Brian Birdnow

“We are not the same. I equate Republicans’ political views with thoughtlessness, intolerance and narcissism. They’re neither kind nor empathetic.” The preceding words are a direct quote, written by Diana Wagman, a novelist, in an Op-Ed piece she penned for the Los Angeles Times, on February 21, 2012. Ms. Wagman, who describes herself and her husband as, “…both bleeding heart liberals”, related her tale of an inadvertent discovery of the political views of the couple who own a vacation cabin across the street from the Wagman’s own spread, in the Sierra Nevada, just outside of Fresno, California. Ms. Wagman described her shock when, after an evening spent playing poker and sipping scotch, she found, to her horror, that the aforementioned couple across the street were conservative-Tea Partying Republicans. Your humble Townhall correspondent assumed that the rest of this piece would become a rather commonplace “can’t judge a book by its cover”, missive, but at that point it spun off in exactly the opposite direction.

Ms. Wagman informed her readers that her across-the-street acquaintances were the perfect neighbors. They were pleasant, helpful, and friendly. As Ms. Wagman put it, “They are a lovely family: husband, wife, and four smart, funny, polite children. I was sure they were Democrats.” They were also an interracial family, with an African-American mother and a White father.

The trouble began when the Wagmans invited their new friends in for a final drink after the annual Camp Sierra Association poker game. The friends announced that they were members of the Tea Party, and for good measure, they added that the Tea Party was not racist because, they, an interracial couple, had been eagerly welcomed and accepted by their Tea Party compatriots. In Wagman’s own words, “…I was shouting, his wife was trying to calm him down, my husband was trying to calm me down, and our other friends-all Democrats- were trying to keep everybody from breaking the furniture.”

Ms. Wagman goes on to describe the downward spiral of the evening. She states that they argued about healthcare, welfare, Obama’s religion and citizenship, and the war on terror. Things soon descended to name-calling; “He called me a spoiled idiot and worse. I called him selfish, shortsighted and worse. It was awful, and it went on until after 3 AM.”

Brian Birdnow

Brian E. Birdnow is a historian and teaches at a university in the St. Louis area.