Wednesday, February 22, 2012

We Are Not Enemies

Last night, after leaving a particularly intense Fullerton City Council meeting, I stopped by Mulberry St. Ristorante for a drink. Normally, I go to Mulberry late in the evenings, after 10. But last night, I stopped in around 7:30, and the bar crowd was considerably older than the late-night crowd I’m used to. Mulberry St, between the hours of 4-8pm is a lot like Cheers…mostly middle-aged or elderly folks having a few post-work cocktails.

I sat alone at the end of the bar, sipping my drink, sort of eavesdropping on the three people near me. When one of them mentioned chicken fried steak, I took my cue to join the conversation.

“I love chicken fried steak,” I said, and I was in.

I learned that one of the older gentlemen, Bill, was from Wisconsin, like me. We talked about Wisconsin places, farms, horses, small town cemeteries, food. It was great.

A bit later, my friend Fred Ortiz walked in. Fred is in his 50s and owns a sprinkler business next to Hibbleton on Santa Fe. Fred has one of the largest collections of Chicano art in the area and he co-founded the Mexican American Historical Foundation, which eventually became the Mexican American Historical Society when “a bunch of liberal democrats took over,” he said.

Fred is a staunch Republican. He believes in hard work and earning your own way. He despises the notion of government handouts. He is a self-made man.

Fred and I argue for awhile about politics. I lean to the left, but I’m not really a democrat (more of an independent). Being a government employee myself (I teach college), I believe in social programs. As a small business owner, I also believe in independent enterprise, although I am not very good at it.

Fred and I did not arrive at any profound conclusions save one: that two people of differing ideologies can have a drink together and talk about their differences and learn from each other.

With the state of American political discourse being what it is (name-calling, mud-slinging), this was an important lesson indeed. Instead of hating on each other, we can discuss areas of disagreement, and maybe realize that we are not so different than we thought we were.

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