I'm sitting at the kitchen table. Across the great room my family is having friends over. My dad sits on one side of the bar. On the other side is a thin well-dressed woman with short old hair that is silver, not gray. She and her husband appear to be rich, and they have a rich car sitting outside in the driveway. Around the bar are crowding a few other people, but my dad and the silver-haired woman are catalyzing the conversation.
The people have been drinking, and talk at the bar begins to shift dangerously toward politics. It is the silver-haired woman's fault. "I'm obsessed with The Daily Show. I would have Jon Stewart's children," she begins. To that my dad loudly rolls his eyes. He knows he's lighting a gas station cigarette, but he takes issue and expresses his disgust with the program. "I have never been able to watch that show."
The silver-haired woman continues briefly to shower the show and Jon Stewart in sexual accolades, and my dad continues to raise opposition and in turn the coming tension. "I don't think it's credible to get your news source from a comedian." The woman asks where he gets his news. He gets his from Fox News. My dad concedes that it is right-biased, and the woman agrees that it is abominable and worthless. "I think news should be completely objective and unbiased," the woman's husband says, wishing either for the moon or to be lied to. He is not a catalyst, so he fades away.
"Jon Stewart is the most fair and balanced person out there. He's brilliant," asserts the silver-haired woman, to which my dad responds bull crap. He is always leaning far to the left. Of course he is. Well there you go. But he is fair; he attacks Obama all the time. I know. Well there you go. "So what do you guys think of that Carell guy? Colbert, I mean," my dad asks. "Colbert is even more to the left than Jon Stewart!" No way. He is a character! So is Jon Stewart. No he's not. He's a comedian; what's the difference? He's making fun of his own character. I know.
Brashness on one side of the bar and lack of information on the other follows to further deteriorate the conversation into a deeper political grapple. "This is why we've never argued politics." On TV in the other corner of the great room is Sportscenter highlights. My brother is watching, and he can sense something happening around the wall. I'm sitting at the kitchen table still.
"I'll never be the way you are," my dad eventually says of the silver-haired woman's politics. There is clatter by now among the people, but the silver-haired woman is paying attention. "What am I?" she asks, quietly anticipating. My dad says nothing, but it is too late and the silver-haired woman persists. "What am I, Randy?" "You're...well, you're pretty far to the left," he says and shrugs. "I am not!" the woman says, refusing to lose any part of this conversation. Yes you are. I am not that far left. I think you are. No, even Rose is farther left than I am. Then what are you? I'm moderate to the left.
The silver-haired woman doesn't like any of the Republican candidates, from what she has learned on The Daily Show. She is dissatisfied with Obama. She does not want to vote for anyone in the coming election, and her husband agrees. You have to vote, my dad says. You only have two options. That's not true, says the silver-haired woman's husband, but my dad has a point to make. He timidly introduces, with much disclaimer, that he used to...used to listen to Rush Limbaugh every day. The woman rolls her eyes loudly and the force of the new information shuts her down for a few moments. "Rush made one good point about voting, though, that always sticks with me. He said—" "Rush didn't say anything useful ever. He was a complete waste."
It takes a few minutes for the Rush Limbaugh asteroid to settle down and move into the past. My dad also doesn't like any of the Republican candidates — "No one who is sane would" — but admits to a lack of a wealth of information on them. "Wait, so what are you?" the silver-haired woman finally asks. "I'm socially liberal and economically conservative." "Well, so you're not one of those crazy Fox News idiots, then?" "No."
Lines of demarcation were drawn. No politics were argued.