This column usually offers a safe space from politics, but occasionally I have to wade into the deep water. After all, everyone is talking about the coronavirus, the stock market, and the presidential election.
So, despite popular demand, I will field three questions on these hot topics.
1. How bad is this coronavirus? Somewhere between Donald Trump and Nancy Pelosi. He says, “We've got it under control.” She says the need for more action is “urgent.” I'd say the correct answer is somewhere in the middle. You remember the middle, right? It's where most Americans don't go these days.
2. How about this stock market? We've had better days, for sure. I've made some good moves over the years, and a few other moves that deserve the “losing horn sound” on The Price Is Right. If I've learned anything, it's this: When the headlines are screaming doom and gloom, I look the other way. History will tell you that it is a marathon, not a sprint. Wait it out. This is some of that bad medicine we are forced to swallow. But eventually we get better, and often we're stronger than before.
3. This presidential election is unbearable. Can you make it stop? I would if I could. From the president's loud rallies, to the Democrats' loud debates, to the annoying commercials, it's an assault on our eyes and ears. I opened a box of Cheerios the other day, and Mike Bloomberg jumped out, talking about how he cleaned up New York City. That may have been a dream, but I can't be sure.
I often write about the past, and some say I get too nostalgic. Guilty as charged. There are some things about 20th century America I miss very much.
We've had some presidents who were wildly popular for a while, and others who were embroiled in scandals. Ronald Reagan is an example of both. During his first two years in office, he brought optimism to a nation recovering from a hostage crisis and a sluggish economy. He also survived an assassination attempt, and his wit served him well during his recovery. His approval ratings were high. Near the end of his presidency, the Iran Contra affair (“arms for hostages”) angered many Americans. Still, during both his peaks and valleys, we as individuals were not defined by our opinion of him. In that pre-social media, pre-cable shoutfest era, we were free to quietly go about our business, and not judge one another on whether we were “pro” or “anti” Reagan.
A decade later, Bill Clinton presided over a relatively strong economy. His personal behavior resulted in some well-deserved scorn, and some spirited debates on whether he should be impeached and removed from office. (He was, and he wasn't.) But again, I can't recall many arguments that resulted in loss of friendships.
Look at us now. Longtime relationships have been re-defined over politics. “Hey, let's get some guys together to go to the game. I'll call Johnny and Ron, and you get in touch with Sam and Kevin.” Long pause. “I don't know about Kevin,” your friend says. “He's a lefty. I'm not sure I want to ride in the same car with him.”
“What? You guys worked together for twenty years. He mowed your mom's grass for free, until the day she died. He would jump in and save you if you were drowning.” The friend replies, “Yeah, but have you seen his political posts on Facebook? I don't associate with people who lean that way.”
This is not an unusual conversation. It is one of many in which people choose their friends (and enemies) based on who they prefer for president of the United States of America. Are we still united?
In California, a woman has divorced her husband of 22 years because he has decided to support President Trump. “I feel betrayed,” she said. She did not elaborate on whether he was a good father, a good provider, or a good companion. It is sad to see anyone seek a divorce, but one would hope it is over something more serious than their political preferences. Back in the 1950s, did anyone break up a marriage because their spouse liked Ike?
Jeanne Safer has just written a book titled, “I Love You, But I Hate Your Politics.” It is described as “a guide to maintaining respect and intimacy in our increasingly divided nation.”
If this disease is infecting your household, turn off the TV, get off Facebook, and start a garden together. Life is too short to let politicians disrupt your relationships.
The presidential election is eight months away, so it's too early to predict a winner. Sadly, no matter who wins, half the nation will be dead-set against him or her, from Day 1. Where's Ike when we need him?
David Carroll, a Chattanooga news anchor, is the author of “Volunteer Bama Dawg,” available on his website, ChattanoogaRadioTV.com. You may contact him at email@example.com, or 900 Whitehall Road, Chattanooga, TN 37405.