Avoiding politics at the dinner table

Published 3:37 pm Saturday, September 1, 2012

Mitt Romney wears his hair the way he does to hide the horns.

He’d like to personally throw your grandmother off a cliff, but not until he’s finished putting Americans who receive welfare checks to work in forced-labor camps where all the women are sterilized and black people are shackled and chained.

Barack Obama is a Kenyan infiltrator into the federal government, a Manchurian candidate whose primary goal is turn over the nation’s cities to United Nations troops. He studied under Karl Marx and secretly longs to club U.S. Navy Seals like a hunter in search of expensive fur.

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At least that’s what I’ve learned on my Facebook feed. I’ll bet yours is not very different.

In case your television is broken, I’ll let you in on a poorly kept secret: It’s election season, and the nation is more polarized than it ever has been in modern times.

Elect the Democrats, and the Mayan prophecies will all come true, with a great black hole forming in Washington, D.C., and sucking all the world into its dark maw. Perhaps Curiosity, the Mars lander, will survive, turning its cameras back across space just in time to catch the last flicker of light from our little blue planet, much as a mariner might catch a glimpse of the green flash on the horizon just after sunset.

Elect the Republicans, and the 38 wealthiest Americans will get instant access to your bank account, immediately draining your meager cash, and then you’ll be fired from your job for being a deadbeat. Which will all be a tame prelude to the devastation wrought by the massive engines they’ve designed to burn away the Earth’s ozone layer and expose the frail Earth to incineration by cosmic rays.

We’re doomed.

At least that’s what I learned on Twitter.

Despite the widespread belief that middle-of-the-road voters will determine the outcome of the election, the overheated rhetoric that passes for political discourse today seems to prove there is no real middle ground.

You’re either with us or against us. Good or evil. Angel or devil. Us or them.

We’ve become a society that talks about diversity while demonizing anyone who doesn’t share our opinions. We parse one another’s words until we can represent the most mundane statements as little windows into the vilest of souls. We mischaracterize one another, mislabel each other and miss the whole point of being different people with different ways of looking at things.

Surely there are great things to which America should aspire and terrible things the nation should abhor. But we neither achieve greatness nor overcome evil by considering as mortal enemies all of those who hold some political belief that is different than our own.

I know people who have sworn off Facebook and Twitter until after the election. It’s the modern version of the old saw that one shouldn’t talk politics at the dinner table, except it’s more like walking away from the dinner table because all the dinner guests have grabbed carving knives and are advancing on each other across the turkey.

If I might torture the metaphor, let me say this: There’s also bacon on that table, and I’m not leaving until it’s gone. If that means I have to stuff baby corn in my ears so I can eat in peace, then so be it. I’ll do the electronic equivalent and un-friend the prophets of doom until the election is over.

Please don’t take it personally. There’s already way too much of that going on.