I hit the voicemail icon. “Hey, little buddy, this is your big brother Mike; sorry I missed you. I’m sure you’re probably at a peace rally before heading to the welfare office for food stamps. Or, now that pot is legal in your state, you could be sitting in the bathroom of your neighbor’s house, which you mistakenly thought was yours. At any rate, you will be missed over the President’s Day weekend; in your honor we will say the Pledge of Allegiance and Lord’s Prayer in front of our Ronald Reagan portrait. Despite your politics, we still love you.”
My big brother Michael is a “compassionate conservative” with a wicked sense of humor. He walks the walk of kindness and Christianity. He recently became a legal guardian of a developmentally disabled middle-aged man who was languishing in a state institution. When his three children left for college he moved the man into his home. My brother believes in a small federal government, local control of local issues, limited national and Supreme Court intervention and traditional values. He also is one of the kindest men I’ve ever met.
Mike has given me a peek into the other side of Roe v. Wade, school prayer, welfare reform and the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan. He has tried to justify why sometimes commerce needs to take precedent over the environment and homeland security over civil liberties. He hasn’t won me over, but he has shown me that my side does not have the market cornered on intellect and humanity.
When the various states began — agonizingly slowly — opening the door for same-sex unions I called Mike to rub some salt in his wounds.
He was not at home at the time so I left him a message.
“Hey, Stalin, this is your little brother Che. I was very happy to hear that the courts in the motherland have begun to agree that all sexual persuasions enjoy the rights, protection and misery that marriage provides. Now your people can finally get your eyes off the keyholes and your minds on your own business. That is, if you’re not too busy rewriting the Constitution to reaffirm your belief that God loves you, Duck Dynasty and guns while sharing your hatred of the Clintons.”
Michael called back to tell me that he had just returned from morning Mass (church) where he prayed for God’s forgiveness of my past dalliances and current politics. When he finally took a breath I brought up the many thousands of same-sex couples who were lining up at courthouses across the country.
Michael shocked me by saying, “I walked by one courthouse on Valentine’s Day. There must have been 10 couples lining up on the sidewalk; it was beautiful.”
I thought it was a trick so I cautiously waded ahead. “Beautiful? These people are defying your party, politics and religion.”
Mike said, “It was beautiful because at that moment the street was filled with people who loved each other; you don’t need to understand the lifestyle to feel that.”
He added, “Do I believe that God intended marriage as a union between a man and a woman? Yes. But I also believe that God intended the Patriots to win the Super Bowl, so I might be biased. If God has a problem with it he can handle it himself.”
My brother then went on to add that he did not know any gay people — “Heck, little buddy, you’re one of the few lefties I talk to.” He added that although he did not understand the gay lifestyle, he felt our government had better things to do than spending money and court time defining marriage. “Dang it, Biff, I wouldn’t care if you decided to marry yourself. At least you’d be finally making love with the one person in the world who you find most attractive.”
Alexis de Tocqueville said, “In politics shared hatreds are almost always the basis of friendships.”
Sometimes, among the noise and derision that permeates our Internet and airwaves, a reminder is helpful that before politics, policy and partisanship we are all people.
Jeffrey Bergeron, under the alias Biff America, can be seen on TV-8-Summit and read in several newspapers and magazines. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mike has tried to justify why sometimes commerce needs to take precedent over the environment and homeland security over civil liberties. He hasn’t won me over, but he has shown me that my side does not have the market cornered on intellect and humanity.