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Photo by Genghis

YOUR HARLEY: Believe in her.

Indulge me for a moment. It's the morning after the 2012 presidential election. Obama has won a second term as president. It's confounding, isn't it? Even if you're not a conservative biker like me, or if your apolitical, realize that we still have to live within the country's system to some degree. We cannot be divorced from the economy, as the our nation's economic state affects us, whether we like it or not. We buy food from the same stores as anyone else, ride on the same highways and fill up with gas at the same stations. There is no escaping our involvement with the system. Whether you voted for the incumbent, or didn't vote at all in an attempt to stay outside of the system, listen to me.

Put aside your issues that are important to you, that gave you your reasons to vote for a failed president. If Obama was the manager of a McDonald's franchise that lost money for 4 straight years, putting that restaurant in danger of being put out of business, he never would've been rehired for another 4 years. It would've been Pinkslip City for Mr. Obama in the real world. Not so in the political world, where personal preference takes precedence over common sense.

Realize that your issues by comparison to what should've been your priority, have put all of us Americans at risk. Just remember that what affects us conservatives, will affect you as well. Economic failures will put you on the same food and gas lines, as us. Consider that the current number one problem in America is our sick economy, and this number one problem was not helped by a vote for the incumbent, and you can understand how conservatives feel on a morning like this.

Consider: Obama has proven himself ill-equipped to deal with this number one issue, yet, his supporters voted for him anyway. This is infuriating to the other half of this country, who clearly see that Americans should've prioritized, when it came to choosing a president whose policies could pull us out of this economic mess. The incumbent has a four-year long losing track record of fixing the economy, yet he was chosen over the better objective choice. This makes me think that half the country is obsessed with relative trivialties--or just plain stupid..

To conservatives, the way out of this economic trap, was closed-off by the wrong electoral choice last night. It was the escape route to a healthy nation, that was roadblocked by an electorate that acted in a less than clear-thinking manner, and voted that way. That vote, brought us back to square one, with the nation in the same sickbed in the hospital, as before the election. The sick economy, meaning our very nation, can only get sicker with time, saddled with a continuation of unsustainable, bankrupting policies that rely on mass denial for existence. It is like recognizing that repeated ballpeen hammer strikes to the head are damaging, yet insisting on the continuation of those hammer blows to the skull. Is this screed venting on my part? Yes, but it is also the truth.

The current administration can engage in all the excuse-making it wants in blaming the preceding administration, but the fact is that the current administration has had four years to make a dent in solving the problems. Instead, it concentrated on the expensive programs peripheral to the main problem of unemployment, willfully ignoring the urgency of the primary problem in spasms of ideology. A sincere effort with a lack of success can be forgiven. Ignoring the problem of vast unemployment, while making sidetrips down tangential roads, is not. Plain and simple, this administration was more interested in reaching ideological targets goals, than in directly attacking the most urgent problem: Unemployment. The people who voted for Obama can ignore 23 million Americans out of work, and it may make these people feel good that "their side" won, but it doesn't address the problem of retaining the same team that presided over, and made this problem, worse. Fool us once, shame on them. Fool us twice, shame on us.

The facts are irrefutable The economy has gotten progressively worse in the past four years under Obama's purview. Unemployment hovers around 8%. GDP growth is unacceptably lame. So anemic, it needed and deserved a dose of a new administration. Our debt has gone up to 16 trillion dollars, caused by expensive and unaffordable programs, like the stimulus that did not stimulate, an ObamaCare program that will have economical consequences that most people are blissfully unaware of, so caught up in their own personal issues that prevented them from clearly seeing what the top priority in America is right now---the economy. There are various reasons for this willful ignorance of the obvious.

Ours has become increasingly, an entilement society. People are receiving an unprecendented amount of government assistance (I'm not talking about Medicare or Social Security, because Americans have paid into these programs all their lives, and deserve to receive what they've put in), compared to before. People can rationalize this viral growth of unpaid-for "entitlements" for ideological reasons, but this isn't conducive to recognizing and fixing these problems. If you think that riots like those occuring in Greece, Italy and Spain can't happen here, think again. If we ever reach European-levels of bankruptcy, the only thing that may make us different from European rioters who are protesting the imposition of austerity measures, is the language the rioters are screaming in while they toss Molotov cocktails. A civil society is one that contains and manages its budget, and economy. Without that management, anarchism and riots ensue, which achieve nothing.

America has seen a shift in a self-propagating philospophy due to the handout phenomenon, and this has caused more numbers of Americans voting in their own personal interests---keeping their government giveaways---that have clouded objective judgement. The battle cry is "Give me mine first," then I'll think about the Big Picture regarding what's good for the country. The growth of the numbers of people on welfare and food stamps is staggering, and real. The numbers are there for the seeing.

This in great part, explains how a failed president got to keep his job for another 4 years. Then, there is the inconvenient truth of Obama's record of the last four years. Another big reason that Obama got to keep his job, despite the clear evidence that his policies have made these problems worse, is that the majority of Americans are disengaged (to put it mildly) from current events and what these events mean. It has long been my contention that at least 80% of the people in this country, don't know what's going on. They're so ensconced in their lives, that they are unaware of the danger that our economy is facing, so they're unaware of what their own priority with respect to voting, should be. Most people are uninformed and uninterested. They don't know, and they don't care.

Into this mix, insert all of the lesser concerns that should be on a back burner compared to the economy---immigration, gay marriage, receiving benefits, free contraception, you name it. These should take a back seat to the economy, because if we slip into depression-levels, than all the other concerns won't matter much. If we stay on our current trajectory of outrageous spending, then we'll be in the same sinking boat as the Greeks. If we can't control the spending in our house, then our house will fall as certainly as the House of Greece, the House of Spain and the House of Italy are falling. Look to Europe to see our immediate future. It's not a pretty or encouraging sight.

This morning, the day after Romney lost the election, is the day after America lost its best chance to begin to solve these grave problems. After four years of Obama's refusing to work with his own party in congress in a concerted effort to improve our sitiuation, what makes people believe that he will meet with and work with the loyal opposition across the aisle? He is truly clueless about how to effectively govern. Aside from a lack of competence on his part, there are also very real personality deficiencies that prevent him from working well with others to solve problems.

The evidence is clear. Whatever Obama's supporters think of him personally, the last four years have proven Obama to be an arrogant loner, who doesn't like people, and who won't work with people. Inside Washington, his disdain for meeting with others is legendary. It's okay for a biker to be a loner. I'm a loner. It's not okay for a president to be a loner, because a president's job entails working with others in government for the best interests of the country. That's a prerequisite for the position.

At times like these, I wish I could be ignorant like the blissfully unaware 80% of this country that doesn't know what's going on. Then I wouldn't know and wouldn't care. However, I can't do this. Denial would be the easy way out. I could've blissfully re-hired Obama for his position, with nary an afterthought regarding consequences. Since I can't, I'll use what's worked for me all my life.

At times like these, I'll fall back on what I've always believed in, and that is My Harley. My Harley is a lifesaver, and a saver of a biker's sanity. Being a biker is a way of believing that most bikers began very early in life. That was the case with me. When all else fails, My Harley has always been there for me, in a physical sense, and in an emotional, philosophical sense. I grew up as an agnostic, so you could say that my Harley is a sort of religion. If a religion's role is to provide solace and peace, then being a biker is belonging to the Congregation of the Biker Subculture.

Photo by Genghis

MY HARLEY: An oasis of peace and serenity.

I seek My Harley like some people seek God. It is my Harley-Davidson that has always sustained me, given me my daily peace. It has been so since forty years ago. The sound of My Harley, or any Harley for that matter, sounds heavenly and full of redemption. The vibrations from a Harley motor transmit to the ground, the supple earth absorbing the musical notes (to us), before generating the vibrations like a gentle earthquake, warming, friendly yet menacing at the same time. It is a sound experience that is uniquely righteous, inspiring in its confident cadence, slighlty off, always in tune. It is the Voice Of God emanating from straight pipes. It's the smell of angels from hot 60 weight oil. The punching of the pistons is the flapping of angels' wings.

The righteousness of a Harley-Davidson, her very presence and uplifting nature, never fail to arouse in me, the deepest feelings of connection to a higher plane. This elevated plane seems special, like a secret place that is unattainable to non-bikers. I discovered this early on. My Fever started early, it's virulence sustained over decades. It is a Rapture of sorts, lifting bikers up, as others stay grounded. It is not the End Of Days, but the end of depression, the Harley Ride being a pastoral remedy for what ails.

We ride because We Are. We Are because We Believe. We Believe, because Harleys are our religion.

Photo by Genghis

FORTY YEARS AGO: Joined the Church of Harley.

My slow induction into the Church of Harley, began innocently enough in the mid-1960s. I was already (and continue to be) a car guy, fully immersed in the love of Vettes. This love of cars was a religion unto itself, one that began in my preadolescent years. It seemed like a logical leap to appreciate motorcycles, as I was already in love with 4 wheels. Bikes were two wheels less, but enticing in an exciting way that was far different than with cars. The chance to be out in the open air, feet gliding mere inches from the highway blacktop, the sound of a Harley motor thrumming up though through my chassis, seemed irresistable. It is more a visceral an experience than with a car.

The Beginning of my involvement in the Church of Harley started small, but ended up big. A couple of friends in Jackson Heights in Queens and I, simultneously got interested in motorcycles. Their tastes ran to Brit bikes like the BSA Lightning. Mine, influenced by older friends who rode Harleys and who were part of the Queens biker culture, steered me mentally to Harley-Davidsons. I was absorbed by Harley-Davidsons, as if by osmosis. It was like joining The Borg. Resistance was indeed, futile. It seemed like an inevitable pairing, My Harley and me. By the time I turned 21, there was distinct tug toward a motorcycle. Ultimately at the age of 21, I was forced to sell my Vette to afford the bread for a bike.

Photo by Genghis

BIKER CULTURE IN MANHATTAN: Non-existent in the '50s.

Just an aside: I recently had a conversation with a guy my age, who was born and raised in Manhattan. I described the "bike and car culture" in Queens that I grew up with, to him. He had no idea what I was talking about. Before the East Village became a focal point of counterculturism that drew bikers and hippies in the late '60s, Manhattan was devoid of any motor culture, compared to Queens. It was the bohemian attraction of the East Village that brought bikers together there, that brought true biker culture to Manhattan. Bikers and beat types always had an affinity for each other, another example being Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco.

In Queens, there was no intermingling of biker culture with beat or hip culture. In Queens, we were pure greasers. Attitudes in Queens were far from cosmopolitan. A Queens biker riding into Manhattan in the '50s and early '60s, might've seemed as foreign as a biker from small-town Arkansas. Overall values in Queens of that era, were not much different than values in the deep south. Queens is like a small town, insulated and culturally apart from "The City," (people of the outer boroughs of New York City---Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Staten Island---refer to Manahttan as The City). In this respect, individual neighborhoods in Queens for all intents and purposes, could be hundreds of miles from Manhattan. Queens had a legendary street dragracing scene, that revolved around "Connecting Highway," that was historic. Google "Connecting Highway" and you'll see what I mean.

Photo by Genghis

TICKET TO RIDE: Admission ticket to the Church of Harley.

I bought my ticket to the Church of Harley on May 20, 1968, and it only cost me $1,818.48. This was meager price, since the purchase of my 1968 Harley XLCH "Sally The Bitch," transformed my life and the way I perceived the world around me. I developed a distinctly "us and them" worldview, one that would run through my life for the following 44 years like a defining thread. It defined me, and gave me forever, an identity as a member of the biker subculture. I felt a palbable kinship with other bikers, even ones I'd never met. It was indeed, a religious experience. This enthrallment with the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, and my involvement in the Biker subculture however, wasn't my only religious experience.

At the age of 13 on a sunny sunday morning, I happened to be watching an uplifting TV sermon by the pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. This pastor had a sermon on TV every sunday morning. When the pastor said on his TV show, "Open your heart and let Jesus in if you want to be saved, and you will receive Him...." I got caught up in the moment, and felt receptive. I said to the air around me (I was alone), "Yes, I do want to be saved." All of a sudden, I felt this euphoria, as Something entered me. Something that felt otherworldly. My entire body was tingling and vibrating, like a living tuning fork.

Although I've been an agnostic all my life, I had to admit that this experience was real. As to what it meant and what caused it, I can't say for sure. Was it the religious event, or was it self-induced. I don't know. I just accept that it happened and accept it on face value. My doubts over the years about the existence of God, have not diminished the power of that event in my memory.

The experience of riding My Harley as always seemed superreal and significant, perhaps reilgious in its righteousness. . Also real, is what my Harley has meant to me. My Harley sustained me through a painful breakup with my ex-wife. My Harley has sustained me in measurably emotional ways throughout my life, no matter what strife and stress I was undergoing. My Harley was there when I worried about having enough money for rent to put over my family's heads, and for food for the dinner table.

Through this morass of poor times, I never once considered selling My Harley for a quick infusion of cash, because I realized that the relatively minor amount of money she would bring, would be offset by the tremendous loss of emotional support I got from my Harley. I might as well have cut off one my arms, so severe would be the loss.

This analogy, is not farfetched. It is not irrelevant, because to a biker, his Harley is a part of him. The bike is an integral part of the biker's identity. It is not "role-playing." The BIke is virtually a part of a biker, like his limbs or organs. The loss of a biker's Harley, would cause a small death, an ischemia of the soul. Never let that happen.

This is what bikers have to remember. That to us, our Harleys mean more than far more than vehicular transport. More to us than other people who come into, and just as abruptly leave our lives. These people may mean very much to us, but we don't have control over the whims of other people. What we can control, is our relationships with our Harleys. At times like the day after America blew its best chance to fix our severest problems by reelecting a president who has proven himself to be a failure. At least to those who didn't hide in a shroud of denial, victims of a cult or personality that have nothing to do with the ability to do a job. I have my Harley. God bless my Harley-Davidson for solace. Later.