Roger L. Simon

New Friends, New Times... New Election

George Bush has many new friends in and out of the blogosphere, among blogger and among commenters. Of course he had several fair weather friends who were unable to stand the course of the inevitable ups and downs of war, but I will not address those people now. I want to speak to those of us who have remained George’s new friends.

Many of us have never voted for a Republican before, especially for President, and it will be a peculiar experience indeed on Tuesday (or before) punching hard on that chad so it doesn’t hang. My hand will be shaking with the memory of a thousand ancestors who always voted Democratic as if it were a form of tribal initiation. This goes back to early childhood (age 5?) when I was informed that all my family, every last one of them, was “Gladly with Adlai.” They gave me a pin, which I wore to school with pride. Later on, I… Well, you get the point. In any case, because I have broken so sharply with the past, I imagine I will be especially hard on Bush should he win. I will feel responsible in my miniscule way.

But what interests me now at this amazing crossroads is how difficult indeed it is for those of us who have made this transition. Some who comment on this blog do so under pseudonyms so their friends, family or employers do not know that they have gone over to the “dark side.” Even though I have a blog written in my own name averaging 20,000 visitors a day, quoted in all sorts of media, I often find it difficult myself to admit in public, face-to-face, where I stand. And it’s not just because I’m afraid of getting my car keyed. It has something to do with identity, my very core. I don’t want to be thought of as one of “them.” I’m a modern, with-it guy, dammit. I support gay marriage and stem cell research! [Who cares, Simon?-ed. You shut up. This is an unedited post.]

But sometimes I come out of the closet. Last night I was at a dinner party… yes, it was in Hollywood where I live, but it wasn’t particularly glamorous, just normal big city folks getting together. Not all the people worked in the Industry and those that did were more on the workaday side. The people had come together through our children – we were all parents from the same school – and the kids played in the next room while we ate, drank and talked. Naturally, the subject of the election came up and I decided – maybe it was the vodka – to let it rip and say I was voting for Bush. One woman shrieked at the top of her lungs. The others just looked at me in incredulity.

I don’t think it’s bragging to say I knew more than these people about politics. (I have to – I am the one putting out opinions in public.) But that didn’t stop me from shrieking back at the woman. Others joined in and it became for a few moments a battle of who could yell the loudest. But after a bit it quieted down and they stared at me curiously. These people did not know me well, but they knew I was a writer and they wondered how such a person could be voting for this man they reviled. We began to discuss. You will not be surprised to learn that most (not all) of them were not very well informed. Their view of the world was heavily influenced by the Six O’Clock News, a Dan Rather vision of reality. The UN Oil-for-Food Scandal was some kind of dim reference that some of them (sort of) recognized. What it implies, of course, they had never thought about.

I can’t say I changed anyone’s mind. How that happens is mysterious anyway. But a couple of them at least listened to my views. One woman I think pretty much got them, though she didn’t fully agree. To the woman who shrieked, it remained “But there were no WMDs!” I am, however, glad I opened my mouth – and not just because it was therapeutic.