This may come as a shock to my readers who are not related to me or don’t know my family, but I come from a long line of liberals. And, I don’t mean just my parents and grandparents. I mean aunts, uncles, 2nd cousins, 3rd cousins once removed – you name it. Even long-time family friends. Pretty much everyone I know is floating out there in the leftosphere. As you may have noticed from my writing, I am, um, how shall we put it….conservative. I’m the black sheep.
How did this happen you ask? Well, I’ve been asked that many times. After all, I was raised a good little liberal boy. As a 45th birthday gift to my father and just 71 days after my 18th birthday made me a legal voter, I cast a vote for the president who, until very recently, bore the title of “worst president of our age” – the Georgia peanut farmer. As an aside, one thing I do appreciate about President Obama is that he has taken some of the heat off me for that rather embarrassing mistake by being an even worse president.
So, how did I get from voting for Jimmy Carter in 1980 to voting for Ronald Reagan in 1984. Simple – I got a college degree in between and started to understand how the world actually works as opposed to how one might like it to work. I also had a bit of a seminal moment soon after the election in 1980. I was a freshman at Penn and one of my high school friends, David Wages, was a freshman at Haverford. David was, far and away, the smartest kid in my high school class. He ended up with a PhD and MD from the University of Virginia.
I ran into David in Philadelphia soon after the 1980 election and bemoaned the outcome of the presidential election to him. I had been brought up to believe that all liberals were smart and all conservatives were dopey (notice that I refuse to use the words democrat and republican because I find anyone who affiliates with either party to be completely dopey). So, while David and I had never really discussed politics in high school, I naturally assumed that he must be a liberal too. To my shock and dismay, his response to my sad commentary on the election was just the opposite – he was thrilled that Reagan had won. I said something like, “How can you be happy? This is a disaster for the country!” I remember his response like it was yesterday as it probably had more impact on my political beliefs than any single sentence, written or spoken, before or since. He just said, “I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised.” End of discussion. There it was – the smartest person I knew in my age bracket had just said, in essence: “Be open minded. Things are kind of a mess right now. I think this guy has some good ideas about how to fix them. Give him a chance.” The rest, of course, is history. I did keep an open mind, the country did give him a chance, and by 1984, a vote for anyone BUT Reagan was to ignore the incredible turnaround he had pulled off for the country. I never looked back.
But, none of this really has much to do with my point today. Rather, I want to talk about my blog. Wow, that’s really metaphysical – blogging about my blog. Specifically, why do I blog? I guess there are two reasons. One, I enjoy writing. It’s fun and relaxing. Two, when it comes to the weightier topics, I do it so that I can figure out what the hell I’m thinking. But, either way, it is my blog and nobody is required to read it (note: I have made several attempts to have my blog included as mandatory summer reading for all high school students, but haven’t made much progress). So, if you disagree with my point of view so violently that reading my blog becomes painful for you, like getting a root canal or pooper scooping the backyard, I have some very simple advice. Stop reading the damn thing. I promise we will still be friends (or relatives).
As you’ve probably guessed, there’s a story behind this. I was in Maine recently for the wedding of one my cousins. I arrived on a Friday afternoon and Friday evening we attended the rehearsal dessert. Pause: for those of you not yet married, this was a brilliant concept. Do NOT make your close friends and family endure an entire rehearsal dinner with dad and uncle Melvin making incoherent toasts. Go straight to booze and dessert with some skits and funny speeches. It was awesome. Unpause.
Almost immediately after arriving, I ran into a couple we’ve been family friends with for 3 generations. They are as close as you can be to family without sharing any DNA. She said something like, “We read your blog. We don’t always agree with you, but we read it.” I loved her comment. I love that she reads it even though she disagrees. Maybe, like my chat with David Wages, she even keeps an open mind. But, then things took an ugly turn. Her husband brought up some of my blogs on healthcare. He disagreed with my conclusions, which I respect, and began to engage me in debate.
The first party foul was that I had not yet made it to the bar. The bigger party foul was that he got kinda nasty with me, ultimately bringing my father’s terminal illness into the debate to prove that, had my ideas for healthcare reform been implemented 15 years ago, they would have been detrimental to my father in his final days of life. Aside from the fact that his analysis was categorically wrong on the substance, it felt a bit mean-spirited and, frankly, still in need of an apology.
So, if I may, let me make a few points on this blog thingy. First, I love discourse and I love when people comment on my posts, in agreement or disagreement. I welcome direct debate (though never when you have a drink in your hand and I don’t). For example, regular readers will know that my lefty cousin Dan often comments and I often answer his comments and sometimes we take the debate off line. I love this because it forces me to do more research, consider the other side, and either rethink or strengthen my arguments. But, and you knew there was a but coming, you kinda have to pick your spots. Hammering me at a wedding rehearsal dessert may not be the best venue. And, taking it from intellectual discourse to hurtful personal attacks is really not appropriate in any setting. To reiterate my point from a few paragraphs prior, if my writing is so maddening to you that you find your jugular bulging, go log onto MSNBC.com and read something you agree with. I’m not sure it will be as intellectually fun, but I couldn’t handle knowing I caused someone a stroke.
And, here’s my last and most important point. My relationships with family and friends always transcend political and economic discourse. Go back to paragraph 1. I disagree politically and economically at the most fundamental level with some of the people I am the closest to on planet Earth. But, it is the relationship that trumps the politics; never the other way around. So, to those close to me who disagree with me – it’s not because I don’t love you. It’s just because you’re wrong. Please don’t confuse the two.