Sleeping with the Enemy

Obviously political tempers have ratcheted up here in Tacoma, Washington, so much so that the local paper recently ran a long story on how families can cope with political disagreements.

I told Leslie that was really quite simple. If she were to vote for the Bush administration I would simply file for divorce, citing irreconcilable differences. Unfortunately, I suspect I would find it difficult to even remain good friends with someone who actively supported Bush. I guess I could somehow manage to remain brothers, but even then it would put a strain on the relationship.

Judging from some of the comments I’ve read on blogs, I suspect that the divide that runs through this nation is going to become even wider as this term plays itself out.

The Christian Scientist Monitor has been running an excellent series,
Talking with the Enemy, one that I’ll be spending more time reading in the near future. Here’s a short introduction to the series:

What strikes me most about “Talking With the Enemy,” the series of commentaries starting today, is the tough-mindedness of the writers considering America’s polarization. None of them argues against polarization merely because it is oppositional or rudely expressed. All of them recognize that democracy does not wear dainty white gloves and speak in polite murmurings. Yet, with only one exception in this eight-part series, America’s current state of mind alarms them. They fear that stark and bitter polarization over issues such as the war in Iraq endangers our future – not because the polarization makes people angry, but because it makes us dysfunctional as a society.

Practically speaking, though, I have fairly good skills dealing with people whose ideas and values I tend to disagree with. As a liberal teacher in a conservative school district, I became quite adroit at defusing issues or simply switching the topic when things got too heated up.

At times I found that some of my favorite students were ones who came from very different religious and economic backgrounds than my own. While I still didn’t share many of their fundamental beliefs, I respected, and sometimes envied, their religious faith. These kids often had a strength of character that was admirable, and they lived their values.

I still remember being a little shocked when one of my favorite students from the Apostolic Church told me that she hoped I wouldn’t be disappointed in her because she was not going to go to college, was going to get married young, raise a large number of children, and never have a job outside the home. Nothing could have been further from the truth. Though that certainly wasn’t the lifestyle I chose for my family or for my own daughter, I thought it was fine that she had made her own choice and wanted to abide by it. In fact, I was genuinely impressed with the way most Apostolic families raised their children.

It seems to me that reasonable people can disagree on very fundamental values and still manage to respect other people’s choices, but it is not an easy task, particularly if one person wants to impose his choices on the other person. I’m far too independent to put up with anyone trying to limit my own personal choices, but I’m also far too libertarian to want to limit other’s choices unless it’s clear that in doing so they will hurt others.

No Regrets

No, I’m certainly not happy that George Bush has won this election. While Kerry wasn’t my original choice, for me, at least, he represented a significant improvement over Bush and his cohorts.

No, what I won’t regret are my efforts to do everything I could to try to get Kerry elected. While visiting some regular haunts the other day I was shocked to discover that a number of bloggers who I personally admire refuse to participate in politics, considering it a waste of their time and effort.

Though, I, too, consider politics rather distasteful, I also consider it one of those necessary evils in life, like taking out the garbage or vacuuming the house. Our world would be a much worse place if some people, some very able and very special people, weren’t willing to get involved in politics.

While I managed to avoid doing much more than voting while I was teaching high school, I was disturbed enough by recent trends to get much more personally involved. I wrote political articles regularly for nearly a year even when I would have preferred to write poetry articles, or at least articles on more philosophical topics. I also contributed more money to Kerry and the DNC than I have contributed throughout the rest of my life. I probably should have gone door to door urging people to vote, but I was sure I lived in a city and state that heavily favored Kerry, not Bush, and that knocking on doors wasn’t necessary.

At least by doing what I could to defeat the Bush administration, I won’t have to feel guilty for all the mistakes that this administration will continue to make in the next four years. No, those will be the responsibility of those who chose to vote for this administration and those who did nothing to oppose it
. At least every time another group of soldiers dies in Iraq, I won’t have to feel that I’m responsible for them still being there.

Most importantly, working for the Democratic candidate allows me to feel free to continue to criticize Republican foreign policy, economics, and, most of all, environmental policy. If I’d sat back and simply accepted what was happening without actively opposing it, I don’t think I could feel comfortable attacking thier policies regularly.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I won’t have to give more money to the ACLU and increase my contributions to the many environmental causes I already support. In fact, I’m sure that many of them, like Bin Laden and El Qaeda, will be secretly happy that Bush won because more and more people who are concerned with American freedoms and the environment will end up joining such organizations. Bush is just as much the Sierra Club’s greatest assest as he is El Qaeda’s greatest recruiter.

Give Me a Break

As our country turns to the important task of choosing our next President, I’ve turned to an even more important task, carving Santas for grandchildren. Somehow there’s something far more satisfying in a razor-sharp knife cutting cleanly across the wood grain than pushing elusive words around the page trying to convince hypothetical readers that it’s vital to elect a new President.

My first Santa is the cute little guy on the right, a fairly accurate replica of a Santa I found in a carving book. Perfectionist that I am, though, I was not completely satisfied with my first attempt, and ultimately with the design itself.

Though I like the short, squat little guy, he seemed TOO short to me, and those tilted eyebrows revealed a worried look that might prove as disquieting to impressionable young minds as it already has been for me.

Naturally, I’m not entirely satisfied with my new version, either. Somehow the proportions seem to have become distorted in trying to make him a little taller.

It turns out that each of these little guys seems to have a life of his own, subtle shifts in grain that make each of them far less malleable than you might expect. Of course, that’s also part of the fascination. If they could simply be turned out in identical molds, I’d probably just continue buying store-bought Santas mass-produced in China.

Of course, it’s not entirely fair to compare the two at this point, the little one is about to be liberated so I needed to get a permanent record now. While trying to get Kel’s opinion which version he liked best, he decided that he wanted to keep the little one that was nearly done. And, so he shall.