Marolt: Party loyalty: For people who don’t like to think but love to argue
My friend — I’ll call him Pete — is a Republican. It wasn’t always this way.
It was October 2004, and the New York Yankees were firmly in control of the professional baseball world. They were up three games to none in the American League Championship Series against their rival, the Boston Red Sox, however unworthy, and apparently cruising to another world championship.
It was at this point in history that I headed deep down into a canyon near Arches National Monument, Utah, for a few days, cut off completely from the phony world. There would be no rest or relaxation on the trip; then again, nobody went in with that expectation. It was a school trip — a couple of teachers, a trio of parents and 40 or so sixth-grade kids careening through wilderness to disturb the peace where there is really only ever the illusion of it, the greatest lesson, perhaps, anyone might discover in nature.
It is almost hard to imagine now that there was a time most didn’t carry cellphones on camping trips, and even if they did, none would have worked in that remote region of the most powerful country in the world. In lieu of Facebook, we still relied heavily on face time to figure out what one another was all about. That was just more than a decade ago.
And so we sat around the campfire after the kids had zipped their tents tightly against the myths of rattlesnakes and scorpions cuddling up next to their warm bodies during the cool, desert night, using that diversion of attention to forget the ghost stories their trusted friends had told while roasting marshmallows, insisting they were true.
We didn’t talk about the usual campfire stuff — the immensity of the universe and the smallness of man, the unquenchable need for humans to commune with nature or God. We were experienced campers and had either blown through all that stuff quickly on the first night or skipped it all together; I don’t recall which. No, we were deep into politics well before the fire needed to be restoked. We sat shoulder to shoulder, staring at the flames, charting the course of smoke drifting into the darkness and debating what we should be doing about climate change, immigration, guns, the death penalty, abortion and other issues that will divide our world right down the middle for centuries.
Pete was a stalwart Democrat. Many would have called me a Republican if they had been listening in, even though I have always been an unregistered independent, less to make an ideological statement than simply out of apathy for participation in primary elections.
We hashed things over thoroughly and argued circularly until there simply was no more firewood easily gatherable in the dark and we got too cold to argue anymore. The end result, as it always is with political “discussions,” was that nobody convinced anybody of anything except their own certainty about correct politics that may not have been as solid before that evening — or after, for that matter.
When I came out of the canyon a few days later, I stopped at a gas station and ran into a couple of guys still wearing brand-new Red Sox caps. I knew then that my Yankees had lost four straight and that civilization had profoundly changed in my absence. Who would have guessed that during the next decade the Bronx Bombers would not win another World Series, Pete would proclaim via Facebook that he had become a Republican and I would start voting mostly with the Democrats?
Did Pete and I have profound influence on each other that manifested itself long after the fact? I don’t think so. He hasn’t changed that much, and neither have I. I switched because I felt the Republicans got meaner and he did because the Democrats weren’t considering economic incentives enough as a way to encourage the switch to renewable energy sources. It’s funny for me to think that despite our swap of allegiances, Pete and I would likely have the same political debate today as we had 11 years ago.
Political parties are not worthy of the loyalty of the thinking person. Given just two choices to side with for all issues, I think it is impossible that one or the other group can consistently support more than 50 percent of the time the many things I might consider and reconsider over the course of my voting lifetime. Jumping from one bandwagon to another is only shameful in sports. In politics, it should be applauded. Looking at this logically, moving back and forth is really the only way to initiate change.
Roger Marolt remains a loyal Yankees fan. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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