Monday, January 26, 2009

Haggis and hard conversations

Last night, I went to a good friend's haggis party, which raises the question, "Do friends make friends go to haggis parties?" (I guess it was technically called a "Robert Burns party" but when the star of the evening is a sheep's stomach stuffed with sheep's heart and liver as well as non-organ things like oatmeal, you kind of forget about the Scottish poet part.) It was a very fun evening with lots of interesting people, most of whom I didn't know, reading poetry and eating shepherd's pie together. SB saw her first kilt: she sidled up to me in that very unsubtle way of four year olds and said, in what she thought was a whisper, "Mama, that guy's wearing a skirt." The haggis, though I'd worked myself up over it, was no big deal: kind of like a mushy meatloaf. Watching it boil in the pot beforehand was much more traumatizing.

But in the week before the party, I'd also worked myself up over Portland's Mayor Sam Adams scandal, which broke, sadly, on inauguration day. On what should have been the most uncomplicatedly blissful day of the year for Portland Dems, we were instead faced with news reports that our new mayor, while a city commissioner, had a sexual relationship with a young man who was probably 18 but may have been 17 (age of legal consent in Oregon is 18), and then lied about it (and encouraged and abetted further lying) when confronted with the allegations during his mayoral run last year (which wasn't really a close race at all). So instead of basking together in the Obama afterglow, Portlanders found themselves arguing in the shadow of Sam-gate: Should he resign? Should he stay and fight and possibly face a recall? Should he pay penance through public pantsing (my favorite solution)?

This is a hard one, y'all. I talked with lots of people and read lots of articles, but by Thursday, showed up at a rally at City Hall supporting the mayor, mostly because I don't think the sex or the lying were a big deal (cynic that I am, I compare this to Goldschmidt's 14-year-old babysitter scandal and Illinois Governor Blagojevich's attempt to sell a senate seat, and it doesn't seem so bad). Plus, I have a fondness for the mayor, warts and all, and his 20 years of loyalty and dedication to the city. I want Portland to keep being a great city, and I think he can help us do that. But I've lost lots of sleep over this because it's not like Obama-love at all. It's much messier and harder to figure out.

At the haggis party, a nice man--a friend of a friend who I only casually know--stopped to tell me how much he liked the last issue of the magazine I edit, especially the article about how civil conversations, the kind that involve truly listening to someone who doesn't agree with you, are important to a democracy. Though I thanked him for his compliment, I admitted that the whole Mayor Sam controversy had really been a test of my resolve and that I was incredibly tired of having "civil conversations" with everyone. I just wanted to talk to people who completely agreed with me (those of you familiar with my blog will no doubt be laughing at this point because of my earlier post complaining about Portland being filled with "people like me").

Sure, many of my friends ultimately felt that Mayor Sam shouldn't resign, but we came to that conclusion in different ways. Many people felt that it was wrong for him to lie but that the sexual relationship seemed to be no big deal. Other people expressed rage over his inability to make the right decision and not start the relationship to begin with. Sigh. I get what everyone is saying, I really do. But I'm exhausted from processing it all. I just want conversations with my friends to be simple again, at least for a while, stuff like "Groundwork Organics strawberries are totally better than Thompsons" or "Robert Downey Jr. should definitely get a nomination for Tropic Thunder." Simple yuppie dreams. I suddenly see why people move to the suburbs.

Maybe the idea that it's good to have conversations about hard things with people who don't agree with us is BS, good in theory, icky in practice. Maybe I should just drink the Kool Aid and start compartmentalizing a bit so that life is easier to understand and sleep is easier to come by. Or maybe I should just wait this out and get some of my gumption back--with any luck, I'll be ready to spar again this time next week.

1 comment:

Pete said...

Really, though, what are people in Hawa'ai talking about?