Last night I had a heart-to-heart chat with the man in the mirror.
I'd just gotten off the phone with a relative. After years of nurturing a relationship, one conversation about politics drove us into distant corners and set a pane of glass between us.
It was the last straw.
"You know how people take a pledge?" I said to the mirror man. "They swear off television for a year, say, or swear off Twinkies for day. Well, after the presidential election I'm swearing off politics for two years."
The man in the mirror looked unimpressed.
"First," he said, "you'll never do it. And second, what if everyone swore off politics? The country would turn into a grade school cafeteria overnight."
He always had to sound the opposing point of view.
"First," I replied, "not everyone is swearing off politics. Just me. And second, I'm tired of walking the razorblade between religion and politics. It can't be done."
"It can be done," he said. "Look at Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Mitt Romney."
"It can't be done by me," I said, "Politics polarizes. It divides and isolates. Religion — true religion — includes and embraces. I mean Jesus was apolitical. Remember that business about render unto Ceasar and such?"
I'd caught him off-guard, so I plunged ahead.
"I mean all the chattering heads on the right say if Obama wins we'll lose our freedoms. The heads on the left say if Romney wins, justice will be the victim. But you and I know that's not true, it's just propoganda. The republic will survive either way. We're not teetering on the abyss. Politicians talk about 'wedge issues.' Well politics itself is the biggest wedge issue. I don't want to fight anymore. I'd rather be a medic. You know, dress wounds, not inflict them."
The man in the mirror chewed his tongue while he thought all this over.
Chewing his tongue was a bad habit. It made him look as if he were stifling a laugh.
Finally he said, "Let me quote Edmund Burke: 'All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.'"
"Been there, heard that," I said. "And I don't plan on doing nothing. I plan on teaching my grandchildren about fairness and kindness. I plan to be a good neighbor, share what little wisdom I have and help where I'm needed. I may even try to listen more and talk less. In fact, I have a feeling that two years without politics might be like two years without football. I'll probably be amazed at all the things I get accomplished."
The man in the mirror struck a reflective pose.
"Well," he said, "it's your life. Good luck. But, just promise me one thing."
"What's that?" I said.
"Promise you'll talk to me before giving up football. I can only take so much of this kind of stuff you know."
As I walked away I saw a smile flit across his lips.
He's a stubborn cuss, but I think he enjoys our talks as much as I do.
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