Saturday, July 12, 2008

Golf, Brotherhood, and Politics

A few days ago I played a round of golf with my brother Eugene. Great guy. Fun to be around. Lawyer by trade. But I must say I was not quite prepared for some of what transpired that day.

After playing a couple of holes engaged in simple small talk, I mentioned to my brother that I was becoming a loyal reader of The Nation magazine. I conceded that it was basically a liberal rag—or progressive to be more accurate. At that point it was "ignition sequence on" for Eugene. I knew he had a basically conservative approach to life and politics. What I didn't know was that his particular brand of conservatism made William Buckley look like Phil Donahue!

My brother told me of a great book he was reading by so-and-so, a regular contributor to National Review. Right away, up went my antenna—and with good reason. (The writer turned out to be Jonah Goldberg.) Eugene went on to tell me how this brilliant writer explains in his book that liberalism and progressivism have their roots in fascism! I kid you not. Fascism! I nearly threw my golf clubs on the ground in front of my brother and said to him, "You know. We're having a great day here. But you just went over the line!" Instead, I bit my tongue, labored in preparation for my next shot and—clank—into the trees it went.

A few holes later, the topic turned to the economy. I made the observation that unfettered markets and unchecked capitalism didn't appear to have answers for the permanent ills of unemployment and poverty. Gene's response was a real beaut. "Hey, 5.6% unemployment is nothing. There will always be a number of people in transition. Did you know in many socialist countries in Europe where they claim virtually no unemployment, they are excluding (all kinds of people for all kinds of reasons from government statistics) and that the real unemployment rate is over 20%? As for poverty: It's not that big a problem in the Unites States. It's much worse throughout the rest of the world." I kid you not. I labored in preparation for my next shot—and whiff! I actually missed the ball altogether!

Three holes later. The topic: health care. I told Gene of an interesting program I'd heard on NPR titled, "The Doctor Can't See You Now." It examined the issues of people not being able to find primary care physicians and the uninsured. Gene was quick to lend me his analysis: "Look. Of the 47 million people in this country who don't have health insurance, 63% are between the ages of 18 and 33, and they simply choose not to buy health insurance because they figure they are young and healthy and don't need it." I kid you not! Kaboing! My next shot - right into the water! At this point I didn't know what was upsetting me more, my errant golf shots or my brother's spot-on impression of Rush Limbaugh.

Then came the clincher: "Did you know in New York City they are teaching fourth graders how to have anal intercourse?" Kwank! My next shot nearly hit another golfer right in the head, and he was behind us!

I shot a 107 that day. Eugene, an 82. Could it be that maybe he just says all this stuff to get me riled up and make me play bad golf? Does he really want to win that badly? He did take me for $20. Hmm. I don't know. If the scores were reversed, something tells me I still would have gotten the very same litany of liberal-bashing inanities from him. But you know what. It didn't matter. Why? Because we were playing golf. And on the golf course, all is forgiven in war and politics—especially when you're playing with your brother.

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