We had dessert and coffee with some of our neighbors the other day. There were three couples including us. I am always somewhat hesitant to participate in get-togethers like this because most of the time, after it is over, I feel bad about something I said or something I didn’t say or something someone else said or didn‘t say. This particular get-together proved to be no exception. The conversation was rolling along nicely when one of the men made a sarcastic remark about global warming. Then he and his wife began telling us about a lecture they went to on the book of Genesis. They made sure that we understood that this lecturer was an extremely smart man and he basically set the record straight by saying the earth goes through cycles and what the liberals are calling global warming is just another one of the natural cycles. The liberals however want us to believe that man is causing global warming. The other couple and Katie and I just sat there quietly listening. Then our fellow neighbor launched into a joke in which Al Gore was about to become the punch line. Not wanting our tea party to turn into a "Tea Party", I couldn‘t keep quiet any longer. Somehow I managed just enough control to say, “Be careful now, you’re sitting next to a couple of liberals.” This stopped him in mid-joke. After a few moments of deathly silence he said “I don’t know how you people can believe all that crap.” I asked him, “So you don’t think there’s any validity to green house gases and their effect on the earth?” He then told us about a lake in Russia that puts out the majority of green house gases and he said there’s absolutely nothing we can do about it. “It‘s nature's way.” I don't really know the science behind global warming but I did see "An Inconvenient Truth" and the correlation between man made pollution and the warming of the earth was very convincing. My neighbor was obviously suspect of anything Al Gore had to say and probably for that matter anything a majority of scientists agree on. The women began talking about knitting which allowed time for me and this guy to regain our composure. We never revisited the subject, but like many times before I had come up against the "great divide". The woman in the other couple who had been sitting quietly through it all leaned over and whispered to Katie, “We’re liberals too.” Early on I had noticed her husband's Birkenstocks which was a give away.
Recently several Democratic Congressmen quit because of this "great divide" our country is experiencing but this is not a new phenomenon. In June of 1860 shortly after the publication of Darwin’s Origin of Species, Samuel Wilberforce, the bishop of Oxford, had a debate with Thomas S. Huxley, Aldous’s grandfather, who was a supporter of Darwin. Wilberforce asked Huxley if he claimed to be a descendant of a monkey on his grandmother's or his grandfather’s side. Huxley replied that he would rather be a descendant of an ape than a man like Wilberforce who used his great talents to obscure the truth. A more recent example is an early Saturday Night Live skit where Dan Akroyd and Jane Curtin are doing a parody of a popular TV news program called Point Counter Point. This show pit a conservative against a liberal talking about various issues and the debate often became quite heated. If you remember, after Jane Curtin presented her views on a topic, Dan Akroyd opened his remarks by saying “Jane, you ignorant slut.” If my neighbor had started quoting the Bible as if it were accurate history or science, I don't think I could have contained myself and a similar derogatory comment would have erupted from my mouth. But he didn't and the cunning wisdom of the women saved the day. It’s strange because these are nice people and we like them as neighbors. They are thoughtful and helpful and I believe they could say the same thing about us. When I figure out a way to calmly talk about politcal issues with them without wanting to put my fingers around their throats, I’m going to write to Obama. He really could use some help right now.