So, here's a thing: I recently discovered (yesterday, as a matter of fact) that a long-standing professional acquaintance, who has over the ten years I have known her become a real friend, is a--gasp! political conservative. And I mean the real thing--thinks Romney is a sincere, truth-telling politician, that Obama is a far-left liberal who lies almost as easily as he breathes, and has never tried to work with the other side.
Now, normally, when my conservative friends have been known to me as such for as long as I have known them or just about that long (you know who you are!), we've already made allowances for each other, and accepted each other dafka. But discovering this ten years into a relationship which has come to be based on mutual respect for each other's intellect, acumen, and integrity--well, it pulls you short, no?
My friend told me that her son has criticized both parties as perceiving the other in caricature--for seeing each other i a way that is fundamentally unfair. Se said that I sounded to her as if I was giving liberal talking points, and that she suspected that she sounded like Fox News talking points to her (she was right).
I replied that in out busy lives, and in casual conversation, we couldn't bring the level of complexity to casual debate that we brought to more extended, professional discussions, with a resultant loss of depth. We sound like talking points, I suggested, because that's all we had time to express to each other.
And less than a month before an important and heated election? Our blood is up; seeing each other in the round gets harder.
And we do this all the time, with people we don't have the helpful background of mutual respect and affection for that my friend and I have--and perhaps we never get past the caricatures and the talking points.
Look, I hope the election goes the way I strongly and sincerely think it should, and that Obama wins, and that the Democrats at least retain the Senate. I believe it's critically important.
But I am going to try harder to prise my mind open a few more inches, and to remember that if the many good, acute, and intelligent friends I have who feel just as strongly as I do but quite differently, perhaps the issues aren't as clear as I think I see them.
And as to my friend, who prompted this train of thought?