The parking lot got my attention. More precisely, the cars. There were hardly any Japanese or German autos in the packed ranks of sedans, minivans and SUVs, with a heavy sprinkling of workingman pick-ups.
In fact, the only non-American car I spied walking through the lot was, uh, my own Nissan. Oops.
I understood why. This was union turf, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers hall south of the state Capitol. Bumper stickers emblazoned with "Buy American!" adorned car after car. These folks aren't politicians -- by that I mean they practice what they preach. Look at the parking lot.
The 300 or so people lining up for a fish fry and to participate in a "town hall meeting" were the tough-muscled, patriotic soul of this nation. They were there to protest that most unpatriotic of creations, the corrupt culture of globalized, multi-national capitalism, business that through ill-begotten treaties can in secret tribunals in faraway lands gut American laws protecting jobs, the environment and our safety.
The unionists at the IBEW hall know what they like. My companions in line to get fish were a black man wearing a vividly purple T-shirt proclaiming "Solidarity Forever! Union Makes Us Strong!" and a woman sporting a "Jobs With Justice" cap.
They also knew how to spell what they didn't like: Enron.
Oh Lawdy, I can hear you say. Sugg's gonna write about Enron. That's just soooooo dated, really 2001-ish. And, after all, the president and Big Media (including the somnambulant AJC) and just about all the really important people have told us it was "just" a business story and not really a "political scandal."
And, heck, despite Enron being W's single biggest political bankroller, and despite the company having helped pay the bills for Shrub's Florida coup d'etat, and despite Bush padding his administration with 50 or so people with Enron ties, and despite Bush cronies (especially President-In-Fact Dick Cheney) kowtowing to Enron's every demand prior to the outfit's December bankruptcy -- only a damnable ally of Osama bin Laden would ever, ever, ever doubt the president's pronouncement that he hardly knew Enron maximum potentate "Kenny Boy" Lay.
So, look, Sugg, why do we want to read about Enron?
Well, I've got some reasons. First, let's face it: Sex sells. So, in the finest traditions of American marketing, you'll note the accompanying sleazy, gratuitous and totally irrelevant artwork. And, in a couple of places in this column, I've inserted passages from classic erotic literature -- really dirty bits. But to read them, and thereby get suitably aroused (pant, pant, oh do it, do it, pant), you're going to have put up with a message about Enron. None of this smut has anything to do with Enron, other than that the company was itself obscene, but like little mice, you'll get a reward if you follow the maze of my writing.
For example, Enron's bosses were reverentially depicted as business gurus (why, Fortune magazine declared it the most innovative company in America for six years in a row). So, thinking of gurus -- and of people who get screwed by them -- I recalled this passage from Terry Southern's 1968 epic tale Candy about a lass and her mentor:
"'Oh my goodness,' said Candy, squirming her lithe and supple body slightly, though remaining obediently closed-eyed and with her hands clasped tightly behind her head. 'Now I shall remove the member,' said Grindle, '... not all the way but just so, there, and in again. You see? And again so, I will repeat this several times -- while you do your Exercise Number Four.' 'Gosh,' said Candy, swallowing nervously, '... I don't think I can concentrate on it now.'"
Are you concentrating? You'd better be if you want to find more of the good parts.
Back at the IBEW hall, I bumped into a short compact guy with incredibly high-arched eyebrows and an ever-so-big smile. Despite the white shirt, tie and stylish dude cowboy boots, his tough handshake and hard gaze screamed union. "Trumka," he said by way of introduction.
"Richard Trumka?" I said.
"You got it."
I was impressed. Here was the guy who had cleaned up the United Mine Workers, no easy job, and is now an AFL-CIO national bigshot. I asked what brought him to Atlanta.
With well-rehearsed but nonetheless authentic anger, Trumka responded with words he soon would repeat on stage, joining SCLC legend Joseph Lowery and Georgia AFL-CIO President Richard Ray in some old-time, come-to-Jesus revival preaching. Instead of Satan threatening unbelievers with fire and brimstone, however, it was Bush, Lay, U.S. Senate wannabe Saxby Chambliss and most other soft-on-business-sleaze Republicans who had horns and pitchforks.
"The Enron scandal outraged, outraged Americans who believe in playing by the rules," Trumka boomed in a voice honed at shouting over raucous union hall meetings. "Employees were shoved to the back so that the banks and companies owed money by Enron wouldn't lose out when Enron was forced into bankruptcy."