Empathy On a Florida Beach Shows the True Scope of Our Ideological War


By TLB Contributor: Ken LaRive.

While I watched my grandson playing with his “boogie board” in the Destine surf, a spontaneous conversation about the beautiful day emerged from a nice lady sitting next to me. Beyond the pleasantries she asked me where I was from, saying she could detect a southern accent.

I have a New Orleans “yat” accent…” I said laughing. “…Cajun, …and where are you from?”

“Michigan.” she said. “My husband is an attorney, and we are here on holiday with our two sons. What kind of work do you do?”

“I’m retired oilfield, and do pretty much what my wife tells me to do these days. I’m a political writer too…” I said good naturedly.

“Oh, a political writer. Are you on the right or the left? …I’m on the left.”

“Well, I must admit… I see some failings in both, so I suppose you might call me a Libertarian.” I said.

“Well, we are trying to get that Universal Health Care incorporated into America… I have a sister who needs an operation and has very bad insurance…” She said deliberately.

“Well, I’m not for government sponsored health care.” I said “We should tackle the corruption in the system first by law, but keep the government out of it.”

She looked at me with a pained look and said “It’s the right thing to do. There are people who are in real need out there… You going to deny them?”

“Deny them? No one is denied health care in this country. You going to force me to pay for your sister’s doctor bills? Why don’t you pay for it?” But I went too far… “I’m sure you can afford it, knowing the price per night of your condo right there.” I knew I should have kept my mouth shut. She seemed a genuinely good person, and I should not put such a damper on her day. …but I couldn’t stop.

“It’s socialism, and that isn’t America.” I continued, “Seems to me we are talking about something that is the primarily separation of right from left, the concept of responsibility. I’m sorry for your sister, I have lousy insurance too, but I wouldn’t even think to ask you to pay my bills. If I want to help your sister it should be my idea, not yours, and not government forcing me to.”

Suddenly I was surrounded by three men, her husband and two sons.

I could tell that they had heard a portion of what I had said, and as she had the good grace to introduce me, he crushed my hand with a dominating handshake. And oh, if looks could kill… but of course nothing could be done on a public beach, we are much too civilized for that. And after stressed moments of absurd pleasantries from me, I excused myself with an extended hand to him, …but it was rejected.

Suddenly the whole exchange hit me to be quite funny, and I withdrew my empty hand with a laugh. “Yes indeed!” I said looking at him eyeball to eyeball, toe to toe. “We are at war, a war of ideology, and it will be fought in a court of Constitutional Law.”

I turned and dove into the surf with my grandchild, and when I again looked their way they were gone. Hours went by, but their colorfully monogrammed beach towels remained draped in the shade over teak lounge chairs. That, and an empty Zero coke-can, incrusted in white sand, was the only evidence they had been there.

Thinking back in retrospect I feel a bit of empathy for the poor lady married to that trial lawyer. She had a good heart, and sought to justify her husband’s progressive tendencies. However, as I had looked into his intelligent eyes… it seemed that he knew full well what he was doing, and was a master of the game. I saw something else too as he looked into mine, …uncertainty, and what I perceived might also be an inkling of fear. I’d like to think he saw in me a barrier to his Progressive-liberal agenda, but that might just be the romantic in me.

You see, the time for pulling punches are over. It is far too late to be silent out of empathy. There is just too much at stake, and those who seek personal gain without accountability will be held responsible, no matter how hard they shake hands.

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