How an Elderly Man in 50s Garb Taught me a Valuable Lesson
I had a deeply profound, introspective moment last week, and it occurred in the most unlikely place: Panera Bread. There I was, picking apart the last little bit of my sourdough bread
bowl, when an elderly man wearing suspenders asked me a single, simple question that sparked a torrent of thoughts that tortured my psyche for the better part of a week.
“Are you going to see Sarah Palin speak tomorrow?”
Anticlimactic, right? Well, not really. Immediately, I became enraged that this man could confuse me with someone who’d actually join the droves of people flooding D.C. for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally. Though fuming on the inside, I remained calm and unfettered on the surface as I responded “no, not this time.”
The man seemed disappointed, likely realizing that my family had no intention of joining him at his table to discuss the moral decay of America.
“Oh, I saw her Alaska shirt (the man said, referring to a shirt that my mother bought while on a cruise to Alaska), and thought you folks might have come down to see her speak.”
Unbelievable! This man actually thinks we’d travel more than 4000 miles to see that imbecile complain about more things that she has no idea how to fix?
“No, no, we’re from around here,” my mom said, in a cordial, albeit awkward tone.
As we left the restaurant, my mind was still racing. “Who does that?” I thought to myself, still unable to get a handle of my emotions. Then it hit me. I embodied the quality that I hate most about Tea Partiers.
It was one of those self-realization, venture down the rabbit hole moments that was probably a long time coming. I have grown to so stigmatize the extreme right, that the mere suggestion that I might be associated with them enraged me. To be honest, I’m embarrassed and ashamed.
How can I sit here, advocating that our country strive for better cohesion and temperament in our national dialogue, when I can’t even embrace that notion over a cup of soup with an old man? I had become just as polarized as the extremists I denounce.
When was humanity lost in political discourse? For too long, we’ve forgotten that our political enemies are still people. They have families. They own dogs. I’ll even go out on a limb and suggest that they root for the same sports teams we do. But the second that someone brings up the national debt or the immigration issue, we forget that we’re dealing with people. People who deserve the right to have an opinion.
Please know that this does not mean that I will not comment critically on extremism in the conservative movement in future posts. Don’t get me wrong. I love a fervent, heated debate, but only as long as it ends with the victor buying the less-apt debater a beer after all is said and done.
**Note to my readers: I know that the blog has been on a bit of a hiatus for about three months now, but I intend to start writing weekly from this point on. I appreciate the patience you’ve exhibited, and look forward to restarting our dialogue.