It's amazing how a few beers can shatter the ice, can loosen the tongue, can get it all out in the open.
The setting: An office retirement party, where the political talk gets hot and heavy.
My old boss retired today. I love her, an unabashed uber liberal who stands her ground and tells it like it is. We've had the big political discussions, the type you're not supposed to have at work, the type that get you into trouble. But she's one of the cool ones. We went at it back in 2000, back when the world was young and I was a dumb 23-year old Republican who didn't want to pay taxes. And as wrong as I was, she never held it against me.
So today after work we knocked back the beers and reminisced, and started talking politics again. She'd been right from the start, I didn't see the light until about 2004. And as the tongues loosened other people joined in. We're engineers, so we talked about the global economy, about how outsourcing is a joke that's killing us, about our lack of an energy policy. We talked about the joke that is the Iraq war, about everything that Bush has done wrong, about the joke that is McCain, and about the fear that's paralyzed America and our politicians, about Obama.
Then one of my coworkers joined in, and starts talking about how he's voted Republican in every election since Kennedy. And he knows that Bush is a joke, he knows all that's gone wrong in the past 8 years. But if he votes McCain, he knows what he's going to get. "But if I vote for Obama, I don't know what will happen!"
This is a man who's a couple years from retirement himself, who doesn't want to rock the boat, just wants to hang on. But being his coworker and knowing his past, I seized upon an opportunity.
"Ray", I said, "You had open heart surgery". And Ray nods the affirmative.
"There was a point where you said to yourself, 'Holy shit, I might not wake up'. But you did it anyway." Ray nods again.
"You knew you were sick, and you had to make a choice. You could keep the status quo, try to maintain, try to have a slow graceful decline. Or you could take the risk of surgery. Take the small risk of disaster for a damn good chance that you'd wake up feeling a hell of a lot better."
Ray nods yet again.
"You took the risk, and you're still here, and you feel a hell of a lot better don't you?"
"The nation's sick Ray, and it needs open heart surgery. I can't promise that everything will be perfect. But I know that if you vote for McCain nothing will change. If you vote for Obama, there's a damn good chance that we'll feel a hell of a lot better one day. It's not going to be all sunshine and roses, but you've been there, you made that choice to do what must be done. And it's worth the risk, isn't it?"
And Ray said yes.
I think I switched a vote today.