Political tie that binds

September 26, 2008

My friend Charlie and I came out of the closet last week.

No, not to confess a hidden sexual orientation, but to reveal to each other our strong support for Barack Obama. We hadn’t seen each other for a decade, but when he made a comment that the upcoming election is the most important of our lifetimes, I knew where he stood.

Thus began a spirited political conversation, the kind I eat up. One problem: I was driving us on a grocery run for a cookout with other long-lost high school friends. Getting worked up about politics as I’m prone to do, I started driving erratically and had to stop the campaign banter.

Charlie and I made a pact for our long high-school-reunion weekend: don’t bring up politics around our friends. We agreed that emotions about the election are so intense and the nation is so polarized, why risk spoiling what might be our last contact with classmates from forty years ago? We decided if either of us brought up the subject, the other had to shut him up. Which happened only once as I recall, and I thank Charlie for giving me the evil eye.

Of course some friends automatically assumed our orientation based on where we live (he in New England and me in Oregon), perhaps forgetting how narrowly John Kerry carried our states in 2004.

One friend, Mary, upon seeing me roll my eyes at someone’s passing mention of Ann Coulter, sensed I was a kindred political spirit. She later engaged me in a passionate love-fest discussion about Obama, mostly out of earshot of others. The more fired up she became, the more she looked like it was still 1968.

Now I’m back home, headed to the coast this afternoon with wife and little boy. If we don’t arrive before the presidential debate begins, motorists might want to avoid U.S. Highway 101. I’ll be doubly distracted by Obama and McCain on the radio and trying to picture Charlie and Mary thousands of miles away, hanging like me on every word.