Someone said it this morning in a radio interview I heard while I walked my upper-middle-class backside around the neighborhood in search of my daily weigh-in redemption. The man on the radio spoke with some genuine sadness when he said, "Our political system has become so toxic, people in congenial circles don't want to talk about politics anymore." After thinking about it for the better part of the day, I am sure I agree. And I am also sad.
My walk is a grudgingly accepted daily ritual...a surrender to the truth that an aging body with unlimited access to food and other related comforts will turn to mush if it never quite makes it out the front door with the intention of moving beyond the car door. Because I dislike the whole idea of this walk so much, I generally try to trick myself into believing there is a reason bigger than my behind for making the effort. Perhaps a day's inspiration will appear on the walk - something sweet and soulful. In theory, I have the neighborhood for that.
Most of the lawns I trek past on my designated route are nicely landscaped, effectively watered and meticulously kept. Most of the cars I dodge in the road are late model lovelies with tinted windows and well dressed occupants. I breathe no bus fumes. I encounter no beggars. I usually hear birds and frogs and cicadas, not sirens or 18-wheelers or cars with bad mufflers. I step around nothing more toxic than an un-scooped pile of dog poo.
But I do pass a lot of Republican candidate yard signs on my walk. And, oh yes, they inspire me. To gag. Here's how the throat closing poison begins to seep in:
"Of course! It's the 'I-Got-Mine, Who-Cares-About-You?' Party."
That's one of my regular thoughts.
"How did a person without a brain get a house like that?" is another one.
"I'm coming back when it's dark, and filling this yard with peace signs." is another.
"Yeah...peace signs. Because I'm sure if they like Candidate X, they hate peace."
By the time I get home, I can barely stand the street I live on, not to mention the people who live in the houses on the street. They are all, to me, FOX-news-loving, narrow-minded ninnies.
That's not at all toxic.
Here's the undoctored, God's honest truth. I have some very fine neighbors. They are people who work hard and love their children and don't ask me what my politics are when I call on them to feed the dog or pick up the newspaper or water the begonias when I am away. They just say yes.
One of them actually did tell me she'd have to get her husband's permission to feed my dog after the 2008 election. True. We had put lights and a motion detector around our YES WE CAN yard signs that election season to stem the tide of middle-of-the-night sign thievery. I think the light bothered my neighbor's husband. Or maybe it was the indignant, fiery letter to-the-editor...the one accusing all sign thieves of being freedom haters. That letter was, of course, printed for all the city to see. With my name at the bottom of it.
Which brings me back to ninnies and toxicity.
Why have we turned the most treasured and valuable of all freedoms in America - voting - into this gooey, sticky, bad smelling stream of slime that clings to us all like a Sci-Fi flesh-eating toxin? Shouldn't we be able to disagree on a candidate for public office without the name calling and the intelligence threatening and the facebook de-friending? Shouldn't it be okay to post a sign or fly a flag or wear a button without fearing vandalism, bullying, or the upturned nose of a neighbor?
We should be able to disagree and still talk respectfully to one another.
If we don't talk, we're living with poorly informed assumptions at best, and flat out lies at worst. Both can make us fearful, unfriendly, bitter, and unkind. I don't want to be that person, and I'm betting my generous/mother of five/fun-loving/hard-working/conservative-thinking neighbor doesn't want to be that person either.
I want to talk politics again. Without the toxins.
The Democrats are gathering in Charlotte as I type. This is my team, but I know without thinking very hard that the three-day campaign ad for the President will be full of stinging rhetoric and truth tweaking and grand, unfulfillable promises. Just like last week's three-day campaign ad was for the GOP.
In a perfect world, we people in a free country with an established, peaceful system for choosing our leaders would sit together and sort through the nonsense together. Instead we go to our corners and stir the fractious frenzy stew.
Really. What's to become of us? Is there anyone on the ballot who can wash this goo off?