I’ve always prided myself on being open-minded, on recognizing that there are two sides to every question. Being a competitive high-school debater was great training, since we had to argue, convincingly, the pro and con of each year’s topic (which may partially explain why so many debaters ended up in law school). And it’s certainly a skill one can use raising children, keeping us from instantly snapping, “Are you kidding? You can’t wear your rainboots and your SpongeBob sweatshirt to pre-school, it’s 90 degrees out,” or “I don’t want to hear what the guy on that brainscience site said about the intellectual stimulation of videogames.” (And yes, I’ve had both of those conversations and had to resist those lines!)
Even during contentious elections, I’ve tried hard to see the other side – and it helps that I have some good friends whose politics differ from mine. (Which, in case you hadn’t guess, range from really liberal to extremely liberal.) Plus my Republican friends represent a much more civil alternative to the louder advocates of their views (see Limbaugh: Rush . . . ). Of course, the way they often distinguish themselves reminds me of one of my favorite New Yorker cartoons, where a woman is telling a friend about her date: “He says he’s a fiscal conservative and a social liberal – which means he’s cheap, and he sleeps around.” But cartoons aside, I can see how they can feel liberal about issues like decriminalizing marijuana or gay marriage, and more conservative about financial matters.
However, sometimes the ‘other side’ goes so far that I simply cannot find any way to understand it, no matter how hard I try, and I can only conclude they are either heartless or insane. (Which makes me feel like Elizabeth Bennett in “Pride & Prejudice,” chiding Jane for trying to find a way to side with both Wickham and Darcy . . . but I digress) I used to think of North Carolina as an oasis of moderation in the middle of the south, a place I could actually see living (and where I could buy a house for the cost of a driveway in California). But lately it seems like many southern states have gone off the deep end in their efforts to restrict women’s reproductive choice, to suppress voting, and to shred the social safety net, and North Carolina seems to be one of the loonier ones. There are a couple of bright spots – the attorney general did point out that establishing Christianity as the state religion was a major violation of the US Constitution, and they’ve drawn so much national attention that things may change. But in the meantime I’ll take advantage of my own personal bright spot – realizing that the tune that kept running through my head was in the public domain, so I could do a guilt-free parody . . .