Legend has it that when Colorado prospector Alferd Packer was convicted for the crime of cannibalism in 1883, District Court Judge Melville Gerry sentenced him thusly: "Stand up, Alferd Packer, you voracious, man-eating SOB. There were seven Democrats in Hindsdale County, and you ate five of 'em."
Not true, but a great story, and one way to show that Americans have always had a tendency to make everything about politics.
I was reminded of that last Tuesday while reading Taffy Brodesser-Akner's feature on Salon.com: "I can't believe my best friend is a Republican." The article is a bit tortured, as Taffy struggles in print to reconcile her genuine affection for Janet, even though Janet totes a gun, drives a big SUV complete with a "REPEAL" Obamacare bumper sticker, and admires Sarah Palin-in short, "stands for all the things I find bad and wrong in the world." How can they be friends? By going home. Their friendship is built around child-rearing, fat-burning (they met in a weight-loss group), laughter, and meals. Lines have broken with the bread; their husbands socialize, and their children, too. At times Ms. Brodesser-Ackner agonizes over her friend's views on, say, defunding Planned Parenthood, but she listens to what the other has to say, marveling that "she believes what she's telling me and she's studied the issues."
Altogether, Janet's friendship makes Taffy a better liberal: "We need friends who differ from us." She chides her liberal friends for intellectual laziness and falling back on talking points (even while falling back on talking points). Sounds a bit patronizing, but I'll take her at her word, and give her credit for finding the individual Republican through a haze of political smog.
The online comments to her piece-almost 200 of them-are a predictable grab bag of vile clichés and violent rhetoric: Republicans are greedy, water-poisoning, child-and-senior-killing, billionaire-enhancing, torture-supporting, barely human fat cats, and anyone associating with them is depraved or deluded. Yeah, whatever. I think-hope-these malevolent hosts give the appearance of being more numerous than they are. My liberal acquaintances (no close friends, unfortunately or not) disagree politely with me, even while I politely believe they are dead wrong. The advantage is mine: I take politics seriously, but politics is not my religion.
"Since all these things are thus to be dissolved," asks Peter (2 Peter 3:11), "what sort of people ought you to be . . . ?" Happy warriors, I'd say-those who are confident of the ultimate outcome, even if the immediate future looks grim, or at least very challenging. Those whose Leader is infallible, whose destiny is assured. As citizens of the United States, politics is our responsibility but not our primary calling. There are times-over a cup of coffee at Panera or at the kids' soccer game-when we can give it a rest.