THE WAR AT HOME: WHAT'S THE SCORE?
by Joyce Marcel
American Reporter Correspondent
DUMMERSTON, Vt. -- Randy and I were driving down to Hatfield, Mass., to spend Easter Sunday with his family when we decided not to talk about the war.
Like many families, ours may be united by love, affection and respect but it is certainly split by politics. Randy and I are passionately opposed to the war. Dave, who is married to Randy's sister, Sandy, wants Condoleezza Rice to be our next president. Randy's mother and aunt, who live together, have three American flags planted in their lawn. It would be a shame to waste what little time we had together arguing about Iraq.
We got through dinner without incident. Afterward, Randy's mother and aunt sat with Sandy in the kitchen, gossiping about the neighbors, while I joined Randy, his brother and Dave in the living room to watch the Red Sox play the Toronto Blue Jays.
It was the sixth inning and the score was tied. Dave asked what I was writing about, and I cautiously mentioned a few recent feature stories. I didn't want to say that my serious writing for the past few months has been devoted to pointing out the essential wrongness of American foreign policy.
So I finessed his question with a joke about how much I write and how little I earn.
But Dave - who earns quite a lot - was right there waiting for me. "I guess it's a matter of supply and demand," he said.
Toronto's Roy Halladay struck out another hitter. He was having a good afternoon. The Sox weren't hitting, but Dave was still taking his cuts. He started talking about the brouhaha at the Baseball Hall of Fame, where the Hall's president (and ex-Reagan flunky) Dale Petroskey canceled an invitation to Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the great baseball film "Bull Durham" because of the couple's politics.
"I wouldn't spend one penny of my money on one of their films ever again," Dave said. "I believe everyone has a right to their opinions, but I have a right to boycott them, too."
"You have the right, personally, to boycott," I said, "but I don't think you have the right to organize a national boycott to deprive them of making a living. Isn't that a little McCarthy-ish?"
"They're celebrities," Dave said. "They should keep their opinions to themselves. Like those Dixie Chicks. They just sound stupid."
"It's interesting that after the Dixie Chicks spoke out, their CD sales increased," Randy said. "Their concerts are sold out. And after Michael Moore's anti-Bush speech at the Academy Awards, his book climbed up The New York Times Best Seller List and his movie took off."
"What about all the country music stars who speak out in favor of the war?" I said. "No one makes fun of them. Maybe if we had open discussion from all sides of the political spectrum, not just the far right, liberal celebrities wouldn't feel the need to speak out."
"I saw Howard Dean on television, and he articulated the position against the war very well," Dave said. "What more do you need?"
I thought about the enormous volume of right-wing opinion out there, and about poor Howard Dean trying to shoulder a very heavy ball up a very steep mountain, and I bit my tongue.
Halladay began to tire and the Sox, looking splendid in their new red uniforms, scored a pair of runs.
"Baseball players are some of the most conservative people in the world," Dave said. "Do we want to hear them talk about baseball, or about why abortion is murder? We need a place where we can be free of politics."
He had a point.
Randy gave me a warning look. "I thought we weren't going to talk about the war."
"We're not talking about the war," I said. "We're talking about celebrities talking about the war."
Jeremy Giambi hit a home run to right field to lead off the seventh. Nomar Garciaparra tied the game with a RBI double to chase Halladay from the game.
The conversation turned to retirement. Dave said he is looking forward to his. I said I'll probably be writing up until the moment I die.
That was a hit for me.
"You're lucky," Dave said. "You do something you love, even though you don't make any money at it."
The score was tied - on the couch and at Fenway - when Garciaparra hit a home run to lead off the bottom of the ninth and win the game.
As we started getting ready to leave, I heard Sandy whisper to Dave, "I thought you weren't going to talk to Joyce about politics."
Then everyone hugged everyone else and we headed home, tired, happy and full. Dinner had been delicious, the Sox had won, it had been great to see everyone again, and Dave and I hadn't slugged it out.
I know that nothing is going to change Dave's identification with the ruling classes, just as nothing is going to change mine with the poor and the powerless. This is just the way we were born.
There are definitely two Americas now, and neither our government nor our culture cares for the work of uniting us into one great country again. In order to protect the treasured dailyness of our fortunate American lives, we as individuals must build our own bridges over the divide.
Maybe Dave and I - and how many other families this Passover and Easter? - made a small beginning when we, in our respective cars on the trip down to Hatfield, decided to avoid a head-on collision about the war in the name of family unity, family dinner, family love and family peace.
Joyce Marcel is a free-lance journalist who writes about culture, politics, economics and travel.