Years ago, a dear liberal friend of mine since childhood took me to lunch for the express purpose of me explaining conservatism. She finally put two-&-two together that all her closest friends, including me, were, if not Republican, then conservative. Her words: She admired their kindness, generosity, integrity, pragmatism and would without blinking place her life and the lives of children and family in their hands — over nearly all of her liberal friends. And yet, she just knew these silent majority/MAGA supporters were violent and evil.
She couldn’t reconcile her perceptions with reality.
Good lunch. Had the steak sandwich, Coke not Pepsi. The conversation was light and jovial. Questions were asked. Conservatism is a pretty easy concept, essentially based on Judeo-Christian, Buddhist and most spiritual tenets of self-responsibility, self-reliance, honesty, kindness, intelligence, pragmatism and being a good soul. I tried not to deal in platitudes and offered my own experience, including the frustrations of dealing with liberalism.
Like her, I had many friends on the opposite side. I often avoided political conversations with the Left because it ended up with me explaining why it’s not a good idea to use WD-40 to coat a frying pan before cooking eggs.
I mentioned that having a liberal friend was like having a wonderful child, something both of us could appreciate.
“The kid’s sweet, a Brainiac, funny, delightful to be around, lovable,” I said. “But, semester after semester, year after year, she comes home with a report card with six ‘A’s’ and one ‘F.’ You’re delighted about the ‘A’s,’ but completely dumbfounded by that single, resonant and consistent thud of that one, consistent failing grade.”
Why can’t your lovely child use the same tools she used to get an ‘A’ in South Carolina History that she keeps getting an ‘F’ in North Carolina History? Bonus? I warned that here comes another annoying metaphor. Your kid doesn’t even acknowledge she got the glaring ‘F’ and has a particularly annoying response.
I said, “It’s like your teenager comes home with your car completely wrecked. You’re certainly glad that, unlike the car, the offspring is scratchless. But, what the heck happened? Your kid’s response? It’s a dismissive, smug chuckle about how stupid I am because the car isn’t actually wrecked because it’s — like everybody knows — not a car but rather, a ‘vehicle.’ Then they walk away, shaking their head at what a knucklehead I am for not knowing the difference.”
And there, in the driveway, sits the smoldering, dented, wrecked — ahem — vehicle.
There were moments during the lunch where hopeful rays of sunlight peeked through. She was a bona fide good and wise mother. She was a darn good soul who worked hard and tirelessly on herself and had amazing insight to the foibles of friends and family, but, more importantly, her own fatal flaws. Indeed, her own belief system was entirely conservative. Fiscal responsibility. Anti-abortion. Smaller government. The sanctity of the individual. Anti-authoritarianism. A zero tolerance to bullying and thuggery. Law and order, with a healthy dose of compassion, forgiveness and mercy.
Yet, her beliefs, the way she lived her life, were 180 degrees opposite the way she talked and voted. No. Make that 1,800 degrees opposite because her voting record was so crazy-asterisk radical it took 10 full running circles just to get to the opposite direction.
She could indulge in deep, soul-searching, truly hard introspections about herself, even her children and husband. Words were words and could be twisted and tweaked. But in the end, it’s behavior — behavior — that defines who a person or institution truly is. Knowing her as well as I did, she would eventually find right and freeing answers.
Except when it came to politics.
Back in the day, the differences between Republican and Democrat were minute, like describing the taste between French vanilla ice cream and Semi-French vanilla ice cream. Certainly, the GOP is hardly free of mooncalves, crooks and mountebanks. But with increasing speed, the Democratic Party has morphed into a collection of lunatics, imbeciles, incompetents, private-part waggers, liars, bullies, crooks and perverts that stretches into the horizon. Today, they work actively in blatant destruction. This isn’t name-calling. It’s an accurate description of their public behavior. Reluctantly, she agreed. Again, this was brought up years ago before the status of liberalism had sunk to vile levels.
That lunch seemed to be so uncomfortable for her but one of her wonderful qualities is that she is both courageous and a hero. She pressed on. More and more, the phantasmagorical thinking seeped to the surface with a flurry of “What abouts…?”
What about the hole in the ozone? (Remember that?) Acid rain? Racism?
I asked of all the conservative friends she cherished, how many were racists? Of all the people — the white people — she knew, how many were racists? She really didn’t want to answer, but eventually did. Despite the occasional inappropriate remark, really, the answer was zero. There were no secret Wednesday meetings in the bunker under the bowling alley to discuss how we could fix the wagons of Those Black People. I asked is there not a skin pigment and all its hues that doesn’t contain the spectrum of saints to jackasses? I asked, of all the trillions of dollars thrown at dubious programs, are we better off?
I haven’t spoken with my friend in a few years. We exchange the rare email, but I sense it’s more of a pretext of not a 50-year relationship, but the memory of one. Obviously, one wonders — why? How do you misplace a good friend?
Another dear friend from another time had the answer, for that and other hard questions. Her answer seems so silly, so old-fashioned and implausible in our high-tech, immoral age. Yet, I still see it with a Technicolor pop of clarity and it chills me to the bone:
“The devil doesn’t care what you’re upset about — just that you’re upset…”
John Boston has been named best newspaper columnist in Los Angeles, California and America, several times. Visit his bookstore at johnbostonbooks.com.