There is just a whisper of gold touching the leaves of our deciduous trees. The midnight pines are as they have always been. I think autumn is late this year because of the summer rains. All over the world the weather has been changing, but up here in the mountains we have lucked out because for us our weather has been getting better. There are five little villages that use the Frazier Park Post Office and we are the very last one, the furthest from the freeway. Our little town is set deep in the trees and surrounded by mountains on three sides. This last summer a little gray cloud would come scuttling over the horizon and hover over the village, it would be nowhere else. Then it would drop its cooling, healing moisture keeping us safe from the late summer fires.
This month I am going to take you back a couple of months (in imagination) to the middle of the summer. I am going to take you on a visit with an imaginary neighbor family. They have three children, all of school going age. The mother is a Special Education teacher and a Democrat, while the father also teaches, but his specialty is Math and he is and has always been a Republican.
Did you say she’s a Democrat and he is Republican, are you sure?
Well did you know that Janna Ryan, wife of Mitt Romney’s running mate in the 2012 election was a Liberal Democrat when she met her husband? And did you know that first lady Laura Bush was also once a registered Democrat before marrying George W. Bush? And of course you did know that the infamous former California Republican Governor endorsed John McCain, in 2008, while his then-wife Maria Shriver was a strident Obama supporter?
Let me introduce you to this couple, my imaginary friends. Her name is Abigail and he is Noah. They have been happily together for fifteen years, two years longer than the age of their oldest child Troy who has just turned thirteen. For the most part they have been able to sort out their political differences. I mean after all they agree on almost everything else, just not the politics. Then, too, a major election comes around only every four years.
On this day when we check in on them, they are sitting at an old kitchen table. Abbey has just made her husband apple/cinnamon pancakes, his favorite. She has also just discovered that if she brews their favorite Columbian coffee and pours it over a long glass of ice cubes and then throws in an Irish cream at the top, it is a summer treat par excellence! Her husband, Noah, is not the most articulate of men, but she can read the pleasure in his eyes as he leans forward with a contented sigh. He has the newspaper spread out in front of him on the table.
He reads out, "Last week the State of Carolina approved a constitutional amendment defining marriage as solely between a man and woman. They effectively banned same sex marriage. Gag on it, now today Obama is announcing his support for Gay Rights "said Noah.
"Is he lending his support to same sex marriage?" asks Abbey.
"That he is."
"That must be a first," she says.
"Yes. Didn’t you say Obama had lectured on the constitution?" asks Noah.
"I thought he had studied the Constitution in the University." Abbey was looking at her husband in surprise. She knew he wasn’t bigoted about gays. They even had some very good friends who were living together as partners. So what was this all about?
"He is usurping the powers of a state, of all the states. It really gets me Abbey."
"Oh?" She understood.
"The duties and rights of the Federal Government are clearly enumerated in the Constitution, and I cannot remember them saying anything about Abortion or Gay Rights" he said seeing her raised eyebrow. "It was a purely state matter."
"Remember I am pro-choice," she says.
"And that is your call," he says, "but should a president have the right to cast down the restraints of the Constitution?"
"Aren’t you splitting hairs?" she asks
"No! It’s a fundamental. Without a limited Federal Government we go back to the European Way of Rule by Arbitrary." He was off on a pet peeve.
She sighed, "You mean like Henry VIII chopping off his wives heads. I can’t see Obama chopping off Michelle’s head."
"No," he laughed. "Just look at the strength of the muscles in those beautiful shoulders."
"You think she is beautiful?"
"She is... but then so are you."
"Charmer! I do agree Noah that Liberty is important," she says, "And the Constitution is most important." Abbey smiles at her husband. They had just walked around another political minefield using good communication. Noah went back to reading his newspaper.
"I have been thinking about Mitt Romney’s opposition to the illegal immigrants," said Abbey after awhile.
This time Noah was surprised. Her sister from Australia had come to the USA and the immigration process had taken five years and cost his sister-in-law $8,000 in lawyer’s fees. The family had often discussed the Mexican problem, eleven million entering and now living illegally.
"My viewpoint has been shifting since I have been teaching Special Ed," said Abbey. "A lot of my kids are from illegal families, and some have been in the country as long as seventeen years. So what do you do with them now? Pluck them up and send them back to Mexico? Maybe we should not have given them driver’s licenses and education and medical benefits, but those were the good years. We could afford the largesse. America has invested in these people, Noah. Especially America has invested in the children." Noah was listening to her intently.
"Do you have a solution?" he asks.
"Yes I think I do," she says
"It’s like this Noah. Do you remember our discussion in the teacher’s lounge about school rules? Dr. Fowler made the very good point that there is no purpose to creating a rule that cannot be enforced. That is just asking for trouble."
"And a good point that is," says Noah.
"Well applying that to the illegal immigrants I just don’t think it is feasible to send eleven million people back over the border."
"True - and your point’?
"Well, what if the President were to declare an amnesty?"
"Would that be fair to people who came in legally, like your sister?"
"I don’t like the idea of immigrants starting off in our country thinking it okay to break the law."
"Agreed. So, listen up Noah, what if there were an amnesty but it includes that they have to learn the language and do some community service?"
"You know I think you are on to something."
"Should I email Obama about this?"
"You do that. Tell him though, that now we have a national debt. After he has declared the amnesty, anybody coming in to the USA MUST bring with them $10,000 to start a new business and have learned English before they come. Once we could carry passengers but we are too economically strapped now." How like Noah to look at the practical ramifications.
"Isn’t that a bit arrogant, making them learn our language?"
"English is our national language and I don’t care it could just as well be Spanish. My point is one language please. Only one language. All this translating especially on government forms is a waste of taxpayer’s money."
Abbey smiled to herself as she drafted her email. Just look at it, together they had come up with a really good solution, or that was what she thought. She wondered what it would take to get Republicans and Democrats to work together.
Everywhere she went these days she was seeing Blacks arm-in-arm with Latinos or Caucasians. America was leading the world in Ethnic Diversity. What about Political Diversity? Wouldn’t that be a good PR campaign? PR was the true American Way, not these silly attack ads.
She smiled again. She could always rely on Noah to see the economic view. Was this a Republican trait? No, look how well Clinton had managed the economy. Maybe the country just needed both viewpoints, Democratic and Republican.
Abbey decided that listening to each other without interrupting was the trick; listening and understanding the viewpoint and the message. Even if she didn't agree with it.
They were after all both Americans.
Quote for the Month
If we cannot end now our differences, at least we can help make the world safe for diversity.
John F. Kennedy