Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Had coffee with a guy with whom I'd been corresponding for a long time, off and on, but hadn't actually met. He comes at things from the right, more or less, and I, of course, do so from the left. He's a thoughtful man, curious, has had an interesting life. Like me, he's been married forty years, served in Vietnam, life has had its ups and downs.
My writings notwithstanding, I've had a number of conservative friends over the years; have a couple in my family. My favorite, maybe, died unexpectedly a few years ago, way too young. I still miss our spirited talks in the doctors' lounge, away from which people tended to slink as our voices rose (never in anger, I add.) Another tossed me overboard like fishguts when he couldn't convince me President Obama is a Muslim terrorist sent here to destroy us.
Talking with Larry was different. Maybe it's aging; maybe it's the fact that, when face to face, people tend to be more civil than in cyberspace. In any case, it struck me that when people are thoughtful, open-minded, a little skeptical, the spaces between them get smaller and smaller. It's not hard to agree that things are seriously amiss. It's not even too hard to recognize what the problems are, and that the political climate in which we find ourselves is not, to say the least, conducive to problem-solving. Suddenly, labels like liberal and conservative lose what little meaning they've retained in the slide toward oblivion. It's just two people talking about stuff, finding much on which to agree. The distinctions aren't important, if they exist at all.
In other words, this blog, the stuff I write, the comments I get, reflect the worst of things, the prevalent and reflexive polarity that serves no purpose. The putdowns. The need to disparage for no damn real reason, and to no useful effect. I'm as guilty of it as anyone -- although I try to be fact-based. I don't make shit up, and my -- whatever it is, anger? -- is about the lack of substance, the political falsehoods, the deliberate deceptions that, yes, come mainly from the right and from its propaganda machine. The end of coffee-talk.
Because in my heart I yearn for the sort of discourse that can be had from different sides in a coffee shop, and I know that it's possible for people of good will -- politicians, even -- to find ways to communicate and to see ways forward. Mainly, I know that it's become practically impossible; it's entirely absent from our political stage, and among the people who've chosen sides for reasons they probably can't fully explain. Answers are there. Interest in finding them is not, not in Washington, not on the airwaves.
That's why I write, cry in the wilderness. Point out the lies, the stupidity, the vacuity. It's because I know there's something better, and its absence drives me crazy. It's killing us, and the axe-murderers are all around, and they don't care. Some of them even sometimes drop by here, smirking, thinking they're proving some point or other, scoring points in a game that's as far from the point as it could be. Neither realizing, recognizing, or caring.
Thanks for the coffee, Larry. It's both reassuring and depressing, but let's do it again.