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Opening Arguments

Our World

Cathy Seipp, among other things the author of the popular blog Cathy's World, has died after a long battle with cancer. Though I knew her only by her writing, I feel a sense of loss. She was conservative, but not always predictably so, and tough and smart and funny and a clear and compelling writer. Read this loving tribute -- I think that term fits -- by Susan Estrich, who was about as far politically from Seipp as it is possible to be:

Lung cancer was one of the few subjects we agreed on; I lost my best friend seven years ago, and watched in horror as the money from the tobacco settlements got spent building highways. We also agreed about things like mothering, kids and friendship. As for the rest, we had to agree to disagree. But I was always interested in how Cathy put it, where she came down and how she got there, because I knew she'd be as tough on herself as any critic would be. So I checked in every day to see what she was thinking, until the end. Ours was an old-fashioned relationship, the kind people used to have with people they disagree with, the kind that is too often under attack these days.

It's too bad we'll never meet, Cathy wrote to me not long ago, and my heart skipped a beat, but of course I knew what she meant. We e-mailed. She posted. We lived in a new world, by the old rules. It may be the best of both.

Living "in a new world, by the old rules." I like that. I have been blessed with many friends, some of them stubbornly clinging to liberalism despite my best efforts to convince them of the error of their ways -- and I know they have been equally disappointed in me. But the arguing has always been fun, and challenging and stimulating and leavened with the knowledge that we cared for each other despite our differences of opinion. In the end, it's not so much what you believe that matters but who you are and what you do.

As Seipp knew and Estrich still understands, that kind of "agreeing to disagree" friendship is tougher and tougher these days, and we are all the poorer for it.

Posted in: Weblogs


RiShawn Biddle
Thu, 03/22/2007 - 5:47am

Having hung out with Cathy, her daughter and the rest of the L.A. gang when I lived in L.A. -- she was actually one of the first writers I met when I moved there -- she was truly the grand dame of L.A. pundits and journalists. And during her career, she covered a wide range of topics and issues, including fashion, television and Hollywood. We'll never see the likes of her kind again. Let her touch the face of God.

As far as agreeing to disagree and still being friends anyway: It's definitely an increasingly rare occurance. Too many people take disagreement over issues so personally that they fail to realize that behind every opposing ideology is a person, as flawed and glorious in their personality as they are. Admitting that means acknowledging that an ideological opponent can actually be a decent person who just see the world differently. That would, in turn, requires maturity in discourse from the debater himself. And in a world where boys pretend to be men and girls pretend to be women, that's a tough concept indeed.

Thu, 03/22/2007 - 6:46am

I heard a theory that one explanation for the increasing polarization in Congress is that over the past decade Members have maintained their residences (and therefore their families) in their home districts. This has resulted in their spouses and kids not socializing with each other, and Members running home every weekend and therefore not socializing with each other, either. Members don't view each other as friends or people, just political adversaries. I don't know whether this is true but it was an interesting theory.

Even if it is true, I don't think it's the whole explanation because of course our entire society has become more polarized even for the rest of us who are not beltway commuters.

Perhaps it just takes too much energy to listen to other people's points of view and empathize with them, even if we don't agree. Perhaps we have lost so much of our cultural belief in civil discourse that we just can't restrain ourselves from yelling and sniping at each other. Perhaps we have decided that our problems are so overwhelming we can't solve them anyway, and are expressing that frustration by refusing to even try.

It's a sad state of affairs, for sure.

Chris Mann
Thu, 03/22/2007 - 8:58am


Very well written piece. CM