THE MONTHLY POKER GAME was at my house Tuesday night. Unlike the poker scene in the Tony Award-winning musical Fiorello!, which ran for 795 performances on Broadway from November 1959, we did not talk politics while cards were shuffled around the table.
Too young to remember the hit? Or perhaps just not familiar with the song Politics and Poker? Perhaps you should first listen to the original cast rendition or scan the lyrics that encase deliberations of New York City Republican machine politicos illustrating the difficulty of finding a Congressional candidate to run in a district thought to be unwinnable. You’ll get an idea of where I’m going. . .
A couple of differences in my school: None of my poker buddies smokes, and we didn’t talk politics because, frankly, it’s too depressing these days. You see, to my knowledge they all share my progressive (I.e. Democrat) leanings.
Not that I don’t befriend with Trumpsters, few though they number among my acquaintances and relatives. It’s just becoming a lot less taxing to simply avoid them or set ground rules for discussion no-go areas.
Trump is not unique in dividing allegiances. Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama would be the most recent other Great Dividers. But Trump’s divisiveness is deeper, more extreme, more personal.
Perhaps it’s a Forseter gene, but my sister Lee feels the same way. Here’s her view in an exchange of emails the day after it became known that Trump waged a global war against breast feeding in favor of corporate America’s infant formula empire.
“The worse it gets the angrier I get at people I know who still support him,” wrote Lee. “Or as they say, ‘we agree to disagree’.
“Well, I’m about to tell them that their reckless silence or support of his behavior is so disgusting to me that I can no longer value them as friends and until they realise how hurtful he is and what a threat he is to democracy I do not wish to associate with them.
“Endorsing his hateful attacks on minorities and children and weaker nations is bigger than any friendship I feel for his supporters, regardless of how long I have known them. I feel I then become complicit in supporting him by not rejecting my friends.
“I informed [her husband] David that there will be no Fox News allowed in our home any more. Certain radio stations are also banned. Emails are also off limits [from people who] support him. Our home will be purged of all conservative values.
“As for my friends, I am still confused and struggling with what to do. But the worse it gets the harder it is to remain connected to those who advocate and support him.”
When I first read those words I felt the real pain engulfing Lee, a retired early elementary school teacher in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood in Los Angeles, and still a semi-practicing psychiatric social worker. I identified with it.
A year ago in late May I wrote about the Trump fatigue factor (“The fatigue factor is setting in. Donald Trump and his gang that couldn’t shoot straight is overwhelming me. There’s too much to write. If I miss a day the accumulated copy weighs me down.”)
I am not as depressed by Trump’s actions as I am by the reaction of too, too many of my fellow Americans. As Maureen Dowd observed in The New York Times the other day, “On the occasion of America’s 242nd birthday, we must ask who we are, if we can see accounts of infants snatched from their parents and returned covered in lice, and not worry about our country’s soul.”
Could be a timing coincidence, but I was intrigued by an article, “The Power of Positive Peopleg,” currently among the most popular on The NY Times website. Teased with the question, “Are your friendships giving you a boost or bringing you down?”, the article offers this opinion: “Friends can exert a measurable and ongoing influence on your health behaviours in a way that a diet never can,” according to Dan Buettner, a National Geographic Fellow and author, later adding, “I argue that the most powerful thing you can do to add healthy years is to curate your immediate social network”.
Sounds like a no-brainer, but keeping the Trump Fatigue Effect from infecting my personal relationships could become a full-time job. Not something I would relish in my retirement.
By the way, in case you’re interested, I won $10 Tuesday night, not enough to cover the expense of hosting the game, but better than losing at poker.
For the short term, at least, national politics is a lost cause.