Copyright © 2008 Henrietta W. Hay
Civility and Politics
July 18, 2008
I did a Republican thing last week. My mother would be so proud. (She was a dyed in the wool Republican.)
President Bush told me to spend the $300 he sent me, and I did it. Somehow, I doubt that my 300 bucks will save the economy, but I am a good citizen and I tried.
Why should I joke about cooperating with a Republican? Because joking about politics isn't done much any more. That's the problem.
I deplore the serious political pulling apart that has divided our country. We have become so split that political opponents can barely speak to each other.
"Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed." Mao Zedong, founder of the People's Republic of China, wrote that way back in 1965. He was an expert in both, and it is still true today.
Of course there is nothing new about it. Our country is built on freedom of thought and speech. And with nearly 305 million brains wandering around, disagreement is hardly surprising. Politicians have been known to settle arguments with pistols. But it is different this election season.
Today something new has been added - full time political television reporting.
Since I do not see or hear very well, the news stations have become my TV window. The political commentators speak quite clearly, and usually loudly. Actually, they yell a lot.
There are some major exceptions, but most of the talking heads are biased and have no problem slanting their "news."
They have tremendous influence because they are heard in every part of the country, by rich and poor and all of us in between.
Fortunately, the animosity between the parties over the issues does not always reach down to individuals.
It is a real treat to find a political opposite with whom I can discourse without danger of physical harm.
Here in the Commons we discuss politics only with great care, but I do have one friend here whom I call my favorite Republican. I won't change her mind, and she won't change mine, but we have a lot of fun and nobody gets mad.
And then there is the coffee club. Once a week a group of women friends and I have morning coffee out at Doodles. We have been together for a lot of years. We sit at a round table.
In the same coffee shop at the same time there is a group of men also having coffee. They have been sharing morning coffee for some 30 years.
If there were a line down the middle of the floor of the coffee shop, their table would be on the right of the line and ours on the left. They are all Republicans and we are all Democrats.
But since there is no line, we have created a very interesting, entertaining and unusual, political community. It breaks two barriers, the gender and the political.
The great thing is that we tease and joke without getting defensive and we like and respect each other.
They love to tell us how wrong we are, and I love to tell them how far off base they are. Occasionally we do find a common ground, but there aren't too many.
The common denominator that got these two very different groups together was tolerance and humor - and good coffee.
Sometimes I wonder whether it may be the only friendly political dialog anywhere in the country.
I did a Republican thing. I may not repeat it soon, but it didn't hurt a bit.