Although I vote Democrat, even left of Democrat, I love my Republican neighbors and I don’t care who knows it. They are lovely, generous, thoughtful, friendly, kind people. We have a great time watching football together, eating popcorn and whooping it up when the 49ers score. They come to our parties and dance with us, share food, laugh. I wonder if they realize how deep they have wandered into liberal country when they come to our house. Like a mother hen, I keep an eye out for them when we have a get-together at our house to make sure that none of my more outspoken progressive friends corner them and harass them. I’m not sure that my political activist buddies have figured out yet that my neighbors are opposed to abortion and gay marriage and that they were thrilled to see Bush bomb the snot out of Iraq. As for me, I compartmentalize.
During the ’08 election campaign, we put an Obama/Biden sign on our front lawn. Within 48 hours our neighbors put up a McCain/Palin sign. I didn’t wish to make them feel uncomfortable, but I couldn’t very well ignore the “elephant” sprawled in the road between our two opposite signs. So I asked the wife about it. She replied that her family is Republican and has been for generations. “I’m a conservative and that’s all there is to it,” she said. She sounded apologetic, as if she hated to hurt my feelings by revealing that she disagreed with my politics. “So you think Sarah Palin would make a good vice president?” I asked her, unable to conceal my incredulity. “She’s a real bombshell,” she announced. “We love her.” The husband fought in the Viet Nam War. They have told me that they think “the topmost priority in this country is security.” I have not dug deeper to learn more about their views on the many issues that concern me. I have decided that I don’t want to know. Compartmentalization. They are my neighbors in one part of my life and my political views are in another part.
I try not to think about their political leanings. I avoid discussing politics with them at all. One time they came over for a BBQ and spent several hours eating and chatting with two of my friends who are a married lesbian couple. Much later, after they left, I revealed to my friends that these neighbors are opposed to gay marriage. When I mentioned that I never discuss politics with them, one of my lesbian friends chided me, “You should open a dialogue with them. You’re passing up a terrific opportunity to engage each other in a discussion about these issues.” She may speak truth, but I just don’t want to risk spoiling the comfortable relationship that I have with my wonderful Republican neighbors. Am I a coward? A wimp? I would like to think I’m quite simply a good neighbor.
Political candidates will come and go while my Republican neighbors and I will live across the street from one another through many elections. They’ll look after my cats when I go out of town. I’ll bring them tomatoes from my garden. They’ll bring chips and dips over and watch the Superbowl with us. I’ll call them when my plums come ripe and invite them to bring their grandkids over to pick plums. They’ll loan my husband a 4x8 sheet of plywood they have in the garage to help him with a home project. I’ll give my son’s long-abandoned bike to them for their grandson to ride when he’s in town. In short, we’ll live our lives as good neighbors and Washington can go to hell in a handbasket for all I care. I refuse to let politics insert its divisive ugly fist between me and my good neighbors. If the systems as we know them collapse, the politicians, powermongers, and leaders will be far away, and it will be me and my neighbors who will look after each other here in our little corner of the universe.