Tales from the bus 

'Don't buy anything you don't need' 

I was riding home on the IndyGo bus the other day when I started up a conversation with a passenger seated a few rows ahead of me. We began by talking about the Pacers and the Colts but the discussion quickly led to politics.

“Who do you think is going to win?” asked my new friend, an African-American gentleman in his early 50s.

“Too early to say,” I said. “If I had to lay money on it, I’d say Hillary, if they count the votes fairly this time. But I like Obama, too.”

The man laughed. “You really think they’re going to let a black man become president? Or even a white woman? I think it’s going to be John Edwards. You notice that they’re not saying much about him, but he’s still in the race. He hasn’t dropped out yet. Mark my words, it’ll be Edwards.”

“Maybe,” I said. “What will probably happen is that they’ll rig the vote again and someone like Romney will win. He’s the closest thing to George Bush out there. He likes punishing poor people, killing foreigners and giving money to rich people. If Obama gets a chance, the Republicans will try and scare off the white people. They’ll paint him out to be Tupac or Biggie Smalls. They’ll try and  portray him as the blackest man in the world so the white people will be scared.”

My new friend laughed. “It’s not going to work,” he said. “The dividing line isn’t about black against white. That doesn’t work anymore. It’s worked for hundreds of years but it won’t work anymore. You probably have black friends, right, just like I have white friends. There’s too many biracial couples out there for people. We know each other better. The real dividing line is rich against poor.”

“It always has been,” I said.

“Right,” he said, “but it’s even more true now. Bush and his friends have been working on eliminating the middle class entirely, so that there’s only two kinds of people: The people who are wealthy and the people who are not. If you have a lot of money, you can do whatever you want. The police will leave you alone. They’ll even push aside the poor people standing on the street if they’re in your way.”

“Yep,” I said.

“What we’re headed into is a full-on police state,” my new friend said. “I ride the bus all the time and I can see down into the police cars. They drive down the street typing every license plate they see into their computer until something comes up. Then they’ll pull the car over and arrest them.”

“That does seem to be the way that Bush likes it,” I said. “Kill the poor or at least lock them up forever.”

“What you’re not understanding is that they’re not just arresting black people,” he said. “They don’t care about race. They’re certainly not pulling over rich people. It’s poor people. And they figure that as long as the poor people aren’t united against them, they’ll get away with it.”

Another passenger, a white man in his late 20s, spoke up. “It’s true,” he said. “I was riding my bike home from work the other night at 3 a.m. The buses don’t run that late so I have to use my bike. I got stopped three different times by cops. ‘You want to see my ID? What did I do?’ They patted me down for drugs every time and ran my name through the computer. Three different times I got stopped.”

“Damn,” I said.

“You notice the bar code on the back of the driver’s licenses?” he said. “Pretty soon we’ll have to swipe those just in order to be allowed to ride the bus. This is a police state right now, man, and because it doesn’t affect the rich people you never read about it in the newspaper.”

“I know,” I said. “That’s why I just try and keep my head down, show up to work on time, cash my check and try to take care of my family.”

“That’s what they want,” the first man said. “They want to keep you scared so you don’t cause any trouble.”

“It’s working,” I said.

“You know the only way we can get back at them, right?” the first man asked. “Stop buying anything. Take every penny you make and put it in the bank. Don’t buy anything you don’t have to have. If we started doing that, it’d bring the rich people to their knees.”

“They’d start cracking down even harder then,” I said.

The bus approached my stop. I pulled the cord to alert the driver I wanted off.

“Thanks for the conversation, guys,” I said. “You be safe out there.”

The first man laughed. “I will, brother. You too.”

The bus rolled off into the distance. I got into my car and drove the short distance home, my mind racing with ideas. Life in the city is interesting, sometimes.

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