There are things about growing old that are nice. First, and most important, one is not dead, at least not yet, though as my nephew pointed out to me today, it appears increasingly likely that we may all be dead sooner than we expected, given certain current international tensions. Second, one can hear such things and no longer be alarmed by them, at least not in the way they alarm those a generation younger. Third, there is the magnificent gift of a grandchild, who reminds one that life, however brief for each generation, goes on long after one gasps one’s final breath.
There are little annoying things about growing old: bad knees, fading memories, the inability to act as quickly and decisively as one once did. Then there is the tendency to talk to oneself, which, if one is to be honest, is what blogging is all about. This new project is an exercise in self-splaining, a narcissistic variant of man-splaining, wherein one explains to one’s self, what is the meaning of things that no one in particular cares about. Let me explain. (See? I told you.)
Several months ago, I started reaching out to friends of mine whom I knew to be politically aware, and of an orientation that is quite different from mine. They were conservatives, most were supporters of President Trump and they were pretty darn good thinkers to boot. I proposed that we have some very frank conversations, in public, on this blog, in the interest of trying to find common ground. None of them was interested in it. A couple cited time constraints, one expressed concern about possible negative impacts on business if potential clients discovered that they were hiring a conservative, a couple of others just said no, it wasn’t worth the effort. I couldn’t be budged in my paleo-liberalism, so what was the point anyway?
Not being the type of person who is easily deterred, a solution finally appeared before my aging eyes. I could play both parts: the earnest and morally driven liberal and the equally earnest and morally driven conservative. It would require honesty and integrity, not because I was under any illusions that anyone else would care about such a self-serving and egotistical project, but because there are things that need to be said, and solutions to our seemingly intractable national problems are not going to appear unless we understand each other. And maybe understand that the other is, quite literally, ourself.
So I would like to introduce an old friend: Me, who holds a couple of degrees in theology, achieved a modest amount of success in a couple of careers, is an occasional curmudgeon and misanthrope, and dearly loves his country and wants it to be great. Or great again. I thought about giving this Me a nome de plume, but this is supposed to be an exercise in mindfulness, an honest engagement with ideas I disagree with, but which many people, Me included, hold dear. So welcome to the very first Conversation With Myself.
Conservative Me (CM for brevity): Hi. This is kind of stupid you know.
Liberal Me (LM, obviously): Hi, thanks for agreeing to do this.
CM: You kind of coerced me.
LM: Yeah. I know a lot of bad stuff about you and I can tell the world.
CM: Which would be both embarrassing and self-destructive.
LM: Good to know we’re both on the same page. So, we need some ground rules. First, no name calling. Different ideas are worthy of engagement, even ideas that we disagree with. We have to each state our case honestly, and do our best to listen to the other side.
CM: Ok, but no straw men, no intellectual dishonesty, no citing facts or statistics that can’t be backed up.
LM: Umm…it’s not my side that traffics in “alternative facts.”
CM: OK, time to go.
LM: Wait. Sorry. That was uncalled for.
CM: Fine. But no ending sentences with prepositions .
CM: There’s an art to that, you know.
LM: This is never going to work.
CM: Told ya.