I am fully aware and acknowledge that most people are pretty even-keeled and Twitter/Facebook/MySpace/Reddit/whatever has given a voice to the voiceless but if the 2016 election has taught us anything, Twitter is to civilized discourse what a dog is to a cat – and it happens to be the prevalent means of social and political communication these days. Hell, I have a Twitter – doesn’t mean I like a lot of what I see there.
I’m at a restaurant with two of my friends who are dating. Assume for argument’s sake, my husband isn’t there because he hates being social because that’s very much the truth. Let’s take gender out of the equation because I don’t want a bunch of jerks who are offended by pronouns dog-piling on me. I like them both and they’re good people. We all share common interests, goals, ideals, and morals but we’re also different. We like a lot of the same things and each of us brings something to the table intellectually. It’s generally a good group dynamic so I don’t mind being the “third wheel”, as it were.
Before the appetizer gets there, they start arguing over, well, everything. Politics, mainly, but also some religion since they both have different faiths. Never mind that both of their religions are centered around being a decent person in general and have no conflicting overall ideologies…that doesn’t seem to matter. This has been happening more frequently for awhile now but, since I’m on the outside looking in and they’re both my friends, I say nothing. It would be rude to say anything. What couple doesn’t fight, right? And if everyone was the same, it would make for a really, really boring world but they’re the same where it counts (as aforementioned, them both being good people). They both logically know what they’re doing is wrong – arguing in public, airing past grievances that really don’t matter in the context of this particular conversation, and doing all of this in front of a third party/mutual friend – but logic plays no part here.
As I sit there, awkwardly chewing on a bread stick (because we’re at Olive Garden and their bread sticks are amazing), they start turning to me for confirmation as to the overall veracity of their statements. I sit there like a deer in headlights and chew some more. They ignore my vacant stare and turn back on each other, continuing to bicker. The waiter asks if they’re ready to order and asks if they’d like to hear some specials. As I’m about to say, “Yes, kind waiter, I’d like to know the specials (and order a couple of bottles of wine),” the couple both scream “NO!” in unison. It’s probably the only thing they’ve agreed upon all night. The waiter hurries off, obviously knowing his tip will be poor if he presses 2/3rds of the majority of the table to make a decision. Nah, man…I’m not hungry or anything.
If they could sit where I’m sitting, they’d know they’re being rude by arguing in circles over things that don’t really matter but they’re so far up their own butts, they don’t notice. The arguments are emotionally-based and designed to draw blood. They don’t care that their voices are too loud for a semi-classy establishment and it seems they actually are being fueled on by the stares and whispers of other patrons.
I finally grow a pair and tell them, “Let’s just order…people are starting to stare.” We flag down the waiter and order our food. I order a soda, and though I consider momentarily to ask for an arsenic kicker, I decide against it because I’m just hangry. We get our food. They glare at each other throughout the meal and we all eat in uncomfortable silence. To Olive Garden’s credit, my chicken parmigiana is quite nice. Since it’s been far too quiet for too far long, one of my friends (Person 1) unleashes claws and goes for the jugular of their mate, Person 2. Mind you this is someone, you would imagine, they love and enjoy the company of the majority of the time or why the hell are they even dating (let alone talking) in the first place? Sadly, “amore” amidst the soft glow of the romantic Olive Garden lighting scheme is absent at this particular table.
“I hate your family,” Person 1 says, seemingly casual as they fork some salad and an olive. “Your father is a pig.”
“I really should have ordered the arsenic,” I think to myself.
Deeply offended, Person 2 drops their silverware and stares with contempt at their partner. “Go to hell!” Person 2 screams, as they get up from the table and storm off. Person 1 drops their fork and goes after their girlfriend/boyfriend/fairy-wolfkin-wizard-familiar/whatever. The hasty exit is probably not to calm the situation or apologize but because they both arrived in the same damn car and have to drive home in mutual acrimony. I sit there in stunned silence at what has just happened. Out of nowhere, the waiter arrives and hands me the bill.
“But their food isn’t mine. I’m sure they’ll be back,” I assure the waiter, who is just doing his job. He looks at me skeptically but says nothing.
I wait for 20 minutes, try to call both on my cell phone to no avail, and wonder if there wasn’t some sort of homicide situation in the parking lot. I don’t hear police sirens so I assume everyone is still alive. Meanwhile, I have two partially eaten dinners I don’t even want for which I’m financially accountable and an impatient waiter that needs that table for other patrons. With a heavy sigh, I pay for all three meals and make my way out with food I don’t intend to eat. My dogs will eat well tonight on the feast of table scraps from my asshole friends.
A few days later, when I assume all parties have cooled down, I call them both and tell them that they need to work their shit out with a counselor and not involve me in any of it again. Now, fresh off of copious amounts of post-argument makeup sex and on an endorphin-fueled high with hearts and flowers in their eyes, they round on me and tell me to mind my own business and that I’m being a bad friend. My relationship is now soured with both and I make a promise to myself silently to never go to dinner with them again but remain civil at parties…unless I get drunk.
Am I the hero in this story? The victim? The most super smartest person in the room? None of the above. I wish I was the hero of my own tale but that’s not to be since there are no winners in these situations. I shouldn’t have assumed that a relationship, though founded upon love and mutual trust, could be sustainable without good communication. I shouldn’t have engaged at all, let alone gone to dinner with both at the same time, knowing their penchant for public tomfoolery. Now I’m out two friends, about 50 bucks, and I’m slowly developing an ulcer from the whole fiasco. Because my healthcare is dependent upon my military service, I will wait months for a diagnosis, which will be wrong. I will go back about six times in a year when they can pencil me in for appointments to finally get a diagnosis and be told to walk it off. In the meantime, my stomach lining is slowly being eaten away by acid.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is what it’s like to be a libertarian or a centrist in today’s reactionary and deeply entrenched political society. It’s a broadly painted story with some verbose flair added in for spice but the overall message rings true – both sides are in a dysfunctional relationship and neither can accept that they’re so much more than their differences. Their relationship would work eventually with mediation, counseling, time, communication, compromise, and mutual respect. Their relationship could be salvaged by realizing their differences can actually be a yin/yang combining of strength.
I’m sure you can infer who the two “parties” are at dinner. If you want to take it further, you can even liken Olive Garden to being the government and the waiter being a government employee. We’re all people, we’re all human, and we all have bad days. At the heart of it, we’re all decent enough people but when we argue with knee-jerk emotionalism and irrationality, no one wins.
The story was meant to show that I think, like most things, the essence of what is happening in our political sphere is being blown out of proportion to where it’s right versus left instead of all parties involved fighting against the real enemy of extremism in its various forms. Here’s a good indicator of whether or not you’re actually being oppressed (feel free to print it out and laminate it as a cheat sheet):
– If a person/a group is saying you cannot say something without being met with physical violence, false imprisonment, censorship, or exposure in the form of threatening your livelihood and safety (doxxing) – that is fascist or, at the very least, highly not okay.
– If someone/a group is actively contributing to you not having the rights afforded to you by the law of the land because you’re a different race/creed/color/sexual orientation/gender/etc. – that is fascist.
– If someone doesn’t like you or is hurting your feelings (for any reason – maybe they hate your hair) – that’s not fascism. They don’t like you and you’re not going to change their mind by pepper-spraying them.
Want to know what we use pepper spray on here in Alaska? Bears. You know, an actual threat. Bears seriously don’t give a shit about your feelings and will eat you. Anyway, accept that they (the person/people hurting your feelings…not bears) don’t like you, that’s their journey, they’re the ones that have to live with being a jerk and move on.
Hey, maybe it’s you – maybe you’re just unlikable. I can’t do much to help you with that, sad to say. When a person or group of people crosses the line of inhibiting you from living a free and happy existence without harming yourself or others, that’s when you defend yourself. As someone who loves freedom – I’ll help you in any way I can.
I keep seeing so much finger pointing in the news that the only thing coming from that metaphor story I concocted that’s likely not just metaphor is my developing an ulcer. I’ve been eating Tums like they’re candy. Yum. Thanks, acid reflux!