Friday, July 7, 2017

Old (As In "Old") Friends



My next newspaper column. A certain amount of esoterica, since only readers of the local paper will know Larry. We did this once before and readers liked it. They miss him; especially the ones that hate my stuff.
Well, here we are again, Sid. A flaming “liberal” and a gun-toting, NRA Life Member, “conservative,” together again in The Herald because editor Jon Bauer saw our recent conversation on Facebook. And, yes, not only do I read you in The Herald, but I also follow your Facebook posts and your blog.

I also enjoy sitting down with you for coffee. You see, as friends, I both want, and like, to hear your views in order to check my own thinking. The fact that we may differ doesn’t matter because I know that we can still civilly listen to each other, take the time to digest what’s said and, then, respond knowing that the thoughts presented will not be treated with disdain or, worse, contempt and vitriol.

As you know, I don’t “do” politics because of the polarization that now dominates this arena. These days, it seems that the instant many people detect positions that are at odds with theirs, they lump you into the “enemy” camp and start lobbing verbal bombs. No longer is there a “neutral ground” upon which to meet and simply explore ideas and beliefs. And we, as a society, are definitely the worse for that.

I’ll add that there are other reasons I count you as a friend. We’re both granddads who are fully involved in the “spoiling” role that that title requires of us. You like cars. You served and were wounded in Viet Nam. Too, you enjoy the summer sausage I make from the deer I “slaughter” annually.

Still, despite differing views, we can sit, talk, and joke with each other. Makes you wonder who it is that wants this country polarized and, more importantly, why. I think we could identify the “who” were we to “Follow the money.” The “why” by “Divide and conquer.”

You’re right, Larry. The fact is that as human-Americans, dads, grandpas, indulgers in a sip once in a while, we, like everyone else, have much more in common than what divides us. We’re old enough to remember when even political discussions could be had among friends, which might be why we still manage. I long for those days, and, despite my inability to resist putting it too strongly in my writing, it’s fundamental to why I keep at it: to point out the craziness that’s replaced reasonableness. I acknowledge it’s sort of self-defeating to yell and scream about how we’ve come to yell and scream at each other (present company excepted), but it’s hard not to.

I’d say it started with Newt Gingrich when he adopted his scorched earth policy as Speaker, and hit its lowest point when Rs got together, literally on the day of Obama’s inauguration, to plan how to block everything he did, no matter how good it might be for America. The days of comity are long gone, but the blame isn’t equal. Plus, I don’t think there’s even been an attack on science and expertise like we’re now seeing. It makes me crazy. And frightened. So I shout it out.

I don’t mean to let any felines out of bagatory confinement here, Larry, but you’re the kind of conservative I grew up around: thoughtful, skeptical, curious, not inclined to suffer fools, or vote for them. I’d like to think those are traits we have in common, as neither political party has exclusive claim to them.

And you’re right, of course: while “the people” fight among themselves and fail to listen to each other, thinking our opinions matter, those who keep us at each other’s throats are piling up the cash.

Sid, I’m not a “registered” anything, thus who started this “scorched earth” hell doesn’t matter to me. Each side has often behaved hypocritically and even despicably in the years since I first started voting. I just want an end to it all. Too, my beliefs don’t shoehorn into any party and can be best summarized as “I’ll only support a candidate whose loyalty, first and foremost, is to the country and not to a certain party.” This past election, Jim Webb received my write-in vote for President as did James Mattis for VP. Thus, I think both parties would view me as an unwanted pain in the butt.

Probably. Not me, though. In fact, I think if they’d let us, we could solve it all. But let’s get to the important stuff: that deer sausage you make. It’s darn fine sausage. You and I have gone to the shooting range together. I think I impressed you with a shot or two. I’d enjoy a hunt, too, up to a point. I’d not be the one to pull the trigger, but I’d help you carry the load back to your truck. Not gonna kill. Happy to eat.

Sid, your shooting did, in fact, impress the hell out of me. But, then again, my rifle was in the hands of a surgeon and, that, as they say, puts an end to that discussion.

Okay, then: as grandfathers of adorable kids who happen to have preexisting conditions, maybe I can suck you further into quasi-politics: think universal single-payer healthcare ought to be back in the mix?

In a word, “Yep.” (Try to pick yourself up from the floor.) In any discussion of tough problems, every possible solution should be on the table. Too, that “Yep” only comes with an iron-clad agreement that whatever mish-mashed, hodge-podged, load of doggerel comes from those we call “our representatives,” they themselves will be subject to whatever fresh new hell they inflict upon us.
Agreed. And it applies to lots of other stuff they produce that affects others but not them. Of course, among other things, they’d have to grow uteri or know what hunger feels like. (Ha. I said that without space for you to respond). Thanks, Larry. Next round of coffee is on me.

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