OT — I Kissed a Far-Right Republican
Yeah, I know. Shocking. But it was a long time ago.
(Just for the record: people think I’m a far-left liberal, but I’m really not. If I had to define myself politically, I’d identify as center left. But yeah… after the past five years, I am strongly anti-right.)
When my dad passed away in 1998, he was living in a high-rise condo complex in West Hollywood. A few of his friends and I spent several days clearing out his unit. One time when we were heading back and forth and were outside my dad’s place, the elevator door opened and a man with a distinctly recognizable face came out. He saw us and approached, asking about my dad. I asked if they were friends, and he said more like building acquaintances, but he’d always liked my father. He was sorry to hear about his passing, expressed his sympathies, and asked if we were having any sort of memorial for him. I said yes, told him where it was, and then we went about our business.
Cut to a month later, at my father’s memorial, a well-attended function with a lot of TV writers and a few well-known faces. I suppose some would say this crowd was the Hollywood liberal elite; so be it. After the speeches and tributes were given and people were milling about, I was making the rounds through the room and saw someone hovering alone in the back of the room. I approached, and saw it was the man from my dad’s building. He seemed kind of hesitant and shy, hanging back there, just quietly observing. I came up to greet him, and asked him if he’d like to get something to eat or drink. He said, “No, thanks… I just wanted to pay my respects to your father.” I took his hand, and impulsively, I leaned in and gave him a kiss on the cheek. “Thank you so much,” I said. Shortly after that, he slipped out.
So…. who was the mystery man?
If you don’t know who Ben Stein is, Google him. He’s had quite a career, and when I refreshed my memory by reading his Wikipedia article, I cringed more than once. Iconic appearance in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” notwithstanding, he’s pretty awful. And of course, now I know why he was so reticent at my dad’s memorial — he didn’t fit in with that crowd, and he knew it. I mean, come on. Ben Stein wrote speeches for Richard Nixon… and one of the men in attendance had been on Nixon’s “Enemies List.” No lie.
Still… he liked my dad. For a few minutes, that transcended politics.
I think back on that and sigh. How times have changed. If something like this were to happen now, what would I do? Would he have still shown up? What would I say?
Probably nothing different. Probably would have politely thanked him.
But I wouldn’t kiss him.
Life is strange, and strangely sad, sometimes. Have a good weekend, y’all. Be safe. ♥
It’s tough times. So few people are so one dimensional that they have zero redeeming qualities. But, we can’t just ignore the obvious moral implications of people’s political beliefs. I have relatives who were very important to me when I was growing up who have taken a far-right swerve in recent years. I finally had to just accept that the person I knew and cared for has been replaced by someone I can’t respect even if there is still some residual affection.
Dan — that is tough indeed. I understand the dilemma and I’m sorry.
Hmmm, was it like a “Dementor’s Kiss”? 😉
This is an excellent issue that is real enough in these tribal times. I suppose a lot has to do with what a person is willing to accept or willing to compromise. For me now…..being faced often enough with people who on one hand seem s]decent, but who hold views I find incomprehensible and even abhorrent…..I tend to use a simple criteria: are they decent people with too much exposure to things like Fox News? Or are they truly selfish jerks for whom the current environment has allowed them to openly show their true colors? That dichotomy IS out there. I’ve seen it. And to me that “who are you REALLY?” question is more important than what they say. To be honest, I’ve had my fill of some far-lefties as well. And again it comes down to who they really are. Are they good, sympathetic people equally brainwashed by the other end of the spectrum into thinking every misused pronoun is an indication of some major personality flaw, or are they also manipulative egotists who feel more at home with a different color flag?
I’ve noticed that besides the cult of Trump a genuine point of departure for people is whether they genuinely feel that people need guidance and security or whether it’s healthier to foster personal responsibility and the ability to fail? The trouble is both are valid concerns and where things get ugly is when each view can’t see the value in a blend of the two.
It’s a bit like religion. A spiritual person can use it for philosophical meaning, a frightened person for comfort, and a nasty person as justification for hate. Same religion……different use. And each use defines the person better than the mere label of the religion itself.
(At least you can always say you kissed Ben Stein as a segue into any humorous tale you’d like to entertain friends with!)
KD — yeah, both extremes can be a pain. I think the only thing I’m extreme about is my abject loathing for Trump, his family and cronies, and the people who still support/condone/admire him. And that’s not about hating Republicans, per se, but more about hating simply awful people with a severely flawed moral compass.
As for religion, I’m sure you’ve heard my favorite expression on it: “Religion is like a penis. I have no problem with you having one, but if you take it out and wave it in my face, then we have a problem.”
OK, I am definitely going to steal your religion/penis analogy. Love it!
I do think KD’s criteria is helpful. My mother-in-law is kind of an example. She will rant about things like Critical Race Theory because she watches way too much Fox, but when you take the time to explain to her what the issue really is about, she can be nudged toward more reasonable positions. Though, let’s face it, some of these people are awfully easily mislead. The plain fact is that the strongest predictor of support for Trump was not income or even geography. It was education level. People who were ignorant or dumb tended to vote for Trump, so it’s probably a losing cause to hope they will somehow develop critical thinking skills sufficient to see through all the BS they are fed on Fox News.
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A show of friendship in a time of sorrow is always a good thing. Many people with rotten viewpoints (from our ideas) are still good people. However, Trump and his cronies do not fit into that category. I think your show of friendship was excellent. Helping to bridge the ideas between groups is so vitally necessary at this time.
Red — thank you. I suppose grief transcends a lot of BS… but honestly, I don’t know if I’d be capable of being so friendly to him now. Sad but true.
I think we all lose by the current trends pushing us apart.
I don’t mean to agree or excuse or compromise, but still we don’t have to sink into Trumpian hate. He’s no model for how we should act, nor is reaction specific to him how we should conduct our lives.
We were better than this, to our own advantage. Democracy never meant we all agreed with each other on everything. Even in the “Era of Good Feelings” 200 years ago, we had important differences about important things, and people cared about them a lot.
Now we live in a cesspool as our public life.
So I’m glad you gave him a polite kiss on the cheek at a solemn funeral where he was being a good guy toward you own father. We need more of that, not less.
Mark — I know you speak sense. I do. It’s hard to take the high road sometimes… harder every day, it seems.
I know you didn’t know this, so of course I’m not poking fun, but I had to giggle at “solemn funeral.” My dad was a comedy writer. His memorial turned out to be more like a roast. I came to it thinking I was going to cry a lot and I ended up laughing through the whole thing.
Mark: You are absolutely right that we all lose……but here’s what I’ve seen in my life on this planet (and it’s not just with politics but every aspect of human interaction): in almost every situation where there are two sides, there is usually one side who may not be more ‘right’ but decidedly more ‘reasonable’. In other words, a person who came to their position through reason is far more likely to change their position if confronted with evidence that they are wrong. People who come to their positions through belief or identity are far less likely to change their minds when confronted with evidence because evidence was never their basis for belief. Now, when in a deadlock and compromise is crucial for some other external reason, I have also seen that the more reason-based person is more apt to concede things in favor of resolution whereas the less reason-based person is more rigid. As a result the compromises that result often end up surrendering things that are objectively more factual in favor of appeasing the other side to facilitate the resolution. As a result the resolution tends to be more “wrong” than right ( or left. )
Look at how arguments between spouses often go. There’s always someone more willing to give in and in my experience that person is usually more right to begin with. Peace tends to come at a price of reason. Personally? I’m sick of it. So no more for me. I used to be that compromise-at-all-costs person. Not anymore. Prove me wrong and I’ll accept it. Expect me to give in just for harmony? Nope. Not going to happen.
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I fear funerals. I am very glad for you that your father’s turned out to be different from most.
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I can empathize, Erica. My own dad was quite the hard-core right winger, and we had many vociferous disagreements about political issues of the day, whereupon my dad would accuse me of “wrong thinking” and stalk away. Most recently I had lunch with a woman I had worked with many years before and of whom I had become quite fond as a friend. And I still am. She’s had a lifelong struggle with a chronic illness and has come through it well through courage and sheer strength of will. Then she started talking about how worried she was that Kyle Rittenhouse “might get convicted” of murdering two men in Kenosha. She buys into a lot of other Trumpian policies and ideas as well. I just let the matter slide, as I knew I wouldn’t change her mind nor would she change mine. I still care about this woman and admire her courage in the face of tremendous personal adversity, but the stark ideological divide between us will forever taint our friendship.
I think that it is a good thing that your father had acquaintance with someone of differing political views. It is better to discuss things with people of other standpoints than to not interact at all. It is, in the end, the basis of a functioning democracy and that is a better way of solving things than going around shooting each other.
Please be careful who you kiss in future, though. You don’t want to go catching Right Wingism 🙂
Bob — I’m sorry about your friend. I know that’s so hard. And don’t even get me started on Kyle Rottenhouse.
Prefectdt — ha! Don’t you worry.
I think my dad and Ben Stein were thrown together by happenstance, living in the same building. And back then, I think (?) it was a little easier to agree to disagree and live with differing opinions. Now? Not so much.
Center left here too. I used to consider myself a moderate before half the country was manipulated right, off a cliff that is.
I haven’t kissed any famous unpleasant people, but plenty enough of the garden variety. Even before COVID, I tried to avoid that whole business. But the past remains. We may try to forget or reinterpret such events, but they persist deep in our memory, only to reemerge in unexpected moments.
I have written off a number of former friends due to what I perceive to be their extremist views, words, and actions. I don’t want that toxic hate and negatively in my life. Dropping them is spiritual hygiene.
It’s depressing to see how many people have become radicalized, but I refuse to be consumed by that sad circumstance. I choose to focus upon what I can change and work to make my little corner of the world better.
May your week be filled with abundant sunlight and a generous ladle of joy.
Bonnie — “spiritual hygiene.” I like that. I guess we just have to keep our side of the street clean.
I’m actually a very affectionate, touchy-feely person, and I miss that. But I’m a whole lot more cautious about it these days.
Big hugs back to you!