Saturday, April 1, 2017

The Wolf and the Sheepdog

I'm about to attempt a very difficult thing. I'm doing it partly because of what happened to Mike Pence with regards to his "marriage rules" controversy. I'm also doing it because I think it needs to be done. When we arrive at the place where something as innocent as not having dinner alone with a woman if she's not your wife, becomes fodder for hysterical condemnation, something has gone off the rails. Here's what I think is happening...when we disagree with someone's politics, that disagreement becomes all-consuming, and allows for zero exceptions, that is if someone is our political enemy, we cannot for a second consider that he or she has any positive traits. Our disdain for anyone on the other side must be complete and unremitting. Any accommodation feels like weakness so it's full battle stations 24/7. This is the environment in which America finds itself...and it has to stop.

To that end, I will attempt this difficult thing. First, I will identify my three least favorite politicians. Then, I will do a full internet investigation of every detail of their lives, public and private, and I will attempt to find something about them that I can praise, something that is worthy of acknowledgement, something that will transform my view of them as mere political animals and replace it with a dash of humanity. It's a version of what my parents always asked me to do about people with whom I couldn't get along when I was a kid. "Find something good about them."

Here are the three candidates for my personal worst person in the world award, in no particular order,
Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, and Nancy Pelosi. I will not here list the many reasons why I hold each of these individuals in such low regard, that should be self evident to anyone who regularly reads this blog. However, after some exhaustive research, I have discovered some things about them that I didn't know, things that have managed to move the needle a little in my estimation of their
value as human beings. Let's start with Senator Warren.

She was not born rich and entitled, but rather to lower middle class, blue collar parents. She is the youngest of four, with three older brothers. When she was young, her Dad got sick and lost his job, endangering the finances of the family to the point that at age 13 she got her first job waiting tables at her Aunt's restaurant. In addition to not being afraid of real work, Ms. Warren made the decision to be a stay at home Mom for the first two years of each of her two children's lives, even to the point of practicing law from home. These two experiences of her life demonstrate fine qualities which deserve praise and acknowledgement.

Charles Schumer has raised two accomplished daughters, Jessica and Allison, and has been married to his wife Iris for 37 years. I would imagine that if much of your life has been lived in the cesspool that is Washington politics, that alone is an amazing feat. Mr. Schumer too was not born into wealth, having grown up in very working class Brooklyn where he attended public schools. At age 17  he scored a perfect score of 1600 on his SAT test, outscoring me by a whopping 240 points. Gotta give him props for that!

Nancy Pelosi was born in Maryland to an Italian family who didn't speak English, making her a second generation immigrant. It is an impressive climb from having foreign language speaking parents to being the first female Speaker of the House. Name another country where this is possible? In addition, she has somehow managed to stay married to the same man for 54 years while raising five children, and being blessed with eight grandchildren. Well done, Nancy.

Nothing that I have just written changes my view of these three people as politicians. Listening to any of them on television will still be, both now and for all eternity, like listening to screeching cats. But, learning just a little of their background, getting just a glimpse of their life stories, has changed how I think about them. They seem more human to me now, more, dare I say, like me?

One of my favorite old Warner Brothers cartoons from back in the day was the one which featured the wolf and the sheep dog. Each morning you would see them walking along together to work, each carrying a lunch box, making small talk. Soon, they would arrive at a time clock hanging on the trunk of a tree where they both would clock in. The rest of the cartoon was a series of attempts by the wolf to steal one of the sheep in the field which the sheepdog was there to protect. Each wiley attempt at subterfuge by the wolf was met with crafty violence by the stalwart sheepdog. The last attempt by the wolf was always the most daring and just about the time that the sheepdog was about to swing that fist of justice at him...the whistle would blow. The sheepdog and the wolf would freeze in place, acknowledge the end of the work day, grab their empty lunch boxes and walk home together, side by side..."How are the kids, Ralph?" the sheepdog would ask. "Growing like weeds, Sam." the wolf would answer.

Perhaps asking our politicians to be more like Ralph and Sam is asking too much. But maybe if we all learned how to separate the political from the personal, we would get along better. Maybe if we could find it within ourselves to find the good in others, a middle ground could be found. But, suppose the other side refuses to return that good will? Doesn't matter. I'm not responsible for the other side. I'm just responsible for myself.

"Go thee therefore, and do likewise."