Us versus them. Regardless of what the issue is. We'll take a side because being undecided is anathema to most people. Or so I have come to believe.
The office staff assistant attended the cross-state rival of my university. He always rags me for my choice of colleges. Last week I told him of a couple we know who are in a mixed marriage. She went to the cross-state rival; he attended the neighboring state school, still in the same football-great conference.
"Not only that, they're also a mixed marriage because he's a Democrat and she's a Republican."
"I could never date a Democrat."
"Look at Mary Matalin and James Carville."
"But how could anyone date a Democrat? Their moral standards are appalling. They have no moral standards at all."
I thought to myself: 'Really? Are you serious? I call myself a moderate Democrat. I've been married to one man, and only one, for 20 years. I have three daughters. We are all very active in our church, Girl Scouts, and the neighborhood. I'm active in the Junior League, the Daughters of the American Revolution, and my sorority alumnae chapter. Mr. Gaelic and I both served on the vestry at our church; I taught Sunday School; organized the teenage-equivalent of Vacation Bible School; Mr. G organized an overflow winter shelter for the homeless. Oh, and I stayed home to raise my children rather than abdicate the role of mother to a childcare provider or the nearest relative.'
At this point in the conversation my tongue was bleeding, which it had to if I want to keep my job.
I must be the most naive person on the face of the earth. Or else I'm that rarest of all creatures, one that has rarely been spotted in the last twenty years, leading many people to assume our extinction. I'm a person who will associate with both Jew and Gentile, Democrat and Republican, state college and cross-state college. I'm a person who asks campaign workers on election day to convince me why I should vote for their candidate (only done when I can find representatives of all candidates in one place and has driven all over town to find them). I'm a person who visited a mosque because I wanted to see firsthand what their worship is like. I'm a person who rooted for the... oh, nevermind... I never rooted for the cross-state rival. I'm not as independent as I thought I was.
It used to be that the word liberal meant open-minded. Now it's a pejorative for anyone too far to the left. Yet I know just as many left-of-center folks who are as stubbornly set in their ways as an equal number of right-of-center folks. That, to me, is not being open-minded. It's as closed-minded as the left considers the right.
So what are we rarest-of-the-rare independent creatures to do? Those of us who consider the whole of the situation without letting our prejudices weigh us down.
Hello??? Is there anybody out there? Is there anyone home?