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Tuesday, October 13, 2009


cosmic chagall #2

The word tolerance has been in my head quite a lot yesterday and today. It started when a Republican friend asked what I was reading. I told him Obama's Audacity of Hope. Friend rolled his eyes, inwardly to himself, not as an aggressive gesture to piss me off. I already knew we were poles apart politically. When men are together talking politics I tend to let them talk, and I listen, because I love to hear what they have to say when it opposes my own point of view, within reason, not going so far as to pay attention to Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich's talking piglet.

My response to the subtle rolling of the eyes, or look inward, was to say, 'He's a brilliant man.' First thought was to say mind, but I wanted to emphasize that I respect him as a man, not just a mind. In McCain country, I'm not ashamed of respecting the kind of intelligence that got a kid through college and law school at Harvard on scholarships he earned by himself. I can't help but respect that kind of intelligence. I couldn't do it. He has a wife of equal intelligence.

What I've been looking at as an adult with some political awareness, living among people who think very differently from the way I think, is the tolerance between us isn't even tolerance. Too strong a word. I can't say I tolerate them, because tolerate implies something objectionable, like the dingings and buzzes cars make to let you know you opened the door or haven't fastened the seat belt. That's tolerance. My friends who think differently from how I think politically is like nothing. I like the people I like for a whole lot more reasons than agreeing with me or seeing as I see. We're not made like that. We're individuals with free will, even when we don't want to be.

If any two people in America would name their 10 favorite songs the same, it would only be by random chance, one in Utah, the other in Massachusetts, and they never heard of each other. I don't know about identical twins. The fact is, if I ever met someone who thinks exactly as I think, I probably wouldn't like that person. We tend not to care much for the people most like us. Like you need to meet so and so--you have so much in common, seldom works out. It tends to make me wonder what the person who said it believes about me. That's where I end the thinking on the matter, because that's where it jumps off into the inexplicable, the never to be known, the best not to know.

I'm sure it is tolerance for many to have a black man in the White House, like it is tolerance for many to have a white man in the White House. I'd say most of the white men I know believe Rush Limbaugh has something to say worth hearing, when I see him a propagandist and nothing else. He was the mouthpiece for the Gingrich Revolution, aka Reagan Revolution, the white man's last stand. He's still making noise, in William Faulkner's words, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.

Three times I spent a few hours in a car with someone listening to Limbaugh and never protested once. That's tolerance. Except when Limbaugh said, 'anyone sleeping at this hour of the day [11am] is a pervert.' I commented out loud, 'What about people working the night shift? I'm surprised he didn't say pree-vert.' No response. The driver was practicing tolerance, too, letting me get away with making a rational point and him not telling me I'm an idiot.

But on the whole, my friends and acquaintances disagree politically with, I agree with in a lot of other ways. Some of my best friends are Republicans. I find it funny that among the people I like best, the majority are Republicans, pre-Reagan Republicans. Reagan Republicans I have a difficult time tolerating and they have an equally rough time with an unrepentant liberal. We just don't talk about it. We know to stay off the subject of politics and practice it very well. They think I'm a 'Big Democrat,' when the fact is I'm an Anti-Republican.

It actually galled me to have to vote for Gore. I'd have preferred to give my vote to Ralph Nader, but the Bush 2 threat was too strong. Of course, they lost in every way it can be figured and took it anyway. But that's history. They took the arrogance white skin to the absurd extreme. It wasn't just the people of color and white women that put a stop to it. A lot of white men voted for him too. Not all white men take Limbaugh for a brilliant mind, or even an average mind.

Since the years of politics by the Gingrich method of divide and conquer, Democrats and Republicans continue to speak and be friends. In America before Gingrich, there was actually more tolerance than after. Reagan only won by 1% of the vote. But since the power in the American people said enough to division, intolerance, taking from the workers, giving to the rich, and keeping-the-niggers-down; now the Limbaugh (Gingrich) message, kill the monkey.

What I see is the American people want tolerance, even Republicans do. The attempt to do away with tolerance turned back like a boomerang and struck the sender. I like having a President not ruled by denial, which turns out, it seems, to be a white thing. Black people have never had the privileges that bring about denial. The black people know that when we say racism is over, it isn't so. Jews have known It can happen here. But it is our particular American tolerance that ultimately wins despite setbacks along the way, such that though It came close, It did not happen here. A black President is evidence American racism is weakening considerably.

I did not like the Nixon-Reagan-Bush years eating away at our civil liberties like piranhas on a Big Mac. It was worth it, however, to see the American people come together and say, Nevermore. That's not us. We already had a Civil War. We don't want another one.

A friend who recently moved to the mountains of rural California from Atlanta, said of American racism last time we talked on the phone, the South likes the people, not the race. The north likes the race, not the people. He said the Northern way is the California way. Of the two, he prefers the Southern way. I'd have to say the same. How many times I've heard in my life, he aint no nigger, he's a black man. I'd like it to be such that we're all just folks, skin color an identity like fingerprints. Everybody is fine with we all have different fingerprints, so what's the big deal about the shade of pigment in our skin? Since it's not that way in the world at large, I can have it that way in myself by living what I believe.

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