'I Can't Believe My Best Friend is a Republican'

icant3Say, that headline sounds awfully familiar -- almost as it were a paraphrase of a popular book title.

Or to put it another way, "liberal" admits that all that talk about "tolerance" and "diversity" and "coexistence" is all a crock:

Word got out that Janet and I were spending time together.

"You know she's a Republican, right?" whispered another member of our weight-loss group after I took her card. It was meant as, well, what, exactly? A warning?

Yes, I had known. Her daughters' names are Liberty, Honor and Victory, the latter named at the time we invaded Iraq. (Her son's name, inexplicably, is Bernard.) She owns a bust of Ronald Reagan and cried when he died, proving that she, perhaps alone with Nancy, had remembered that he was still alive. There is a bumper sticker on her very, very large SUV that says "REPEAL," and I believe it refers to the healthcare bill.

Janet and I refer to each other's political parties as "your people," but mostly, we try to stick to the things we have in common: budgets, schools, child-rearing. Janet wore a Tea Party shirt to my last birthday party, and my birthday present to myself was to not ask about it.

But it's hard not to talk about it at all. When you live, say, on a coast or in a very blue state, you grow accustomed to being surrounded by people who believe like you do. You get to thinking that the only people who would dare contradict you are ignoramuses. Meanwhile, I began directing all my anger toward the Republican Party at Janet. On the day that Congress voted to defund Planned Parenthood, I found myself furious at Janet, just Janet, as the face of all that was bad in the world. Feeling sad and deflated, I wandered over to her house, unable to look her in the eye, asking her why? How? To what end?

She told me she didn't believe government had any business funding it in the first place. That this isn't about abortion or hating women but ways the government doesn't need to be involved. She told me Planned Parenthood was well-funded and won't even miss the money. "Planned Parenthood will be better off without government funding and all the strings that are presumably attached," she said. "I sometimes wonder why liberals, who are so enamored of the freedom to do any damn thing they want, even take government money when it constricts their freedoms."

I closed my eyes and breathed through what she was saying. Janet isn't Glenn Beck or Sarah Palin. She believes what she's telling me, and she's studied the issues. That might be what is so difficult: She has the same education as I have, and yet she has made different decisions, decisions that are so counter to what I believe. Decisions I find abhorrent.

As Frank Burns once said -- foreshadowing an entire generation of self-described liberals -- individuality is fine, as long as we all do it together.