Well, today was Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity in Washington, and if I could have been there, I would. I believe in what he is saying: that it is possible for us to disagree and still respect each other, that, in fact, most of us, despite all the loud noise coming from the cable channels, manage to do just that every day of our lives. Still, there is a lot of rancor out there, and over the past years (make that decades), it has distressed me to watch partisan disagreement escalate into ever more bitter partisan rancor.
Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a home where my mother was a Democrat and my father a Republican. They had a pretty steady routine for their evenings. My Mom sat downstairs in the living room, watching a little TV and reading. My Dad went to the upstairs spare room to read the newspaper and “rest his eyes.” Sometime around 11 o’clock, they’d meet up at the kitchen table. Whenever election time would roll around, I remember overhearing them hold some pretty lively discussions over beer and Cheese Nips, but never, never, was there any question about the love and respect they held for each other. They disagreed, but they knew down to their bones that the other was a person of intelligence and integrity.
If I hadn’t already grown up knowing that disagreement was not synonymous with contempt, the quilt community would teach me that lesson all over again. As we all know, quilters are a diverse lot, and I see that diversity reflected in my own quilt groups. We do not all vote the same way, but we all respect each other. And we know how much we share in common. We all love our families and want the best for them. We all share the most basic of values, believing in honesty and integrity. We are all thoughtful, informed, and, without moving, I hope, too far into arrogance, let me say, people of good character. There are women in my quilt groups who vote differently than I do, and I couldn’t respect them more.
I remember seeing a Bill O’Reilly segment with Ann Coulter where she said, in all seriousness, the problem is that liberals have no values. And O’Reilly, looking equally serious and profound, nodded his head in agreement. Just whom does this nonsense serve? (Well, in the spirit of satire that rules the day, I can say the bank accounts of O’Reilly and Coulter seem to have done quite well). I wondered what my father, the Republican, would have had to say about this commentary on his wife. Both my parents were devout Catholics who were highly active in their church community. My Mom not only volunteered at the church, she volunteered at the local hospital, the soup kitchen, and several local nursing homes. When my father suffered the terrible and debilitating effects of Alzheimer's, her care and devotion was profound and never wavered. She worked hard all her life, and her moral compass was unassailable. My Dad was a gentle man who was rare to anger, but I imagine he might have had something to say to O’Reilly and Coulter as they blithely said my mother, by virtue of checking a different box on the election ballot than they themselves did, had no values.
I think this is the insanity that does us no good at all.
It is inevitable that we will disagree over how best to serve our country. But I think it is very hard to use those disagreements to serve us well (so that conservatives and liberals might temper each other) when you demonize those who disagree with you. After all, you don’t debate with Stalin. And so I loved one of Jon Stewart’s suggested poster messages, “I disagree with you but I don’t think you’re Hitler.” Well. Yes.
And, because our flag mixes both red and blue, I’m doing a little patriotic project in honor of Rally to Restore Sanity day, my homage to the diversity of idea that makes our country as rich as it is, because, as another suggested poster saying goes, “ALL Americans are REAL Americans.”
As usual, if you are interested, you can find the pdf file for the patch requirements and Quilt Layout Diagram on the Projects 2010 page of my website. This little quilt finished at 11" by 11" – a very happy little quilt, just what I had in mind. And I kind of liked the symbolism of using the foundation grounded in 13 for it.
On a note unrelated: My own true love and I usually go out to lunch on Saturday’s at our favorite Indian restaurant, but the last week I have been battling some serious crud and the last thing anyone would want is me sneezing and wheezing in a restaurant. Being the wonderful guy he is, Jeff went to our favorite Vietnamese restaurant for take out so I got to eat spring rolls while watching Jon Stewart. My fortune read: “You will spend years surrounded in comfort and material wealth.”
Jeff’s comment: “Do you think it meant fabric?”