George and I had lunch this week with old friends, Laff and Slandra Lott. We’ve enjoyed this couple for years and had a lot of laughs together—until Slandra retired and filled her leisure hours with Talk Radio. At first I didn’t take Slandra seriously. When she told me she hoped Sarah Palin would get the Republican presidential nomination, I made a smart remark about Palin’s great intellectual prowess—then noticed the look on Slandra’s face and backpedaled. I value our years of friendship, but it’s getting hard not to offend—or be offended.
Between get-togethers, Slandra forwards dozens of right-wing e-mails—containing such informative tidbits as photos of a sign supposedly in Kenya announcing the site of Obama’s birth. She forwarded an e-mail with a cartoon figure of Obama showing him half white and half black with the caption, “I don’t like his white half, either,” and defended it as an effort to get people to think.
After agreeing to lunch with our friends, I bet George that Slandra would turn the conversation to the latest anti-Obama, anti-environmental, anti-immigration topic within 20 minutes. I also bet him that I would violate my vow not to respond in kind within 30 seconds. Saintly haloes do not fit the likes of me.
A quote attributed to Soren Kierkgaard sums up the situation: “People demand freedom of speech as a compensation for the freedom of thought which they seldom use.”