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    Stepping outside the ring for a change

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    © St. Petersburg Times, published October 31, 2000

    I never thought I would live with a man who watches professional wrestling.

    In my romantic dreams, a couple dress sizes ago, my man would be a high-octane thinker, a reader of wide, eclectic taste, with whom I would engage in profound dialogue about the state of the world as well as our entwined souls.

    Instead I got a guy who calls it 'rassling and who, until he started hanging around with me, never voted for a Democrat.

    Now he votes for Democrats. Now and then.

    Yes, marriage works its magic, or looked at another way, does its damage. Now I find myself writing about the nation's most famous 'rassler, he with the head so large and bald it resembles a full moon on a clear night, Jesse Ventura:

    "The definition of a a wasted vote is not voting your heart and your conscience. If you don't do that -- then you have wasted your vote."

    It is not conscience that prompts my Democratic friends to say that if I vote for Ralph Nader I am voting for Gush, as Nader calls him. This is the argument of somebody trying to put the best face on surrender: Al Gore is dull but ambitious, and sure, he'll end up a President like his predecessor, stuck placating the Republicans, but things could always be worse.

    And it is the grossest cynicism that has Republicans hollering Vote for Nader at their man's rallies, because they believe the Nader vote will keep the White House out of Gore's hands, or Bore, as Nader calls him.

    I am voting for Nader the way people voted for Ross Perot, the way they once voted for John Anderson.

    I protest, therefore I am.

    Everybody knows the health care system is broken.

    That Social Security is going to pieces.

    That fewer and fewer corporations are dominanting more and more of the economy.

    That the richer America's elderly get, the more its children starve.

    That there is no living wage to be made flipping burgers or answering phones or even in being a new teacher.

    And that the most responsive government you get is the one you buy with a campaign contribution.

    This is the most radical step I have ever taken as a citizen. Far more radical than marching against a war or for clean air, or against Nixon, as I once did.

    It doesn't matter that Nader will lose.

    It matters that the Democrats and Republicans hear that voters do not turn on debates so they can indulge in the pleasure of having their eyes glaze over while the candidates debate what they'll do with the billions at a president's disposal.

    I am tired. I want change.

    I want the problems I see in front of my face, the problems that plague Tampa Bay as much as the rest of the nation, if not more, fixed.

    I do not want slogans about the size of government or of tax bills or about the collapse of our moral fiber.

    Been there. Heard that.

    Ralph Nader reshaped the country's agenda on safety in cars, in toys and on the job. He made the environment a respectable issue. He asks questions that make people who deserve to squirm squirm. Which is more than you can say for Gush and Bore.

    I'm not through yet.

    Willie Logan has my vote for the U.S. Senate -- if only to kick the Democrats in the shins for acting like Republicans and being afraid of a black man as state House speaker.

    I might even vote for a couple of Republicans for local office. Only a couple.

    But don't ever invite me to a wrestling, or a 'rassling, match. Not even the man in my house who calls it 'rassling, will show his face at one.

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