Being a grandpa my older brother Robert prefers to be called “Robot.” I love arguing politics with “Robot”, a man I admire. Retired Air Force major. Retired Blue Cross/Blue Shield executive. Vietnam vet. Writer. Would-be poet. And my almost-twin save for one small matter. He voted for you-know-who. I love my “Robot” dearly.
Like many of my friends, my brother and I talk about politics the way sports fanatics talk about baseball. My team is great. Your team is a bunch of dirty dogs. And if your team wins the World Series on Election Day, well, there’s always next year, pal.
Not everyone has such a magnanimous view. Within minutes of the shooting of the Republicans practicing for a charity baseball game I got emails blaming the media and my cartoons for the shooter’s despicable actions.
The letters generally went like this:
Dear Hateful Hater,
Your daily hate-filled cartoons encourage hate and hateful violence.
A reader who hates your hateful cartoons
To the haters hating on me and other “media scum” I would point out that humor, exaggeration and mischief are the chief tools that satirists, cartoonists and radio talk show hosts use to make our points and provoke a reaction. If we didn’t, you wouldn’t read us or listen to us.
I learned humor, exaggeration and mischief from “Robot.”
When my sister Shirley died last year I realized it had been a funeral or two since I had seen my charming, handsome, funny brother and I was missing my elder clone something awful. So off to Little Rock we flew.
“Robot” is 81 and deeply in love with his wonderful wife, Susan, a retired ag professor who has such a liberal Arkansas pedigree that Hillary baby-sat her when she was a young girl. When I arrived for our visit, Susan, in the course of a welcoming hug, whispered to me, “He voted for you-know-who. We don’t talk about it. He watches Fox around the clock.” Pretty much like I watch MSNBC. Susan and Bob adore each other. They are the James Carville and Mary Matalin of Little Rock.
I loved sparring with my brother that same way I loved jabbing and laughing with my pal Emil Franzi, the libertarian opera aficionado and onetime semi-automatic weapons editor for the Tucson Weekly who left us for Paradise a few days ago. I’m grateful I had lunch with him earlier this year to gossip, laugh, and say, “Adios, my friend.” There aren’t that many patriots you can wrangle with these days and remain friends. We loved politics more than we could ever hate each other.
Years ago we did a dueling pundit commentary on KGUN called “Fitz and Franzi.” We’d gleefully gossip like a pair of chuckleheads until the floor director gave us our “You’re on!” cue, then we’d tear at each other like bobcats tangling over a packrat. Afterwards we’d chuckle over the direct hits and the near misses. We always parted as the good friends we were.
Emil even forgave me for getting us fired by mooning the weatherman. “It was worth the laugh, little buddy.” I loved hearing his wicked chuckle.
With life being so transient I’m glad I went to Little Rock to see my ancient brother this summer. It was one of the most soul-enriching visits of my lifetime. The hugs, the stories, the barbs and the back porch barbecues were wonderful. But, mainly it was the hugs. I am so blessed to have such a wonderful brother.
Politics is like that charity baseball game in Washington. Give it your all and know that, no matter the score, democracy will endure. And so will love. It’s true what they say. Love trumps hate.