Beyond politics, we’re more alike than not

I’d been looking forward to publishing the column I’d queued up as my penultimate one. Started right after Michele Bachmann announced she wasn’t running again, it described how perfectly she personifies the ignominious intellectual descent of her party, wondered if she actually believed the crazy stuff she said, or if she just sluiced it out there for the attention. (During her mind-devouring appearance in Egypt recently, straddled by two other avatars of emptiness, it became clear she really is imperviously clueless.) The column also referred to her skittering to the land of nyctophobic fantasy in which the Republican Party has lately pitched its doorless tent. I enjoyed writing that. It ended by saying I’d love to believe her exit foretold a return to reality by her party, but I can’t. For, as Yoda said to Obi-Wan, “There is another.” And another. (Star Wars references: reportedly now passé.)

I won’t indulge myself. Instead, I’ll tell you of meeting the other day with Ed, the man to whose letter I referred in my “bagging it” announcement; who pointed out I was no Charles Krauthammer, while making his preference clear. After my column, he emailed me. Following a pleasant conversation in cyberspace, we met in person, over coffee. What a good guy he is. Charming, funny, engaging, and, despite being 10 years older than me, looking 10 years younger. Or five. Good handshake, too: right in the palm, and firm.

For about two hours, we talked and easily could have gone on much longer. This was no corny sitcom where we ended up agreeing on everything or found out we’d been separated at birth. Fact is, we didn’t agree on much. But in those areas of opposition we contended without a lot of heat, and with recognition that neither of us was entirely right, or entirely wrong; that there was always wiggle-room. (OK, there were issues about which I was entirely right: he thinks the stimulus accomplished nothing and I think it made a big difference. I agreed it fell short, though. Wasn’t enough, ended too soon, included too much tax cut and not enough job programs. Also, he’s skeptical about climate change, but listened when I talked about ocean acidification.)

Ed thought I shouldn’t quit writing the column. He said he mostly disagreed with me, but not always. (I’ll not embarrass him by revealing with what he agreed.) He said if I toned it down a little, it’d be more effective. On that point, we agreed entirely: I’d sort of acknowledged it in my column. I get outraged at the outrageous, too loudly to be persuasive, I know. But sometimes you just have to run into the street and scream until you can’t anymore, especially when it feels like your brains will squirt out your ears if you don’t.

We didn’t talk only politics. Each having a few years on us, there were tales to tell about where we’d been. As human beings, as Americans, we could disagree on everything political and still have more in common than not. Kids. Family. Things we like, and stuff we worry about. So it makes you wonder, doesn’t it: how have our politics gotten so unrecoverably nasty, when people are still people? If it’s been going on for a long time (I’d argue it detonated when Speaker Newt Gingrich decided his only purpose was to destroy Democrats, for perpetual power), it’s gotten exponentially worse since Barack Hussein Obama was elected. And if both parties have had representatives in Congress who are embarrassments to themselves and should be to those that elected them, there’s only one, currently, with legislators babbling insane conspiracies, who reject science while populating the majority of the House Science Committee. People categorically unwilling to compromise (Ed thinks the Affordable Care Act was a no-compromise railroaded deal, since no Republicans voted for it. I think it was the ultimate compromise: an idea born of conservatives that let down liberals who wanted single-payer); itching to crash the economy, uncaring whom it hurts, unconcerned about worldwide repercussions; hissy-fitting if they don’t get their way in yanking health care coverage from tens of millions of people, just as they’ve voted to do with food for the hungry.

So we don’t agree. But we talked respectfully and enjoyed each other’s company, and I’d bet that if people like us were in charge, we could find that workable, elusive middle ground. Too bad we’re not. Right, Ed?

Sid Schwab lives in Everett. Send emails to columnsid@gmail.com.

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