This fellow did me a special honor by giving me away at my wedding in 1999, as my own father was no longer living. "Pay attention," he said to me rather sternly, as we were about to walk down the aisle. "You need to pay attention. You're going to want to remember this."
Those words came back to me as I read the following:
Some time, when you are in Baltimore again and have the time, I would love to have lunch with you. You made a couple of comments at dinner the other night about politics and I'd like to pursue that subject a little with you. I give you my absolute promise to not make it in any way confrontational; I just want to understand what people who I suspect differ from me about it all think. I've tried with Susan (not her real name) and that, as you know, doesn't work so well; you, I know are more, well "agreeable" for want of a better word and will give me your thoughts without being too absolutist. Let me know if you'd be willing; I repeat, I will be a gentleman in every possible way.
This came as a shock. In twenty-five years we have discussed hymns, anthems, English cathedrals, where to get great Chinese food and how to make the best gin and tonics. We have never discussed politics. The Birthday Club follows an unspoken policy to avoid topics that may cause significant discord.
I have become more fearful in recent years of discussing politics. Not too long ago my patriotism and my faith were challenged because I didn't agree with prevailing political views. And certain radio and television personalities, along with 'commenters' to blogs and online newspapers, believe that the exercise of free speech permits a sort of verbal vivisection of "the other."
That's not how I work. So I generally keep quiet. But I feel this is an offer I can't refuse: an olive branch extended by a dear friend who thinks differently than I do.
And above all, a complete gentleman in every possible way.