I had a phone conversation the other day with an old friend, Patty, a woman who I have known for 30 years but haven’t seen since she and her husband paid a visit a couple of years ago.
She and her husband live in western Iowa, are both 66 years old, both considering retirement from their jobs, both devout Christians, both politically conservative and who both probably consider me to be more liberal than they are – but don’t hate me for it. That in itself is worth noting in this day and age.
During the phone call, we got caught up on family stuff and church activities and the fun of watching high-scoring pro football games. But inevitably the talk turned to politics – mostly about the distastefulness of it all and what it is going to take to turn things around.
I was fascinated with our conversation because my friend represents Mrs. Midwest or Mrs. Middle Class or Mrs. Common Sense, rather than the typical political junkies whom I have spent most of my life interviewing or hanging around with.
Patty is concerned about the tone of today’s politics, particularly on the national level, and the amount of finger-pointing going on instead of problem-solving.
She said she was at a Bible study one night in which she (a Republican) said something complimentary about President Obama, and someone in the group was so upset by the nice words about Obama that they got up and left. I can tell you for sure that Patty never voted for Obama but was willing to give him credit where credit was due. That’s a lost art in most places these days, but I think it does represent a Midwest value.
Patty doesn’t like the sharp and petty criticisms on social media by partisans of one party or the other because, in addition to being nasty, they are expressed by people who only listen to one side and believe everything they hear.
She is also not a fan of 24-hour cable news networks that make no attempt to give balanced reports. We agreed that neither one of us like Sean Hannity on Fox News or Rachael Maddow on MSNBC because of the biased blather they both express.
Patty didn’t realize it as we talked, but she left me with a “take home message” that I want to share with you. She said she agrees with Professor Alan Derschowitz who says political criticism needs to pass the “shoe on the other foot” test. In other words, if you criticize someone of the opposite political party, would you do it if the shoe were on the other foot?
But she said the personal test that she applies is what she calls the “equal outrage” concept. When she hears a political statement that she believes is outrageous, she tries to stop and think if she would find it equally outrageous if someone from the other party said exactly the same thing.
I think Patty is right – but it is a sad state of affairs when the best we can do to savor our politics is to be equally outraged.
John Skipper retired from the Globe Gazette in February 2018 after 52 years in newspapers, most of that in Mason City covering North Iowa government and politics.