We all know better than to discuss politics with anyone other than those that, you feel assured, are of exactly the same persuasion as yourself. We all know this but some of us do it anyway.
Over the years I have found that my most stimulating and substantive conversational exchanges have been those that center around an upcoming national election. These were not “you betcha, me toos” with a can of Budweiser in my hand in front of the 7-Eleven with my foot on the front bumper of my gun-racked Ford 150. They were not quiet chats with a group of ivy league academics in a hotel lobby during some scholarly symposium. No, what they were and what they continue to be, was/is that rare instance in life when you encounter someone with above average intelligence that just happens to agree with few, if any, of your strongly held political beliefs and has no qualms about challenging them.
The most memorable of these individuals was a gentleman named Ray Birdsong. Ray was the husband of Roni Burkhardt, a Conniston Jr. High classmate until the 9th grade and my wife’s first cousin. The Birdsongs lived in Virginia Beach, VA where Ray was a professor of ichthyology (fish science) at Old Dominion. Ray was a dyed in the wool liberal that could match every well founded, undeniable, bullet proof right-wing truism I might come up with with an even better one out of left field. On one occasion, in frustration, I pulled from my wallet and handed to Ray a small laminated card that was inscribed with a single sentence that, for years, I considered my “political mantra”.
There is a fundamental difference between taxing an individual to pay for the legitimate expenses of government and taxing an individual to redistribute his income to others in exchange for votes!
Ray read the card, smiled, and grinning at me replied: “That depends on who determines the legitimate expenses of government.”
I don’t carry the card anymore and Ray passed away at an early age. My political thinking has moderated somewhat over the years but I’ll never forget Ray Birdsong and something he told me over a glass of wine and after we had both expressed our misgivings about the poor choices being offered on election day by both Democrats and Republicans. According to Ray……….
“The mere fact that an individual would subject themselves to the personal ridicule that accompanies the pursuit of public office should indicate such a character flaw as to make them totally unqualified for the job!”
Looking ahead to November; I may be getting a new card for my wallet ………….