"By any definition today, David and I should not even be speaking to each other," former Monsanto speechwriter Glynn Young wrote last week on his Faith, Fiction, Friends blog. He was recommending the book I helped write—Tell My Sons, by Lt. Col. Mark Weber—and thought it a good time to talk about our friendship:
We sit on opposite sides of the great divide in American politics—he leans hard to the liberal side, and I don’t. He lives in Chicago, where the cemeteries used to vote but no longer have any need to. …
But we are friends, and we respect each other, bound by a mutual love for words and well-written (and well-spoken) speeches. David taught me that liberals love their children just as much as conservatives do, that family is important, that doing good and fine work is what you do because who really wants to be known for anything else.
That David and I are friends proves that civility is still possible in America. Even if he has weird politics.
Glynn isn't the only conservative colleague who I respect, and assuming I'm not the only liberal he likes, allow me to suggest that what we're bonded by is not by our love for words or our love for our children—but by a shared appreciation of fairness and restraint. Of words not said.
I'm not sure what I wrote to convince Glynn that I "lean hard on the liberal side," and I bet he doesn't remember either. But I think what he likes about me—and what I like about him—is that he can rely on me, even in the heat of an election year, not to gas on humorlessly about binders full of women. As I can rely on him not to write 2,000 words about why President Obamais a creep because he uses a teleprompter.
In the middle of a media and social media orgy crowded with trash talkers and anger-addicts, manipulators and neanderthals of both genders, we consider one another responsible rhetoricians. Not above being provocateurs, not above pulling stunts. But responsible for what we say and do all the time and for all time. (Or at least for a week.)
In other words: Glynn and I want to be able to reach the end of our lives and look over everything we've ever written and, as long as we can remember the context in which we wrote it, stand proudly by it. Another speechwriter pal, Dan Conley, quotes Montaigne: "If I can, I will prevent my death from saying anything not first said by my life." Yeah, man. Heavy stuff.
That doesn't mean we always will feel proud of everything we ever wrote—or that we'll be right to feel proud. But it means that that's our intention, every time we sit down at the keyboard. (It's also why I'm pretty fucking stubborn in discussions that ensue in my Comments section. If I didn't believe it pretty strongly, I wouldn't have said it in the first place.)
I also know the opposite: I've had fights with people in print and online and in person where the object was to shoot to kill or maim. That's not communication. It's violence by words. And since it never actually does kill—but only makes disagreeable people even angrier—the people who inspire it should be avoided entirely.
Glynn Young likes me because I usually use words to communiate, or to try. I like him back for the same reason.
Glynn, correct me if I'm wrong.