Start of a beautiful friendship
It happened again this morning with the same annoying regularity as the goats slipping out to strip our maple saplings: another one of those frenzied letters to the editor in The Union raging against those anti-God, anti-America, gay-marrying, flag-burning liberals, a letter so soaked with spit and venom I imagine it has to be blown dry and spritzed with bleach before handling.
There are two things immediately apparent about these letters: They’re written by folks not getting nearly enough fiber … and the authors obviously don’t actually know any liberals. How else could they come up these garish cartoon caricatures? God haters? Traitors? Pornographers? Compulsive over-tippers? (OK, that last one’s probably accurate.) Certainly not by actual experience. I suspect what little they do know they’ve been spoon-fed by the towering geniuses at Fox News or maybe Rush.
Surprising? Well, not so much. According to a recent series of reports, not since 1976 have Americans been more politically segregated. The left and right sift into their own little cloistered communities; the left gather on Emeryville sidewalks to debate the virtues of hemp while the right hunches over a blood-rare steak and a Guns & Ammo in the clubhouse at Lake of the Pines. They meet only while changing lanes on northbound 49.
But there’s a nasty little side effect of this political self-segregation. Deprived of the balancing influence of contrary opinion, their worlds shrink. Their views harden as they elbow past one another to the farthest frontiers of the political spectrum. Ideas are rooted not on experience and thoughtful debate but on misguided stereotypes fueled by controversy-starved media and radio and television motor-mouths. Less reasoned and nuanced, more “whacko” and “feminazi.”
And that’s, I think, where the writers of these harsh, vitriolic letters are coming from. If some of the folks who write these nasty letters actually knew a live, breathing liberal, bleeding heart and all, they wouldn’t believe – much less commit to writing – such nonsense.
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So here’s my idea for those of you who write these letters or just nod vigorously while reading them: I want to be your honorary liberal friend.
Why not? I’m a liberal, friendly as hell, and frankly, based on the tone of your writing I’d guess you can use as many friends as you can get, liberal or not. Sound crazy? Then you haven’t considered the upside.
First, as an honorary friend, there’s no obligation to send a Christmas card or remember my birthday or send a gift (Aug. 16, in case you must). And, unlike your other friends, I’ll never ask to borrow your pickup to move a refrigerator.
Plus, you’ll be the most fascinating guest at the annual Republican Barbecue. Yes! When you tell others one of your best friends is a liberal, it’s like announcing you spent a year living with the Masai. Plus, no matter how caustic or unfounded your assertions about liberals are, you can always wave off doubters with “I should know, some Ð well, one Ð of my best friends is a liberal!”
OK, there is one catch. As your new, honorary liberal friend, there are some things you may no longer do.
You may not call me “godless” because I don’t want the schools to force my children into state-sponsored prayer drills. You may not accuse me of “coddling criminals” because I think drug abuse is a public health problem that won’t be cured by a $22,000 per year prison cell. You may not call me a “terrorist sympathizer” because I prefer a foreign policy that relies more on mediating conflict and aiding the world’s poor than on making kissy-face with brutal dictators and scattering cluster bombs. And you may not call me “baby killer” because I believe a difficult decision like abortion is ultimately between a woman and her doctor, and should not include the fine people who brought you the DMV and Indian casinos.
I could go on, but you get my point. This is not how friends talk to, and about, friends.
So from this day forward, promise me when you speak of those with whom you disagree you’ll be honest, fair, and generous in spirit. I promise to do the same.
After all, we’re friends now, right?
Bill Rolland is a resident of southern Nevada County, and is a pretty good corporate writer but not so good at fixing plumbing. More about Bill Rolland is at http://www.billrolland.com.
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