Today I talked to Boston Herald columnist Joe Fitzgerald about my fears for the direction of the country, the nature of his column and its exaltation of the people voting for Bush and against gay marriage. Fitzgerald moralizes; nearly every column is about how liberal values are leading the United States straight to hell.
He writes that it was John Kerry and the Democrats who ran a sleazy campaign for president, not George Bush and the Republicans; and when I note, for example, that not a single charge of the bilious Swift Boat Veterans for Truth was substantiated, he admits he never really looked into the issue. He writes that it’s the 62 percent of voters blocking gay marriage that are standing up for American values; and when I note that freedom, equality and minding your own damn business are great American values, he replies that first-graders are being indoctrinated in the gay lifestyle and taught abortion is okay.
If one of his children said they were in a homosexual relationship, or getting an abortion, he’d love them no less, he said. But he clearly doesn’t want either to be legal.
The conversation got a bit heated. It never overheated. I’m old enough to realize that there’s little to be gained from getting crazy, and possibly something to gain from staying calm — even today, even after the dirty tricks of Bush Cheney ’04. Some of my anger dissipated as Fitzgerald told me of the personal attacks he suffers for his conservative views, even from people he works with daily in the Herald newsroom, and how even his 20-something daughter and wife of 30-plus years are upset by some of his opinions. Mainly it diminished when he shook my hand and expressed how impressed he was by the way I spoke with him: directly and reasonably.
Usually he gets anonymous rage.
Amazingly, Fitzgerald came over to me later and told me again how impressed he was. He patted me on the back. He shook my hand. Again.
Neither of our viewpoints budged an inch, so far as I can tell. Neither of us changed the other. But it was something, right? It was civility amid civil war. Culture amid a culture war. It’s the way things should be.
But the conservatives are still sticking their noses in other people’s business, taking away freedoms, rejecting equality.
Fitzgerald is courtly. A stand-up guy. And still quite probably the most pleasant face of a terrifying reality.