But by and large, when it comes to works of art, I have always been willing and able to compartmentalize — to separate performance from personality. These days it is not fashionable to do this — and I respect those who make that principled decision. But it does put you on a slope as slippery as a seal slathered in vegetable oil and Vaseline.
What are the rules? Is there a statute of limitations? Do we boycott Caravaggio — reject even the very concept of physical perspective in art — because of the somewhat tawdry fact that this particular Renaissance man once killed a pimp by accident while he was merely trying to castrate him to win the affections of a prostitute?
I was thinking about this the other day when I remembered my single most egregious act of personality/performance compartmentalization, and that got me thinking further, and that gave me the first step in a solution to the political hatred dividing our country. Bear with me here.
My most shameful act of compartmentalization occurred when I was a young man and I came across a troubling accusation about my favorite player on my favorite baseball team. A certain member of the Yankees was said to be a virulent anti-Semite. And so the following situation presented itself as a challenge to me:
1. On the one hand, my favorite player on my favorite team was apparently not just a bigot but one who allegedly hated me, personally, and my sainted ma, and probably any children I would ever have, and all for the same reasons the Nazis had committed genocide: scapegoating, ignorance and blind contempt for the innocent Other.
2. The player in question was an excellent fielder. He could stop a baseball if it had been fired at him from a bazooka at point-blank range. He would bravely take the blast off his chest and, while stoically bubbling up lung blood, could whip a frozen rope to first base to nip the runner by a half step.
Plus, he hit with power from the left side.
I resolved this problem by continuing to root for my guy. And yes, the Yankees won the World Series that year; ergo, I was right. The hell with my sainted ma.
All of which brings me to the Republicans. As far as I can see, nothing has driven a wedge between Americans as dramatically as has the fact that, to Democrats, Republicans in government have shown themselves unwilling to confront or address the fact that their president and party leader is deeply dishonest, willfully ignorant, childishly susceptible to flattery, boorish, bumbling, mendacious, petty, licentious, preposterously vain, unapologetically racist, egomaniacal, cruel, venal, polarizing and utterly incapable of putting a sentence together without an error of grammar, syntax or spelling. To the party of elephants, Trump is the elephant in the room. Nothing to see here.
The fact is, until just the other day, I thought this was because the Republicans are spineless and hypocritical, unwilling to risk the loss of their base and possibly jeopardize their reelection. But now when I look at them, I think of myself, and the Yankees.
Maybe they are not so bad.
I’m certainly not that bad.
I’m a nice guy, at heart. Maybe, just like me, they are willing to countenance a monster for the good of their team.
I just hope they are like me in another way as well, that somewhere they have an uncrossable line.
Email Gene Weingarten at email@example.com. Find chats and updates at washingtonpost.com/magazine.
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