Dear Everyone,

Hello. I am an earth ball, a giant inflatable ball also known as a cage ball. I live in the suburbs of Baltimore, Maryland, and I am used as a recreational aid on rainy days.

I have of late been feeling very depressed. It began with a prick. No, not the radio and television talk-show host Sean Hannity. That is just a little joke I made because “prick” is a word that humans use to describe other humans who are self-righteous or unreasonable. The prick to which I am referring was a small puncture mark that appeared one day on … well, I cannot say this in a delicate manner. It appeared on me. Someone must have come in when I was sleeping and poked a hole in me. Then, on a stormy Tuesday, I was approached by Coach Parker, who meant to use me for a game in which I am kept aloft by a circle of children. “This thing has a hole in it,” he said.

Coach Williams, who has only worked here since the beginning of the year, came over and looked. “Yeah,” he said. Coach Williams is a man of few words, unless he is telling jokes, which he does frequently. Then, to test Coach Parker’s hypothesis, he poked me with a finger. The tip sank a full inch into my being. I have never felt anything so strange: it was a violation, a touch of death, and at the same time a confirmation of life, because it showed me what it felt like in its absence.

They rushed me to the hospital. That is what I call the trainers’ room that sits between Coach Parker’s office and Coach Williams’s office. They upended me and prodded me and then eventually put a patch on the wound. I lay there, upside down, and listened to them speak about me as if I were not living, or would not live long. Coach Parker talked about the way in which I was attacked. Coach Williams nodded. I wondered if they would begin an investigation to locate the perpetrator. Later that evening, when I was holding air and could think more clearly, it came clear to me that they were not saying attack at all, but rather “a tack.” They thought that I had rolled over a tack. A suicide attempt? Is that what they thought of me? I was deflated, but not to that degree.

The next morning, they rolled me into Coach Parker’s office. Coach Parker had Sean Hannity’s show on, as he usually does. Sean Hannity has been discussing Barack Obama’s pastor. I explained that wrong. He has been discussing Barack Obama’s pastor nonstop. Initially, this was exciting, because Coach Williams is black. (He looks kind of brownish to me, but “black” is what they say, just like they say “white” for people who are orangey-pinkish.) Coach Williams, who handles strength training and wrestling—Coach Parker is in charge of varsity basketball and volleyball—has been a big supporter of Barack Obama, who is running for president of the United States. When Sean Hannity started to criticize Barack Obama, Coach Williams grew angry. Barack Obama has been a source of great emotion for Coach Williams. Once, when he was in here alone late at night, he pumped his fist in the air. “Can you believe it?” he said to himself. “A black president!” He was not smiling, which was the strange thing. He was dead serious and his eyes were filled with something I did not understand. Excitement? Trepidation? A glimpse into an uneasy future?

When Barack Obama first decided to run for president, Coach Williams and Coach Parker joked that if he won the election, he had better be sworn in while wearing a bulletproof vest. Coach Williams said that if a “white” man was smart he would always pick a “black” man to be his running mate, because it’s the best life-insurance policy in the world. That was before. But now, after two weeks of Sean Hannity discussing Barack Obama and his pastor nonstop, Coach Williams does not grow excited. His face is grim. Also, he does not joke about assassination, because Barack Obama is being assassinated. He is being character-assassinated.

As I understand it, Barack Obama, for many years, attended Trinity United, a Chicago church whose pastor, Jeremiah Wright, sometimes made statements that were not entirely reasonable. I will not review all of the statements here, but I will select a few. One of them was about AIDS and how it was created by the government to control the black community. One of them was about the foreign policy of the United States and how aggression throughout the world might be reflected back upon America. One of them was about earth balls. No, that last is not true. It would be interesting if it were true, though, because then I could comment upon it intelligently. The other ones seem like nonsense to me, but it is highly possible that there is a sophisticated set of signals, implications, ironies, pressures, and vents guiding Pastor Wright and his relationship to his congregation. Maybe not. Maybe he is just mouthing off, as Coach Williams likes to say about the kids. But what exactly does the Reverend Jeremiah Wright have to do with Barack Obama?

Sean Hannity claims that it has everything to do with him, since Barack Obama has been a congregant in Jeremiah Wright’s church for the last 20 years, and because of that, he (Barack Obama) must certainly share his (Jeremiah Wright’s) views. This seems like an incorrect assumption, but it also seems as though it is easily clarified. Ask this question: “Senator Obama, do you agree entirely with your former pastor, Jeremiah Wright, or do you hold your own views that at some points intersect with his and at other points diverge from his?”

Senator Obama’s answer: “I do not agree entirely with him. In some ways I do agree with him, but I am also a different man. He is an evangelical whose job requires him to identify and monumentalize sin. I am not. He is older and experienced great prejudice throughout his formative years. I did not. He is a pulpit preacher. I am a politician seeking public office.”

Obama has not given this answer. Not exactly. But he did give a lengthy speech that included many versions of this answer, as well as a broader point about the importance of confronting race so that race can one day be transcended. So, no more talk about Pastor Wright, right? No. Sean Hannity continues to roll out other black men with whom he can frighten his viewers. One of them is Louis Farrakhan. One of them is Malik Shabazz. One of them is James T. Meeks, an Illinois state senator and a reverend. These men have made objectionable statements and they have some connection, usually tenuous, to Barack Obama. It would be like if another earth ball from the factory where I was made expressed a desire to roll over a baby chick and murder it. Would you assume that I was murderous as well? I will give one example of Sean Hannity’s reasoning that I remember clearly because it seems, as Coach Parker would say, “crazier than a shithouse rat”:

Meeks once used the n-word in a sermon. Meeks has since apologized for that remark and said that he’ll never use that kind of language again, but last year, during the Don Imus controversy, Obama told ABC News that if someone on his staff used that kind of language he would fire them. Meeks may not be a member of Obama’s staff, but he is certainly a vocal supporter.

Let’s review. Meeks, who is not Obama, made a remark and then apologized for it. Meeks, who is not on Obama’s staff, was not fired, despite the fact that Obama said he would fire someone on his staff who made a remark like that. See what a liar Obama is! He didn’t do something he said he would to someone who doesn’t qualify for having that thing done to him, and consequently he must be lumped together with that man! There is not only an absence of logic here but an absence of humanity. It is either the work of an imbecile or the work of a devil. I know sometimes there are “black” men who call “white” men devils. That is not what I am saying here. I am saying that independent of color, Sean Hannity is a devil. I am not even an Obama supporter, necessarily. Earth balls can’t vote, for starters, and I kind of liked John Edwards. But I feel that this tarring by association is beyond the pale. If I have accidentally said something clever about race, I apologize. Once, in the locker room, a kid left a book behind. I think it was called Paradife Loft. It was open to a page that seemed to be about how a proud and haughty character was brought down by his own evil:

“So having said, a while he stood, expecting
Their universal shout, and high applause,
To fill his ear; when, contrary, he hears
On all sides, from innumerable tongues,
A dismal universal hiss, the sound
Of public scorn; he wondered, but not long
Had leisure, wondering at himself now more,
His visage drawn he felt to sharp and spare;
His arms clung to his ribs; his legs entwining
Each other, till supplanted down he fell
A monstrous serpent on his belly prone.”
That reminds me of Sean Hannity.

Let’s change the subject. I feel myself becoming deflated again, as if attacked.

Yesterday, Coach Williams and Coach Parker were sitting in the locker room. “Here’s a joke,” Coach Williams said. "These two Italian guys get on a bus. They are loud and boisterous. ‘First Emma comes and then I come,’ the first man says. ‘Then with two asses. Then I come again, and then two asses again. Then I come, pee twice, then I come again.’ The woman behind them speaks up. ‘Excuse me,’ she says. ‘I need to tell you that you are incredibly rude and disrespectful. There is no call for that kind of language on a public bus.’ The first man looks at her with confusion. ’I’m-a very sorry-a, lady. I was-a just-a telling my friend-a how to spell “Mississippi.”’"

Coach Parker laughed. Coach Williams laughed. “Mississippi,” Coach Williams said. I appreciate the joke, but I don’t completely understand it. What is coming? Earth balls cannot feel sexual pleasure. We can, however, feel rage and sadness and exhaustion.

Earth Ball