’t want to hear any muttering behind my back either.”

I strode inside the bar and ordered a Stella. Brock and Rockford joined me two seconds later. I looked out the door. The three locals were gone from the alley.

“Fuck them.”

>”What happened to the Freedom of Speech?” Colonel Rockford was a firm believer in speaking his mind.

“Fuck the Freedom of Speech. It’s an amendment to the Constitution.” I was more than angry after eight years of hearing Conservatives bullshit about family values. “I’ll say what I want and I’ll tell anyone to shut up when I want too. That’s my Freedom of Speech.”

“I don’t think that phrasing was guaranteed by the Constitution.” Brock politely said and then continued, “And to be truthful this country is very conservative. Look at what happened to your Senator Gary Hart in 1988.”

“Gary Hart?” I hadn’t thought about the Colorado senator in years.

“Yes, he was the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in the 1988 election.” My British friend’s erudite tones had nearby drinkers listening to his every word. “Right up to the moment when the Miami Herald published photos of Donna Rice sitting on his lap.”

“On the yacht MONKEY BUSINESS.” Colonel Rockford had a good memory for a man in his early-60s.

“Aptly named. The Senator denied there was an ‘hanky-panky’. Even his wife said the relationship was innocent.”

“The wife is always the last to know.” Colonel Rockford signaled the bartender for three more tequilas.

“His poll rankings sunk to the point where he only received 4000 votes in the New Hampshire primary, but if he had said, “Sure I screwed Donna and so would you all, Gary Hart would have received every male and free love vote in America, because people here and in the rest of the world are sinners. Not Conservative, but fun-loving happiness seekers. But no one likes a liar other than those people who don’t want to look at themselves in a mirror.”

We picked up our shots and Brock said, “America may be Conservative, but most Americans thought that Gary Hart’s indiscretion had little to do with his ability to be president.”

“And they got Dukakis to run against Bush.” I remembered the photo of Dukakis’ head sticking out of a tank like a turtle, then again he would have looked just as silly with Donna Rice on his lap.

“Now that was one unsexy guy.” Colonel Rockford shivered with the memory of that election. “I voted Communist that year. Gus Hall I think. And he was even more unsexy. You’re right, Brock. All Gary Hart had to have done was say, “I fucked her and so would you.” and he would have been president.”

“Who was Donna Rice,” the bartender asked with interest.

“She was a hot blonde.”

Unlike John Wayne movies the three of us were in complete agreement on that subject.

And agreeing with your friends was the beauty of Free Speech.

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