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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Elwood's Idealism

Last summer as I multi-tasked at work my co-worker George shouted from out front, “ Scott … there’s someone here to see you and he’s asking for Scotty.”

Anytime someone says Scotty I know it’s from a long time ago. That would have to be high school or back, so I eagerly finished the task at hand and walked outside. There in all his glory stood an old running buddy from high school. “ Elwood friggin’ Costner. Will miracles never cease?”

I figured someone would have shot him by now for messing with their woman or he would have bought it by his own hand in a wreck or “accident” of some kind.

“Hehehe”, he snickered in that head ducking way of his. “Ole Scotty … man, it’s been a long time,” as we do the handshake, chest bump thing guys do to hug but not really.

I must say he looked pretty good compared to most I run into from high school. We are that age that transforms our appearance into something that looks like a pot bellied middle-aged man. I can’t understand it for the life of me.

Elwood was tan and still sported a longish, blow-dried coif that was reminiscent of the big haired rock and roll days of the seventies. He had managed to blend it with a contemporary prep look that allowed him to get away with it in a “Tommy Bahama” sort of way. As it turned out he’d spent a lot of time in Baton Rouge doing the lounge owner, man about town thing.

The thing is Elwood had a way of bringing trouble then sliding out the back door without getting any on him. For those of you who have lived this tawdry sort of existence, you know that the only way to do that is to “throw the snake” on the nearest victim. He wasn’t prejudiced about who that victim was either. A friend would serve just as well as any one.

So I checked to be sure my wallet was still in place. Because Elwood was always such a talker, I told George I was “going to lunch.” So old Elwood and I rode to the local café and "hunkered down" to a blue plate special and some war stories.

As the pots and pans banged in the kitchen we sat in the maroon plastic booth and walked back in time to a place I had not been for quite a while. We were a product of the late 60’s in the South. His father had been a state trooper and mine was an authoritarian with a lot of personality.

Elwood and I had always identified with one another. We were the same color auburn except I was blue eyed with freckles and he had light brown eyes and tanned better. Both of us always had a sort of swagger style that was similar. The truth is we’d had a lot of fun going to the beach and clubbing during the disco days.

As it turns out both of us had what you might call a “conversion experience” at about the same period of life. It was probably the simple fact that the road dead ended in the same place but either way we ended up being of a like mind set. He was more fundamental in his religious thinking but I could find no real fault with the end result so I listened attentively to his proselytizing and managed to find corollaries to my more philosophical bent without actually contradicting him.

The next few months were a barrage of calls and emails with attachments consisting of devotionals and men’s retreats out west and such. Then election time came around and as was our habit we “discussed” the impending possibilities and our ideas about it all.

I listened to every right wing, neo-conservative platitude I could until one day I couldn’t hold back anymore.

“Elwood, you’ve spouted so called statistics and ideas for weeks now. Each and every source is recognized and self-promoted as right wing, neo-conservative and I’ve got to tell you most of it is no more than propaganda. Do you ever listen to the other side of the issues? When you garner all this information do you ever investigate the position or agenda of the author? You’re good at putting it out there but I don’t see any real fact checking going on and I’ve got to tell you that a lot of the stuff you’re stating as gospel is just plain false.”

Wide eyed he strode quickly to his car, opening the door on a small library of contemporary conservative literature. Now that the dam had burst I couldn’t stop, “ I didn’t say you didn’t read. I asked if you ever check the facts or consider the other side of the argument … do you check the sources of this idealistic dogma you so confidently put forth?”

I won’t bore you folks with the rest of the “discussion”. I will say that after a “trickle” of fundamentalist email with accompanying attachments I ceased to hear from old Elwood anymore. At first I thought I might have offended him but then I got to thinking about it. Elwood had always had an extremely thick skin. You had to when you were constantly throwing crap on people then having to run into them later. So I figured there wasn’t much possibility that I had hurt his feelings.

I’ve noticed that if you start to ask too many questions of a zealot they have a way of shaking their head and taking the stance of “I’ll be praying for you, brother.” Thing is I can’t help but wonder what it is that they are praying will happen to or for me. Another thing is, can anybody tell me why conflicting ideas should be the end of a discussion?

Seems to me like that ought to be the beginning. Oh well … so much for the “good ole days.”

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