There are two types of people in this world: those who believe there are two types of people in this world, and those who don’t.
If, like me, you belong to one side or the other, you’ve probably noticed that people split rather easily down the center. There are two symmetrical halves to the body, to the face, to a leaf, a story, an issue, a person, a people. Two sides. It’s a law. On the one hand, there’s always the other hand.
The assumption that there are two types of people is eminently supportable. The law of twoness says you can’t have one without the other: Adam & Eve, Good & Evil, Rich & Poor, Either & Or, Darkness & Light, Republican & Democratic. These things need each other in order to be defined.
It is said that deep awareness of the duality of Being brings oneness, and this is certainly reflected by the divorce rate, just one of the many ways America splits neatly in half. Oneness rarely lasts either, because the moment you reach it you want to run out and tell everybody.
The idea that people will always divide neatly by two is jarring until one understands it is a function of math rather than magic. For those who suspect this is too simplistic, consider the famous twins, “0″ and “1,” which are the only numbers your computer needs to know in order to do everything it does. If one keeps playing with these opposites — off/on, yes/no, 0/1 — one can arrive at marvelously nuanced pictures of the world.
The problem comes when we stop dividing things by two and accept as unified Truth a rudimentary black & white equation. To say, “There are two types of people: Republicans and Democrats,” is factually correct but functionally conflictive because it forces us to take the sum of all that we are and jam it into one cartoon or the other. Are you with the Reds? Or the Blues?
What are the real differences between Republicans and Democrats? Opinions vary, of course, but not by much. Roughly, it’s Rich/Poor, White Collar/Blue Collar, Upwardly Mobile/Downwardly Mobile. From there things quickly degrade to Big Fat Loudmouth/Skinny Shrill Whiner.
If you’re a Democrat, you’re either unemployed or worried you’re about to be or know somebody who is, or you’re a fabulously wealthy Hollywood star using politics to get on Entertainment Tonight. If you have a career job that involves riding a train to work, you’re a Republican. This is because your boss is a Republican, and your boss’s boss, and so on. It is career suicide to align yourself with Democrats within a business setting. Shortly after my father retired as a top executive with Sears, he, with my mother at his side, made an announcement. “We’re Democrats,” he said. “Yikes,” said we.
There are other differences. Republican women have thick necks, Democratic women have thick ankles. There are exceptions and even the inverse can be true: Condi Rice has a pencil neck and you won’t find a skinnier pair of legs than the ones under Ginsberg’s robe. The neck/ankle equation will serve you well until it hits you it’s completely false.
Clichés are cheap vessels but they can hold a lot of truth. The rich really do get richer and the poor get even poorer. The rich move up, the poor move down. This has always been true.
John Kerry divides rich from poor at $200,000. Broadly put, if you’re under the mark you would be gradually settling into a declining state; whereas if you’re above the line, you’re presumed to be in a state of ascension. At the very bottom of the jar is the sludge from which I write and spit, write and spit.
The GOP, which stands for Grand Old Party, is actually still quite grand and still getting older all the time, but it’s not much of a party these days — ever since Richard Clarke began popping reputations like Macy’s balloons, the GOP has beheld the incredible shrinking candidate, now the size of a prize, and no gumball.
Instead of looking for differences, perhaps we should be looking at similarities. Republicans and Democrats share one thing in common: a hometown. We all live in one. We might not come from the same neighborhoods, but we’re all neighbors, all Americans, all easy to recognize in foreign countries because we’re either triple-sized or anorexic and stuck through with needles.
Now in this town there roils a great seething unease, for its leaders have been winged and are scrambled, lo, see them duck and cover (quack!). In these confusing times, as we townspeople watch an administration burst into one spectacular lie after another, then flip the channel and see American bodies dragged by angry Iraqi mobs, it might do us well to realize our true twoness, because the reality is we have one leg in the Middle East.
To me, this election is about what’s hanging over the ocean. This election may require some to quietly switch parties in the privacy of a booth, a difficult act, but it can be done (I speak from experience). Even though most Democrats would rather commit adultery than switch parties, and vice versa, it can still be done.
The truth, once you’ve unscrambled all the reds and blues, is always purple.