Thursday, November 03, 2005

Jumper

Dinner with new friends under the stars last night, Bush—and under an outdoor heater: it gets pretty chilly here after dark. One of our new-found friends, when put the question, confessed that, in politics, he was “more on the conservative side.” Which prompted a reaction from the other four of us, who were all “more on the liberal side.” It started out calmly enough, with our friend complaining, with good reason, that we have reached a point where those on the far left and those on the far right are unable to talk to each other any more. My own view was that, while this was true, it seemed to me that those on the right were less open to concession and compromise than those on the left; that there was more hard-line holding on your side of the spectrum, Bush, than on mine.

Alas, we four on the left then started to prove his point, with some frankly far out—and far reaching—conspiracy theories. Well, a conspiracy theory has its own inarguable logic to the theorist, but to the skeptic, it often seems outrageous. And attributing even the Kennedy assassination to your family, Bush—as frankly one of our liberal forces did—was a bit much for our more conservative friend. The discussion grew more heated than any of us had intended at the outset, and ended up with our friend feeling unpleasantly ganged-up upon, and pushed, I think, much further to the right than he would have wanted otherwise to go.

We managed, between us I think, to defuse a situation that threatened to become ugly. And it was interesting, certainly, to watch the process of polarization in which we had so easily become engaged. It’s a process, as I say, that proves our friend’s point—even though he proved mine by being far more intransigeant that us. Well, that was my own view. He was totally unable to see how wrong he was. Of course.

Turns out our friend was one of the walking wounded from the Vietnam war. When I say walking wounded, I mean that he still carries the scars. A parachutist by training, he was stationed in Alaska at a time when close buddies of his were volunteering for service in Vietnam, and coming home in coffins. The feeling that he had let them down, he says, still haunts him, and I had the sense that the passion with which he entered the evening’s political fray was fueled in part by this experience. In the work I do with men, I have met any number of strong, decent, powerful veterans from the period, and few of them have escaped without their scars. Some on the right, Bush. Some definitely on the left. Some angrily supporting your action in Iraq, Some opposing it with equal rage.

So that’s how it was, our last evening in San Miguel. Passionate. And I for one do not regret the passion, on either side. I liked our conservative friend immensely, and could only admire the honesty and integrity of his point of view. I trust that feeling was returned.

See you back States-side, Bush. I’ll be back in touch as soon as I get settled back into the old routine. (I wonder if you’ve noticed that we have an anniversary coming up? We started these diaries on November 8 last year. We’ll have to do something to celebrate!)

1 comment:

PK said...

Your conservative friend didn't get to go. Like all those, in the administration, that deferred, didn't know what those who went knew. That is why he's on Bush's side. Most that went, aren't. Kerry, those many years ago, tried to choose his words very carefully. No one was willing to listen. No, I didn't go. Didn't have to. However, the contraband pictures, and story lines are hard to take. It wasn't their fault, but no one saw that. What they had to do wasn't their fault either. Kerry tried, he tried so hard to tell them what was going on. We have a new young man now. He too has gone to someone. Of all people McCain. But, that's good. Now it's in the news and people are waking up. We'll have the same mental problems with the G.I.'s, but at least we won't have the drugs. And somehow, again, it's not their fault.