To the right, I’m just another soy boy libtard. To the left, I’m everything from sexist to Nazi. So are most of my friends, as we discussed at dinner last night. We had a wonderful dinner, with caviar, shrimp and brie before a dinner of rib eye and lobster tails. It was at the Hamptons home of an old, dear pal, who has largely abandoned his Manhattan townhouse due to COVID, crime, garbage and overly-aggressive homeless who now own the streets when the streets aren’t otherwise occupied to mostly peaceful protesters destroying other people’s property.
Like me, he’s of a certain age, and will never miss a meal no matter what the next administration decides to tax or give away for free. Like me, he’s got kids for whom he’s worried. Like me, he’s known Trump long before his presidency and is well aware of who he is and what he cares about, which isn’t my friend or me or you. And like me, he’s aware of the next battle after Trump’s demise. As has become commonplace, he has a gun. If nothing else, the protests have turned New Yorkers into gun owners.
Assuming, arguendo, as we did around the dinner table last night, that Trump will lose the election, and potentially lose the Senate for the Republicans as well, will that offer the opportunity for people who don’t suffer TDS (which goes either way, whether as “delusion” or “devotion”) to release the hatred that has turned them toward viciousness and consider that people who don’t share their religion might be decent human beings?
I’m not big on pledges, particularly pledges that have no cost. If I took the pledge and broke it, what would they do to me? But the message of the pledge, can’t we all get along, seems both worthy and benign. What could be bad about such a pledge?
I’ve long been an open advocate for returning to the premise that people have to be able to agree to disagree. And yet, that platitudinous notion lacks the nuance necessary to be helpful. I will not agree with those who are racist or sexist, whether from the right or the left. I cannot agree that authoritarians of either stripe should dictate what we can say or do any more than who someone chooses to love. I will not acquiesce to those who want to curtail our constitutional rights, our freedom, because they deem freedom too hurtful or harmful.
Can we agree within rational parameters? Sure, but then, my rational parameters and yours might not be the same. And as experience over the past few years suggests, many people are going to dispute my views on the rational parameters of public policy and discourse. Hey, if I’m a racist for promoting racial equality rather than the critical race theory solution of being racist in favor of black people, where is there middle ground to be had?
After dinner, with my pal sipping Pappy Van Winkle bourbon and me making do with McCallan 12*, we came to the realization that our old liberal values were now derided as centrist at best, and the source of all that’s wrong with society according to both right and left dogma at worst. We were now the outliers, even if most of America was still moderate and differed at the edges about how to achieve life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Happiness, I’m told, is no longer something that every person can pursue, but a zero-sum game. Both sides want happiness, but only for themselves and want everyone not them to suffer. Here we were, my dear, old pal and I, enjoying a life we never dreamed we would achieve as we were poor kids from poor families with no expectations except that our efforts and sacrifice might enable us to someday sit in a house in the Hamptons and talk about liberal values over whiskey.
America has been very good to us. We want it to be just as good to everyone else by offering everyone the same opportunity we were given. Everyone won’t get there. The promise is opportunity. You get to pursue happiness, not have it handed to you on a silver platter. And neither your race, gender, sexual orientation or your failure to adhere to whatever orthodoxy your tribe prefers should stand in your way.
I don’t want to know who you vote for or why. I can accept that there are non-hateful reasons to vote either way, or not vote at all. But I can’t pledge not to be critical, even harsh, when it comes to anyone who demands that others should suffer so they can be happy. My pal and I hugged as I left his home for the drive to mine. I had a lovely evening, even though America is going through hell at the moment. I hope you did too. Everyone.
*My pal emailed me this morning to chastise me for taking literary license with the scotch he served. It was Johnny Walker Blue, but I didn’t want to shame him with his taste in scotch, so I fudged the detail because he swore he had McCallan 18 somewhere but just couldn’t find it, so I split the difference. I apologize for my gilding his lily.