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“I Am Impressed”

January 13th, 2011

After Tucscon, My brother finds single, unprecedented kind word for Obama

Photo Courtesy oporder

I had been sitting on some typical emails that my brother sent after New Years. The holiday was particularly cold here where I live, frigid over there where my brother does, and pretty much bone-chilling all over the country. Naturally, he sent me some tirades on the global warming hoax, all in the typical “crazy” political rhetoric that he actually believes.

I was writing a draft of a new post called “Happy New Years, How’s That Global Warming Lie Treating You?” when Tucson happened.

What happened in Arizona stuck a dagger through this blog, and as the pain of the tragedy lingered and the national conversation cannibalized itself, the knife twisted. The public conversation of the past 72 hours struck far too close to home. My brother is no evil lunatic, but for the past decade I have blamed our nation’s politics for the not-insignificant damage done to our relationship. I blamed Rush Limbaugh for taking him away from us.

As the week ground on, my brother (and our hyper-conservative uncle) sent me a barrage of unsolicited and increasingly high-strung emails and even phone messages about the Tucson shooting.

“Although I disagree and condemn today’s acts I am not surprised,” he wrote on Saturday night, hours after the incident. “The people of this country are not going to be pushed and told what to do and how to live by leftists,” my brother wrote.

By Monday, as the speculative talk about Palin’s crosshairs and Angle’s 2nd Amendment Remedies started looking a lot like blame, his tenor rose.

“You’re not buying into this nonsense the left is smearing us conservatives with, are you?” he said on Monday.

We exchanged increasingly desperate emails to each other. Between Sunday and Wednesday morning, we swapped 55 emails.

“You have no one else to blame than the Democrat party and the most divisive and corrupt president in history, Barack Obama,” he swung.

I flailed back and forth between mainstream talking points—”the discourse is toxic and the violence must be seen in that context”—and pleading with him to get a grip, to calm his rhetoric and behavior to the somber and poignant demands of the day.

“Why do you feel the need to be so uncivil about politics?” I asked.

“Why am I uncivil at times?  Because we have a lawless government pushing through a radical agenda,” he replied. “Get it through your head, the country does not like left wing people and their agenda especially when it is being forced on us. Knowing this is what makes me uncivil and furious.”

As he twisted the knife, I squirmed and lost hope for a blog premised on politic’s role in the breakdown of our relationship. I asked my brother whether, regardless of the violence in Tucson, isn’t it simply better for all of us to speak respectfully and thoughtfully when we debate?

He had heard this one before; Rush Limbaugh pre-empted my call to civility.

“So now we aren’t allowed to show anger or disagreement anymore for fear that one asshole will commit murder? You really need to check into reality one of these days. Let me know if you ever find it.”

By Wednesday morning, we had sunk to our depths.

My rock bottom was despair: “i really find this whole left-right fight after this shooting tiresome and sad,” I sighed.

He was righteous to the end: “If you are depressed about it, then you have no one else to blame than those on the left.”

Me: “you’re hopeless.”

Him: “No, you are.”

And then, in Tucson on Wednesday night, Barack Obama spoke.

The speech will be remembered as one of this president’s greatest moments. I had that old 2008 feeling again: inspired, stirred and spiritually lifted. Politics doesn’t do that very often.

Hesitantly, I texted my brother: “I hope you are watching this.”

My brother’s historic and unprecedented response: “Yes, and I am impressed so far.”