Monday, August 08, 2016
Friends at war
Jane is as precious as anyone I know, a young mom with a cute kid who's got a dog, a special dog, because he's a special little boy. She and my daughter were special friends, are special friends. While she was in college, we would occasionally host her immigrant parents when they came to visit. Today Jane is starting a new job. She'll be working with international students at a college a long day's ride east of here. She's bringing her son some new child care, and she's concerned about too many things that are new in both his life and hers.
Then there's Mary, an ex-student from my very first year of teaching. It's impossible to imagine, but third-grade addition tells me she's 60 years old. To me, she's still 17, loud and brash and something of a tom boy. That's overstating. Let me put it this way, she was never a girl to put on a shelf. Feminine?--yes, but in a bold and delightful way. Just plain fun, a great kid. Not the best student. Not by a long shot, but blessed by the Almighty with a personality so ample and inviting kids wanted her in the center of things. She made life a joy, probably still does. She may well be the only person I know who plays the accordion, a trade she picked up from her own special ethnic heritage.
Finally, there's Grotch, who owns a trucking business. He lost his wife some years ago now. It's hard to imagine him alone--and sad to think of him that way. When, long ago, he married her, the rest of us shook our heads because we thought the choice somehow amazing. He seemed to us to be marrying the law. When he wasn't with her, he was, in some ways, a wild man, who, like many young Calvinists of my era--and me too--was given to what I might call "acting out," breaking away from a religiously serious way of life we found tedious and uninteresting. He knew how to keep the rest of us in stitches, and did.
All three hail from different passages in my life. They each have a strong personality and a Facebook friend who answers to my name. They've never met each other and almost certainly never will. They all live in the Midwest, but far, far away. They know absolutely nothing of each other.
No matter. Last week, they got in a fight.
I've been an admirer of David Brooks for several years now, follow his opinion pieces regularly in the NY Times. His credentials are conservative in a traditional sense, not as in "tea party." He's not a politician or a hot head. He's a rare breed, maybe one of America's leading popular intellectuals.
Here's the heart of how, last week, David Brooks described Donald Trump: "He appears to have no ability to experience reverence, which is the foundation for any capacity to admire or serve anything bigger than self, to want to learn about anything beyond self, to want to know and deeply honor the people around you."
In the last year, a gadzillion words have been tossed around in descriptions of Donald Trump. Single-handedly, Trump has turned this election cycle into a kind of goofy circus it's never been before. This year, all bets are off because no one really understands Donald Trump. We all, lovers and haters, just ride along.
I thought David Brooks really had something when he made the claim that Trump lacks "the ability to experience reverence," so I posted those words on Facebook, along with the url to Brooks' column.
The gloves came off. Among the pugilists were Jane, Mary, and Grotch.
Seeing those three--and others--go at it was eerie. Just a few minutes later, it got flat out depressing. Facebook's gift is creating opportunity to keep in touch, but it also offers a bloody battlefield for men and women to hurl invective at enemies they don't even know, enemies they might like if they only knew them as souls and not talking points.
Last week, unwittingly, I instigated a clash between people I know and like, and it hurt, hurt me more than it hurt them, I suppose. In another world altogether, Jane and Mary and Grotch, over a steaming cup of Joe, would probably smile graciously and enjoy each other's company.
Posted by J. C. Schaap at 7:09 AM