Chugging along on the elliptical, seeming to go nowhere yet moving as fast as I could, I didn’t hear the familiar voice calling my name.
“What’s going on? You look like you’ve dropped some pounds.”
“Yep. Trying to get to the gym every day. Not always so easy. Work is crazy. Kids’ practices drive me crazy. But not complaining… at least the economy is doing well.”
“Are you kidding? Obama is destroying everything. Last year, we had to pay $20,000 more in taxes. I mean, we had a phenomenal year. But if I had known we had to pay more taxes, we wouldn’t have gone on vacation six times. We definitely would have rethought that last trip. I mean, say goodbye Copenhagen! Damn Obama!”
Before I could answer or close my mouth agape in moral disbelief, I noticed Fox News glaring at me from the front of my friend’s elliptical. As if they were x-raying my left-leaning ideological soul. Perpetually on and ready to arm my friend with all the facts and figures, however twisted, that could hurl me across the gym and into the liberal primordial soup that was obviously clogging my arteries and brain.
Making haste to my high intensity training class where I would be required to squat as low as possible without tumbling head first into the wall, I reflected on the frightening absurdity of my previous conversation. Was our President possibly the greatest ogre in history because someone clearly able to take six mega-vacations in one year could have been forced to miss some overpriced salmon in the land of Hans Christian Andersen?
Or rather couldn’t the argument be made that those six pricey jaunts from the shores of France to the Caribbean required a fruit basket and a handwritten note forthwith to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for the 17,000+ Dow?
Throughout our suburban landscape, politics rear their left, right and libertarian heads in the stands, on the courts and on grocery and Starbucks lines. A cacophonous political debate that divides those split-level neighbors on every and any issue open to discussion and discourse. Getting the mail? It’s the nuclear agreement with Iran and Val-Pak. Shoveling the snow again? Let’s pile on our thoughts about climate change. Selecting a paint color? Hey, it’s all about choice.
The more I listen, the more I’m amazed that I live in an enclave of opinionated hyperbole and college-educated hysteria. Doesn’t matter what side of the street or aisle you sit on. There’s no middle in the middle of our suburban cul de sacs.
Republican friends argue vehemently against gun control while demanding greater fiscal control and controlling our borders. Forget that they were once stoned out of their heads on acid listening to Jeff Beck. Now it’s the world according to Glenn Beck and his chalkboard of xenophobic criticism. Forget the sixties. They are now approaching their ‘60s, and it’s time to lipo the fat from themselves and the federal government.
Democrats stand firm on unfettered abortion rights and the universal right to marry whomever you love wherever you want. But park too close to their overpriced car at Whole Foods and they turn into limousine liberals from hell. Forget the masses when there is overpriced fruit and vegetables on sale… picked by those illegal immigrants who you supposedly champion.
Both sides go at it at morning Pilates and during nighttime commutes home. On social media and at social events, storming off with a click or into their sports cars. And they back up every verbal volley (gleaned from their favorite pundits) as they trade backhands at weekly tennis.
Just tell someone on the other side you are supporting Hillary or Chris Christie (or Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, even Trump) and the proverbial gloves come off. It’s war (just not in Iran or Syria, please).
“Hillary killed those people in Benghazi. What has she done in her career? She sold Israel under the bus. It will just be the Mr. Bill Show all over again!”
“Christie is a bully. New Jersey is in worse condition than ever. Have you heard of Bridgegate? And who needed Obama to bail him out when Hurricane Sandy hit?”
And while I am not surprised by the unbridled tenor and lack of timidity that enter our public discourse, I am baffled by the transformative and metamorphic evolution of my neighbors and friends. People who lost sight of the other side when they acquired their piece of the rock (or a big rock on their finger). I mean, how can you rail against the Affordable Care Act when Planned Parenthood was your main source of birth control during college?
Why can’t we love our neighbors even when our neighbors drone on about the use of drones in an MSNBC or Fox News trance? Why can’t we love our God’s little ½-acre without denying the climate is changing?
‘Cause what’s left when you always have to be right?