Me and the Rotarians

Burt Prelutsky Contributor
Font Size:

These days, it’s rare that my conservative beliefs cause me any grief. As a rule, after all, my social interactions with liberals tend to be limited to tennis and poker games, where there’s little or no political chitchat.

That’s not to say it has always been the case. There was a relative whose insistence that Jimmy Carter was a modern-day saint drove a stake into our relationship. Then there was an acquaintance who kept insisting that he was a registered Independent, but who only bombarded me with jokes and puerile insults targeting right-wingers. When I finally got him to confess that the last time Mr. Independent had voted for a Republican was 1968, I washed my hands of him. Liberals who freely admit their sins are bad enough, but those who insist on wearing disguises are worse.

This is not to say that I exist in a liberal-free bubble. After all, I live in L.A., where illegal aliens probably out-number conservatives. Moreover, as I invariably respond to my email, I probably have more exchanges with liberals on a daily basis than most of my right-of-center colleagues have in a month.

But, just last week, I had a direct confrontation with a number of liberals and, sad to say, they lived up to their reputation.

I had been invited to be a guest speaker at a Rotary Club lunch, held in the faculty lounge on the UCLA campus. Understand, I hold no grudge against the Rotarians. I happen to know a few of them personally and, without exception, they’re fine people, and the various Clubs around the world do a great deal to support worthy charities.

There was only one problem with my appearance, and I’m referring to my presentation and not my personal appearance, which, admittedly, leaves a great deal to be desired. Nobody had thought to mention that partisan politics were verboten at these monthly events, at least when it came to partisan conservative politics. Had I been warned, I’d have been happy to spend half an hour discussing my writing career, baseball or notables I have known and interviewed over the years.

Instead, I opened by explaining how I had gone from being a casual left-winger to being an avid ex-left-winger. Then I read a couple of my articles, the patriotic “The Flag and I,” and the partisan “Trying to Make Sense of Liberals.”

At that point, I asked for questions. Therein, I made my biggest mistake. First off, instead of posing a query, the lady who had delivered the invocation took me to task for not pointing out that most Muslims are good people, and that some of her best friends are followers of Islam. I opined that most Germans were not Nazis and most Russians were not Communists, but Americans hadn’t constantly been called upon to make that distinction. And just because most Muslims weren’t blowing up Israeli school buses and pizza parlors, and weren’t murdering American soldiers and pregnant women at Fort Hood and elsewhere, didn’t mean a heck of a lot of them didn’t favor bringing Sharia law to America or that they hadn’t been contributing to terrorist organizations through Islamic charities until the FBI shut them down.

At that point, she stormed out.

Next, a man stood up to tell me he had been offended by my comments about liberals. When I asked him what was so great about liberalism, he began by saying they were for social justice. Before, he could pick up a full head of steam, I said that justice is justice, whereas “social justice” is code for one set of rules for the rich, another for the poor; one set for whites, another set for minorities; one set for straight men, another for women and gays. In short, I pointed out, it’s the opposite of actual justice. Before he could even reach the door, the president announced the meeting was over.

The next day, I received apologetic messages from a couple of conservative members who identified themselves as fans of mine.

One of them let me know that the group occasionally has guest speakers who discuss politics, including, a few months earlier, Leslie Marshall. “But, of course she’s a liberal, and, so, there had been no outbursts and no one walked out of the room.”

Well, we already know that conservatives are more courteous than liberals, and I suppose I should be grateful that nobody threw a pie, but merely a hissy fit.

The other fellow let me know that the group breaks down to roughly one-third conservatives, one-third liberals, and one-third apolitical.

Fine, I was wrong to assume I was addressing the choir. But, there were still two things that particularly annoyed me. One was that the conservatives in the audience were so cowed by the boorishness of their colleagues that they slunk out of the room, afraid to even offer me a polite smattering of applause. Which, I am willing to wager, was a first in Rotary history.

The other thing that ticked me off is that the two people who stormed out didn’t happen to be Joy Behar and Whoopi Goldberg. Otherwise, I’d probably have my own show on Fox by now.

I told the guys that, if it could be arranged, I would be happy to debate the issues with the fellow who had stalked out, just as Charlton Heston had once challenged anti-gun advocate Barbara Streisand, with ticket receipts going to any charity the club selected. I even offered to let the dunce team up with the woman who beat him out the door, although I acknowledged that would probably work to my advantage.

Finally, I guess, as my long-suffering wife has often been heard to say, you can’t take me anywhere.

Burt Prelutsky is a humor columnist, a movie critic and a writer for TV. He’s written episodes of MASH, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, Family Ties, Dr. Quinn and Diagnosis Murder. He is the author of “Conservatives Are From Mars, Liberals Are From San Francisco” and “Liberals: America’s Termites or It’s a Shame That Liberals, Unlike Hamsters, Never Eat Their Young,” along with two collections of interviews, “The Secret of Their Success” and “Portraits of Success.” He blogs at BurtPrelutsky.com.