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Patricia Skinner Sulpizio: You can choose your friends ...

Posted: May 3, 2010 3:49 p.m.
Updated: May 4, 2010 4:55 a.m.
I was born to Irish Catholic parents and raised on Notre Dame football. So much so, that our family Thanksgiving celebration alternates between NorCal and SoCal. When the Fighting Irish play the University of Southern California at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Thanksgiving is hosted by one of us who resides in Southern California.

If the "Big Game" is in South Bend, Ind., we celebrate at the home of one of our siblings in the San Francisco Bay area.

So you can imagine the excitement in the car while driving my husband Lou and my brother, Ed, to the airport, for their pilgrimage to our Mecca - in other words, to see the "Big Game" played on Notre Dame's home field.

"What kind of weather are you guys expecting?" I asked.

"We're ready for anything," Ed exclaimed.

"Rain, sun, sleet or snow, we're just happy to go," Lou agreed.

I continued with the weather: "Did you see that Colorado Rockies game where the field was completely white, covered in snow?"

"That's because of global warming," responded right-wing ideologue Ed.

Aware of his political stance, I tested: "You're kidding, right?"

"Global warming is the biggest hoax ever perpetuated," he asserted.

"That's what I thought you'd say," I replied.

"I forgot to bring a book," sighed Ed, an avid reader. "I guess I'll have to buy one at the airport."

"What do you think you'll buy?" I innocently asked.

"The Sarah Palin book," he quickly replied.

Incredulous, I said, "I can't believe you'd waste your money on that."

"What's wrong with it?" he asked.

"Sarah Palin's just a cover girl, no substance," I replied.

"Specifics," Ed demanded.

I quoted Palin: "You can see Russia from Alaska."

"And that makes her a foreign policy expert?" I asked. "Not!"

"She never said that," Ed insisted. "That was only on Saturday Night Live."

"She did too say it. I heard her. I saw her say it on TV with my own eyes," I said.

I was relieved to be pulling over to the curb. "Have a great time. Love you," I said to Lou and Ed as they exited the car.

Returning home, I went to the computer, did a Google search for "Palin-see-Russia" and quickly drafted an e-mail to Ed with links to interviews by Charles Gibson, Katie Couric and Barbara Walters, and an Indiana speech where Palin implied that as governor she gained foreign policy credentials as a result of Alaska's proximity to Russia.

Ed, obviously angry, responded with an offensive, insulting e-mail. His reply inspired this stanza of a poem I wrote:

My neocon brother and I chat.
Our talk evolved into a spat.
"You don't have to act like that.
We don't agree politically,
But you attacked me personally."

Why do Ed and I think so differently? Born just 18 months apart to the same parents - a Republican dad and a Democrat mom - and raised in the same home, we attended the same church and schools until our paths parted when we left for college.

Ed went to Chico State and I to UC Santa Barbara and Humboldt State. I graduated after four years and married a year later. Ed spent 10 years in Chico. At age 34, he enlisted in the Army.

I wondered whether it was his military experience, or perhaps the rural influence of Chico that made Ed so conservative.

I decided further research was needed, and polled my other siblings regarding their political party choice. The results: one Republican, five Democrats, two decline-to-state (aka Independent) and one anarchist. ("But don't worry. I'm not going to shoot anybody," she assured me.)

Ed crossed a line in his e-mail to me. Yet I'm willing to forgive. I invite his family for dinner and holidays. Whenever asked, I babysit his son, Sam. It's not Sam's fault his dad's a neocon.

While exchanging Christmas gifts, our repartee continued. Ed presented me the DVD, "The Dark Knight."

"Ah, the Dick Cheney movie, how nice of you," I said, teasing.

"What do you mean? Cheney should be president," Ed stated defensively.

"Cheney was president. We won't get into it now. Let's not ruin Christmas," I said.

I don't know whether it's nature or nurture that makes us different, but I know we're all one family. The message in the idiom, "you can choose your friends, but not your family" is - make the best of what you've got.

We may disagree, but if we try, we can get along.

Patricia Skinner Sulpizio is a Valencia resident and delegate to the California Democratic Party. Her column reflects her own views and not necessarily those of The Signal. "Democratic Voices" appears Tuesdays in The Signal and rotates among several SCV Democrats.


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