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Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride

Meghan: As much as I consider myself a Republican and feel in almost every way intellectually and culturally tied to both the Republican Party as an organization and its many shadings of conservative theory, on paper I am in many ways “culturally liberal.” I was born into a wealthy, famous family. I went to an Ivy League school and majored in art history, which means I know a lot about pretentious artists and art critics. I’m a writer and television commentator employed by “the liberal network” MSNBC. I am a huge supporter of and fighter for gay marriage and LGBT rights in this country. I’m unmarried and not completely convinced that the idea of marriage isn’t outdated. I am almost twenty-eight and I do not have children, and I think abstinence-only education is delusional and dangerous. I live in the heart of the West Village in New York City. I consider myself a God-fearing Christian, but I’m also a big believer in karma and sometimes get a feeling like I may have had past lives.

All of that being said, Jesus and I came to an understanding of each other a long time ago and my relationship with him is one of acceptance. My God isn’t Rick Santorum’s God, and my God loves everyone for exactly who they are. My God does not make mistakes. This list can go on and on . . . which is why I have always hated labels and stereotypes about people, especially when it comes to Americans and what exactly it means to be a “real American” or come from “real America.” Because if you adhere to all the stereotypical terms that make someone a “real American,” you will find that, in many ways, I am falling desperately short.

 

Michael: My feelings of detachment from America changed when I dropped out of school to become Raphael, the silent and brooding Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle. In the early nineties, the Ninja Turtles were the shit. Kids loved them, there were a couple movies out, and some enterprising capitalists thought the time was ripe for a touring stage show, kind of like a Turtles on Ice thing without the ice.

Some friends of mine heard they needed a couple people to do local promotional appearances for the show at hospitals, radio stations, and Pizza Huts, the show’s sponsor. It sounded like an easy way to make a few bucks, so we auditioned for the job. After we tried on the costume and shouted “Cowabunga!” a few times, the guy in charge of hiring said, “Great. We need you in Milwaukee on Tuesday.”

Milwaukee? No, we were college students. I had just started my junior year. I couldn’t drop out of university to dance around in a vinyl turtle costume. We laughed about it on the subway home until my buddy Ben started musing out loud about how great it would be to actually get paid to see the country. Now, like any self-respecting proto elitist, I’d read my share of Kerouac, so I had certainly heard the beck and call of the open road. I wanted to see America. I wanted to make money. I wanted a change. The more I thought about it, the more appealing the idea became. By the time we got off the subway, Ben and I had agreed to chuck everything, strap on our twenty-five-pound turtleheads, and seek adventure on the highways and byways of the American heartland. If our mothers said we could.

To my surprise, mine did, with the caveat that I had to return to school and get my degree. I swore up and down that I would.

I did not.

For four months, I crisscrossed the country with Ben in a smelly dark-blue Chevy Astro minivan crowded with luggage and two large coffin cases containing Ninja Turtle costumes. And it was then—on the road, staying at cheap motels, attempting (and failing) to seduce MILFs, and eating more Pizza Hut than a human body should—that I fell in love with America.

Some highlights from that trip: I remember standing on the lip of the Grand Canyon and marveling at how something so weird could also be so big. Another time I was staying at a hotel in Kansas in the middle of the winter, floating in an indoor pool while looking out the half-fogged windows towards a factory in the distance, a giant plume of flame shooting from one of its smokestacks. I remember being on the Mexican border, dressed as Raphael, standing on top of an ice cream shop performing in front of thousands of kids on the ground below; walking the parade route at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, tears streaming down my eyes because the entire weight of the head was resting on the bridge of my nose. I remember standing on top of our van in the middle of the woods somewhere with our hands over our hearts singing “The Star Spangled Banner” and meaning it. But mostly I remember all the people we met: all the good-hearted Americans across the country. Everywhere we stopped, the people of this country were kind and gracious and welcoming. On that trip, pretending to be a turtle granted superpowers due to radioactive sewage, I discovered what it means to love America.

 

Meghan: I have had a love affair with the Republican Party and its doctrines that began the first day I stepped foot on my father’s presidential campaign. The majority of my twenties, and I expect the rest of my life, will be spent fighting for the soul of the Republican Party to be more accepting and big-tent oriented. I believe my life’s purpose is to change things within the Republican Party, so that at some point it is not considered so controversial to live the kind of life I live and believe in smaller government at the same time. I have been handed a front-row seat to Republican politics, and as I have grown into the person that I am today, I have always felt a great responsibility to pass on my knowledge about politics, share my experiences, and try and bring a fresh perspective on a political party that unfortunately has not always been so warm and welcoming to new ideas. Republican politics is my entire life, and I love it. It is the blood that pumps through my veins. My mother was pregnant with me at the 1984 Reagan convention. Republican politics is quite literally the only world I have ever known and the only world I ever want to know. It is what gets me up in the morning and motivates what I do every single day. I continue to be exhilarated by the process and find joy in my life attempting to help inspire a new way of thinking within Republican Party politics.

I love America on a visceral level that is complicated to explain. I have a great passion for America and what it means to be an American. I love every single thing about being an American, the good and the bad, and I would fight until my last breath to defend all the ideals this country stands for. I even love everything about our crazy political process and the people it produces. And yet, one of the more exhausting parts of my political ideology is that because I have never completely toed the Republican party line. Many hardcore conservatives accuse me of not being a real Republican and have referred to me as a RINO: Republican in name only. Somehow this name is given to anyone who thinks gay people should have the right to marry, or diverge on social issues from the extreme right wing of the party. In the subtle subtext of conservative talk radio and right-wing extremists, apparently this makes me less of a “real” American and not “pure enough” to be considered a legitimate member of the Republican Party in some people’s eyes. As a direct result of my personal experiences with this kind of name calling, I have never been a big fan of labeling people so linearly. Yes, Michael is an East Coast liberal-pacifist-socialist-elitist snob-comedian who has never shot a gun, wants to give away health care, open up the borders, and loves Obama—but that doesn’t make him any less of an American than I am. Or at least that’s what I’m hoping I find out during our trip.

_______________

 

MEGHAN MCCAIN writes a weekly column for the Daily Beast and is the author of Dirty Sexy Politics. Her new book with Michael Ian Black, is America, You Sexy Bitch: A Love Letter to Freedom. She lives in New York City.


 


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TNB Nonfiction TNB Nonfiction features some of the web's best essays, excerpts of up-and-coming books, self-interviews, profiles, and humor from a wide range of authors. Past and future writers include Emily Rapp, Mira Bartók, Nick Flynn and Melissa Febos, among many others. 

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JULIA GOLDBERG is the Nonfiction Editor. She is a full-time faculty member in the Creative Writing Department at Santa Fe University of Art and Design, teaching a variety of nonfiction and journalism courses. She spent ten years as the editor of The Santa Fe Reporter newspaper, during which time the paper won numerous regional and national awards for writing, design and web innovation. Goldberg’s writing has appeared in numerous state and national publications, including The Rumpus, Salon, Alternet and In These Times. She is a contributing author and editor for Best Altweekly Writing 2009-2010 from Northwestern University Press.

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3 Responses to “Excerpt from America, You Sexy Bitch, by Meghan McCain & Michael Ian Black”

  1. Jeffro says:

    Reading this I cannot help but think that if Meghan McCain had been born with a different last name, she wouldn’t even be a Republican. I’m thinking Andrew Sullivan, but with hair. The Republican Party she wants to reclaim, that she speaks of helping establish in ideology, is more of a dream than a reality—and it one day may very well exist, but probably 50 years from now when even the Pope has accepted gay marriage and actual sex education as a universal norm.

    You think that’s happening now? Look at women’s issues across the country. Go to a Southern Baptist church and see what they have to say about gay marriage and take a wild guess at which party they’ll support in November.

    Sure, I wish there were more Meghan McCain’s in the Republican Party—and they do exist (I once saw a few ordering the new Turkey and Bacon Avocado 6” from Subway before heading to a George Allen rally), but so does the Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat and I’ll take a stab in the dark and say that Zara has never seen one, or if she has, on rare occasions.

    You there, Zara? Have you seen a Northern Hairy-Nosed Wombat?

    What she wants to bring to life reminds me of when Shawn Kemp signed with the Portland Trailblazers back in 2000 after being cut loose from the Cavaliers. I thought, hey, here he comes: the Reign Man is back. However, the reality was far from that. That guy I knew in my teens who used to rock the rim with an amazing force that would break a hand if it got in the way, that guy didn’t exist anymore. Those days had long passed. Kemp was 315 pounds with a cocaine and alcohol addiction he couldn’t control and a stomach that wouldn’t let him rise up 42” or even run down the court without huffing and grabbing for an oxygen mask. That’s the Republican Party today – without the cocaine and alcohol addiction. Sure, call this a false equivalent. It is. I just wanted to talk about Shawn Kemp for a minute. That guy was awesome.

    Being Republican by birth doesn’t mean you have to live out your days fantasizing about a political party that is imaginary, that won’t exist in ideology until you’re 80 (by which time, it will already be outdated compared to what will then be the issues of 2062).

    To quote Jim Morrison: Break on through to the other side.

  2. jmblaine says:

    The Ninja Turtle story
    trumps the divide.

    Meghan McCain, she’s
    kind of black-eyed daisy
    with that sunny blond hair.

  3. rick criniti says:

    wish i could cross the country as i have before as a national rock band performer with a beautiful pot smoking blond who shares my middle right geo political views

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