I think this is a safe blog entry to write. That is, I think there is a slim to none chance that the person whom I will be writing about will ever stumble upon this. At least I hope not. It’s not that I’m really going to say anything that I wouldn’t say to his face but the way in which I’d approach it would probably be a little different than what is probably about to follow.
A conversation that I had long avoided - and in some way had hoped would never take place - occurred late this afternoon as the result of provocation which proved to be more than I could resist. It was with a good friend of mine, someone I’ve known about 3 years now. The guy is in his late 40s and is just about your stereotypical Bush-loving conservative “Christian” republican. I say just about because he does happen to be vegetarian and engages in exercise and physical discipline that, in my experience, is hard to find among this particular demographic. Without going on about this, suffice it to say that politically/religiously/socially this individual is practically my polar opposite. Nonetheless he is a friend and I believe he is well-meaning but misguided. It is not my requirement that a person share my exact same views on everything in order to be my friend. In fact, I appreciate the diversity.
Let’s just call him Z. Z enjoys conflict tremendously and has an uncanny ability to create an adversarial relationship with anyone who is unfortunate enough to draw his irritation. And it doesn’t take much. For the entire time I have known Z, he has been involved in some lawsuit or legal proceeding of some kind. If it’s not suing his neighbor over their swimming pool or calling the police on an elderly woman who has wondered onto his property or complaining about some bicycle rider who makes a U-turn in his parking lot….well, if it’s not one thing it’s another. Z causes himself a tremendous amount of stress and seems to obsess over these kinds of things. Z yells and cusses at his wife. I have no doubt that he loves her and maybe some of the criticism is deserved but Z can get pretty verbally abusive with her and his college-aged children. He has a quick temper. Several times he has apologized to me for me “having to see that” and admits he is wrong and shouldn’t do it but…he keeps doing it.
Z confides in me. For whatever reason I think I intrigue Z and even though I’m quite a bit younger he seems to run things by me to get my input or opinion. This is fine with me. I know Z is good at heart and in certain areas he can teach me a thing or two. Z maybe drinks a little too much from time to time because his self created stress becomes too heavy a load and it offers him some release. He exercises heavily – this is our common ground – and it provides some stress relief but not quite enough. Z has some health concerns that most likely stem from his quick fuse and general attitude about life.
Today Z was complaining to me about what a bad week he had last week. He had a blow up episode and some other problems, all of which were really very minor and not worth the energy he exerted in response to them. On Z’s list of laments was “Obama”. I’ve avoided political discussions with Z in the past because he is outspoken and I know where he stands. He and his son had the opportunity to meet Bush in person several months ago and it was “just amazing”. Today he says “Ben, don’t tell me you’re for OBAMA….”. I guess my patience and self-control with this issue had finally run out, or maybe it was just the heat but I had no choice but to answer honestly. “I really like Obama Z. Of course I’m for Obama.”
This led to all kinds of discussion that I knew would have potential to end our friendship just because of our fundamentally different worldview. We talked oil and abortion and the war in Iraq and 9/11. I held back a little but generally let him know where I stood on these issues. Some of things I said clearly stunned him and left him almost speechless. You could see him thinking. The conversation, to my pleasant surprise, remained cordial. He probably did more of the talking and that definitely helped but he seemed open to what I had to say. His complaint with Obama, oddly, was something about a comment he made and him being pro-choice. Somehow in his mind it mostly came back to abortion and the immorality of killing an innocent unborn child. I’m not sure if he just couldn’t think of anything else or in his mind he was really able to compartmentalize politics to such an extreme but this is how it was.
I asked him how he could reconcile the morality of starting a devastating war on false pretense and killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqis and thousands of young American soldiers. There were other questions I posed along these lines and it generally resulted in a subject change of sorts. He made a comment about Obama being the anti-Christ. I think (and hope) he was at least mostly joking but I eventually shot back with my belief that Bush/Cheney were the Terrorists In Chiefs and if there was such a thing as the anti-Christ, they fit the bill nicely, at least on grounds of devastation of life and destruction. Still…the conversation remained cordial but pretty much devolved into a complaint-fest about all the ills that are afflicting him and his business. Somehow it was implied that all of this is the fault of the liberals and democrats…even the old lady at the end of the street who’s dog shits in a remote corner of a very large grass field behind his building.
The conversation ended and we remain friends. In fact I think I made at least a small bit of progress with Z. Z thinks I handle life pretty well and it obviously piques his interest. He found a book by Paul Brunton that I had left sitting by the swimming pool (accidentally) and has questioned me several times about things like meditation and spirituality. Z’s sense of self-identity very much hinges on his Christian beliefs and he almost feels a little guilty for being curious about anything different. The same can be said for his politics. But intuitively he recognizes that something about his personal philosophy isn’t quite working for him. He has absolutely zero control over his emotions and his anger. He seems to have no tools to help him with this. His way of relating to the world is moving him closer to a breaking point, psychologically and physically. He recognizes this but has no idea what to do about it. So…as Z’s friend, I do the best I can to help out without thrusting my views onto him.
We wrapped up our conversation and Z agreed to read a book I suggested and also agreed to watch a DVD, “9/11 Mysteries 1: Demolition”. Z is interested in Eastern philosophy and how it can be practically applied to help his health and his life. I gave him a novel which I think serves as a great primer and is also one of my most favorite books of all time, “Island” by Aldous Huxley. I hope he takes it to heart.