A post on a fellow blogger's page today got me thinking about something I heard former U.S. Sen. Alan Simpson say once, a few years back. At the time, I was still a practicing journalist, and I was honing in on some important natural resources issues facing the West–most notably the plight of native cutthroat trout in the face of ever-increasing development and urban expansion.
Simpson, a strident Republican, was speaking at an event sponsored by former Idaho Gov. Cecil Andrus (also the Secretary of Interior under President Carter). Simpson and Andrus, despite being from opposite sides of the aisle, had forged a long and strong friendship–perhaps, both being from the West was enough to bridge opposing political ideology.
Anyway, Simpson's speech was particularly moving because it occurred during a time when we were all realizing just how polarized our nation was becoming (and I look back on that day, not even a decade ago, and think about just how prophetic Simpson's words would be).
"We've lost the ability to disagree," Simpson said, "without being disagreeable."
Enter blogger Owl Jones, who runs a host of blogs, including one I'm particularly fond of–Fly Fishing the Southern Blue Ridge (I'm a brook trout fanatic, and brookies are native where Owl lives). Over the course of the last few months, I've been able to decipher Owl's politics, and, politically speaking, I've determined he and I aren't terribly compatible. He's a pretty conservative fellow. I'm, generally ... not.
But, his blog informs and entertains me, and I think, if we knew each other personally, we might actually be friends–maybe even fishing buddies. I like to think we could we could tolerate our opposing political views in favor of our shared passion for backcountry fly fishing.
Owl wrote a post recently about some hate e-mail he received from a reader who felt the need to reach out and directly criticize one of Owl's blog sites. First, one has to wonder how angry a dude has to be to take the time to trash a blogger running a fly fishing site. Second, one has to question motive.
I like to call such folks "foam-at-the-mouthers." They can't really assign logic to their vitriol, but they feel compelled to channel their discontent nonetheless, regardless of their politics. This, in my opinion, is cheap and below-the-belt.
Here's to Owl, and his unique perspective on things. We likely won't agree on much, but I can honestly say I think our shared passion for fly fishing will one day provide us with a common launching pad for any discussions we might have involving politics. And, I would wager, if we couldn't come to some sort of understanding on our politics, we could at least enjoy a day on the water chasing trout.
In other words, we could disagree without being disagreeable. There's a lesson to be learned there, thanks to Sen. Simpson. I just wish folks would be more inclined to appreciate political differences and look for what we have in common, rather than what we don't.
Is that too much to ask?