POLITICAL TALK – THREAT TO FRIENDSHIPS
My wife and I are residents at Becketwood Cooperative in Minneapolis. Daily mid-morning and mid-afternoon about five to ten gentlemen meet in the basement workroom for coffee, talk, and snacks. All of these men are in their mid-eighties to lower-nineties. Almost without exception they are WWII veterans and received their education under the GI Bill. All without exception are highly educated and retired from meaningful professional careers. Deep friendships have evolved. One group rule is that political conversation is banned. Too divisive and a threat to friendship. A conversation sprang up with politics at the center – soon right vs. left – the donkey vs. the elephant. – some at the extremes of the political spectrum. Talk regarding Teddy Roosevelt came up. One brother stated: “Now that damned cowboy is in the White House” – statement borrowed from Republican leader of TR’s time. Party leadership saw TR as an internal party threat so they made him VP and out of the way. An assassin’s bullet felled McKinley so now “that damned cowboy is in the White House”. One might ask our Becketwood colleague whether he is opposed to the National Park System of which TR was a leader. I doubt it. Since “that damned cowboy is in the White House” does it imply opposition to all of the progressive reforms of which TR was a leader? A gentle reminder indicating we should “be critical of those things of which we are most certain.” We Americans are, I think, more uptight when discussing political questions rather than discussion of matters religious. The “Benevolent Dictator” of the group, a sensitive gentleman, reminded all of the “no political talk” rule. Heated discussion ceased replaced by war, work, and family reminiscences.