Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is a man of few words. He is the boyfriend of Mme. Precious Ramotswe, the title character in Alexander McCall Smith’s literary series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. A car mechanic by trade, Mr. Matekoni is a simple man – wise and laconic. When asked to explain something, he often responds with “I have no more words,” a phrase I sometimes use when M and I are in the midst of a heated discussion.
Today, I’m speechless as I watch our newly inaugurated president fight to restore order to a country reeling from an assault on its capitol while addressing the need to vaccinate the entire population against a killer virus, repair the damage to our place in the international community and deal with long lines at food banks, police brutality, immigration crises and racial division. I, literally, have no more words.
After the 2016 presidential election an old friend chided me with the phrase “Elections have consequences.” I wanted to be reasonable and told him I knew that was true but hoped conservative Republicans could have found a smarter, better informed candidate. I knew the one that had been elected was going to be trouble but had no idea how much trouble.
Over the four Trump years, my friend’s politics seemed to move in lockstep with the administration’s. After the 2020 election, I reminded him that “Elections have consequences” but now his response has a harder edge. He disputes Joe Biden’s election victory. He hates Obama. He hates Hillary. He hates and fears socialism. He wants the old America… the one he grew up in.
The funny thing is, he and I grew up in exactly the same America. We both were raised in Seattle. We went to public schools. He graduated from Cleveland High. I went to Roosevelt. He went to Whitworth University in Spokane. I went to the University of Washington in Seattle. We played tennis on public courts, skied in the Cascades, both became Naval aviators, and flew commercially for Pan Am. Both families were solidly middle class.
How did our political perspectives end up so far apart? I have no words to explain it.
Is he still a friend? He is. We might not ever get together again. He lives in Carmel and I’m in Seattle, but we still email and Facebook occasionally. I like him personally but wonder where his politics came from. I don’t agree that people can’t remain friends because of political differences. After all, if George and Kellyanne Conway can stay married, surely two old pilots can maintain their friendship. We might not if we burrow in and don’t let go of our differences. We can still joke about our politics but need to keep it light. I know we could bridge our differences if we could just make a couple of powder runs together or play some tennis. We were both pretty good back in the day.
Here’s the moral vector of this story; it’s likely we will both die in the next ten years, and I don’t want any lingering resentments as that day approaches. He and I both have strong opinions about how government should work and the people we think it should serve. So did John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. they too had major differences and after a long period of not speaking to each other reconciled and resumed their friendship. They died within five hours of one another on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after signing the Declaration of Independence. That’s how I’d like it to be with my old friend too. Given the current state of the nation, I think it’s best to defer to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni… I have no more words.