If you’re like me and you spend most of your day with your eyes open and in something slightly past a semi-conscious state, you recognize that America is currently facing an era of political discord and polarization unseen since the 1960s, or maybe the Gilded Age, or maybe even the Civil War. We’ve become factionalized, marginalized, set apart and compartmentalized based on our philosophies on the role of government, our preferred economic theories, our income levels, ethnic backgrounds, who we get our news from and even our opinions on Cardi B.
Add to the mix the fact that the current president of the United States has made it his personal mission to keep one group of us pitted against another and it’s no wonder that we’ve essentially become a nation of Crips and Bloods settling turf wars over opinions on social media personified by argumentative talking heads bloviating at each other on cable news shows damn near every night.
Our politics has become bereft of nuance with each side running towards its poles to shore up its base and satiate their quivering Twitter fingers with the ideological mana that they crave. Conservatism has been weaponized. Progressivism has become a purity test. Our politicians are forced to make points rather than policy lest they be deemed insufficiently _______ enough to represent the “true will” of the people. And just as I was personally about to lose my shit as I was enveloped in the riptide of NPR, AOC, MAGA, and WTF, I found a way to put it all into perspective.
Ordering a pizza for a family of four.
Friday night at the Richardson Ranch is family movie night. Me, my wife, and our two daughters shake off the week, pile onto the sofa, watch something together, and enjoy each other’s company. Oh, and we order pizza, which is always a fucking ordeal. Why? Because, while we can all agree on our last names and our address, when it comes to getting a pizza, the Richardsons have nothing in common. Let me explain…
My wife: Always wants to try new toppings and she’s not afraid to get something non-traditional. She likes things that are spicy or outside the mainstream for pizza, like habanero peppers, or kimchi, or clams. Let’s call her a Pizza Progressive.
The 7-year-old: She only wants cheese pizza, is unwilling to try anything that isn’t cheese pizza and wonders why anyone would ruin a perfectly good cheese pizza with toppings because cheese pizza is how the pizza founders intended it to be. She believes in a limited role for pie toppings. She’s a rock-ribbed Pizza Conservative.
Me: I prefer a particular set of toppings, but I’m willing to try different toppings if they’re adjacent to toppings I’ve already had (but also likes anchovies for some reason). I can and have been swayed to get either plain cheese or something exotic depending on my mood, but I more than likely gonna go with what I know (except barbecue chicken pizza ‘cause that shit ain’t pizza, that’s a round flatbread perpetrating the fraud as pizza). Otherwise, I’m the Pizza Moderate.
The 2-year-old: She’ll usually just eat whatever pizza is put in front of her and she’s not really vocal about pizza preferences. Honestly, she just wants pizza that’s pizza, but she will throw pizza across the room if truly displeased with the pizza decision made by others (see: The Greek Pizza Disaster of 2018). We’ll say she’s a Pizza Independent.
Come Friday night, when we’ve all settled in for family movie night, we’ve done so with the tacit understanding that, yes, we want pizza. The problem comes in how we define “pizza” in respect to our particular tastes and takes (because that barbecue chicken bullshit ain’t pizza). This leads us to the age-old dilemma of family pizza ordering; who isn’t gonna get what they want?
Well, if we go with my wife’s choice, she’ll be happy and maybe the 2-year old will be happy, but me and the 7-year-old are left out in the cold to pick at slices of some bullshit with duck confit and artichokes that we really don’t enjoy and don’t feel like we had a say in.
If we go with the 7-year-old’s choice and just choose cheese, yeah, we got pizza, but did we really get the full potential out of the pizza that we’ve been given? I mean, paying money to have someone deliver a plain-ass cheese pizza to your house is like going to a strip club because you like the music. Bruh, there’s cheaper ways to listen to the Yin Yang Twins.
If we go with my choice, we’re gonna get pizza that’s satisfactory for everyone, but nothing that everyone’s gonna be truly jazzed about. But, then again, nothing that’s gonna cause a tantrum and/or me sleeping on the sofa. Plus, the 2-year-old will let us know if my pizza selection sucks if it winds up on the wall (see: The Greek Pizza Disaster of 2018).
So what do we do? How do we get past this great pizza impasse? How do we, as a family, find a way to bridge the chasm of our differences wrought by tomato sauce and cheese?
We make deals.
Some Friday’s we let my wife get a little more say or sway in the decision. Other weeks we let the big girl choose. Sometimes I get to make the call. We even try to keep track of what the little one liked before and try to deliver on that. But we’ll trade our choice in pizza on a Friday night for, say, getting to pick the movie, or getting the good blanket (you know, the soft blue joint from Target). Sometimes we’ll mutually decide to not get a topping (it’s always mushrooms that get cut) so as to share in a sacrifice. But the idea isn’t to beat each other into submission over who has the better taste in toppings, because we all gotta eat the pizza and we ain’t ordering but one pizza so we gotta live with the pizza we got.
We find consensus. Not because it’s pleasant. Not because it’s easy. Not because we like the results all the time. But because it’s necessary for us to all live together.
And that’s kinda where we are in America right now. A bunch of different factions with a bunch of different tastes and wants arguing over what is or isn’t gonna go on the collective pizza that is the society that we all have to live with and in. It’s what you do when you have to make decisions for people who live in Alabama and people who live in California. It’s how you make it work when you have to make decisions past posturing.
Nobody’s asking anybody to sell out their values or their beliefs. It’s just that, at a certain point, if all you have are positions and ideas without results, you’re all doing it wrong. It ain’t always gonna be exactly what you want; the pizza’s never gonna be perfect.
So come 2020, when it’s time to pick a Democratic candidate for president, remember that purity feeds one while consensus feeds all and act accordingly.
Unless it’s that barbecue chicken pizza shit, because that shit ain’t even really pizza and y’all need to see past that lie.