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Trying to practice what I preach

by Ogi Overman

Maybe it’s Christmas and the joys inherent, at least in theory, in the season. Maybe it’s that inner journey that we should take every day but don’t, yet somehow manage to this time of year. Or maybe it’s just time to reiterate something I’ve known for some time but only occasionally get in that maudlin, mushy mood that impels me to put it in print. Whatever the case, I need to talk about the nature of friendship.

No particular event has occurred lately that causes me to explore my relationship with my fellows, no epiphany, no revelation. It’s just something I must do on a fairly regular basis to purge myself of negativity, resentments and, as we used to say in hippiedom, bad vibes. I do it to save my sanity and remind myself that I do not live in a world alone. I do this unapologetically but if you desire to perceive it as an olive branch, feel free.

Many years ago I’d put myself in a metaphorical box that only allowed certain types of folks to enter. I might as well have put a ‘“he-man woman-haters’”-type sign above the door that said: ‘“Only Nixon-Johnson-Reagan-Helms-haters allowed.’” While I never lacked for company, the fact was that I’d cut myself off from innumerable potential friendships. By only allowing folks with whom I agreed politically into my inner circle, I effectively isolated myself from the diversity of thought that I’d once prided myself on espousing. More grievous even, I not only ostracized them but I considered them less worthy, less intellectual, less valuable.

As with most spiritual awakenings, I had to hit an emotional bottom before I was able to realize the folly of my ways. I had to realize I’d become the narrow-minded, arrogant, superior know-it-all that I so despised. As Pogo used to say, ‘“We have met the enemy and he is us.’”

Even now it an easy trap to fall into. There are times when I become so consumed with Bush hatred that I convince myself that anyone who still thinks he is an effective leader is an ignorant dupe. I am so thoroughly secure in this belief that surely the opposition must be a colossus of fools unwilling to face reality and therefore exists on a plane beneath my contempt.

So today I must again remind myself that friendship can exist irrespective of political leanings. I am grateful for the friendships I enjoy that are predicated on things non-political. I’ve come to believe that one’s political views are only a part of the total package ‘— and a small part, at that ‘— and are probably more genetic than environmental, anyway. Folks like me who thrive on change tend to become liberals; those who fear change and find comfort in the status quo become conservatives.

The key, I now know, to having friends with whom you are diametrically opposed politically is threefold: a) either ignore the subject completely; b) approach it jokingly and light-heartedly; or c) find something on which you both agree and steer the conversation in that direction. Once the subject of Bush’s being a no-good, dirty, rotten scoundrel is broached, chances are good that the conversation is headed south, so it’s best to tread lightly.

No one should dare take this as a precursor that I am about to turn in my left-leaning lib’ral credentials. Nor is it a backdoor attempt to convince my conservative Republican friends of the error of their ways. All it means is that we can agree to disagree; that live-and-let-live means just that; that I don’t mind if you sit next to me at the ballpark if you don’t mind that I sit next to you.

But it doesn’t mean that I have to compromise my beliefs in order to appease everyone on the other end of the political spectrum. I mean, I don’t expect to ever find any common ground with, say, Rush Limbaugh or Ann Coulter or Bill O’Reilly, but I can always find something nice to say about them. (Rush wears nice ties; Ann has nice, um, hair; and Bill’s last name starts with a nice vowel.)

No, all it means is that I must grant the other guy the right to believe as he sees fit. I must leave open the possibility, remote though it is, that I could be wrong about the current administration. But above all it means that in order for me to be the person I want to be I must practice tolerance, open-mindedness and respect for other opinions ‘— even if I am 100 percent convinced they are wrong.

And finally it means that I wish you all a Merry Christmas. Or a Happy Holidays.

Whichever you prefer.

Ogi can be reached at ogi@yesweekly.com, heard each Tuesday at 9:30 on ‘“The Dusty Dunn Show’” on WGOS 1070 AM, and seen most Fridays on ‘“Triad Today’” at 6:30 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. on WXLV and WUPN, respectively.

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