I remember when I first became interested in politics. It was back in the early 80s, probably no later than the late summer of 1982. My great-uncle was visiting and he brought a world map with him.
The map was, to my kindergarten-sized eyes, massive. It was one of those folding maps you used to get from National Geographic. He spread it on the floor and I began looking at it.
Uncle Jimmy pointed out the Falklands Islands and said a war had recently been fought over them between Argentina, which he pointed out, and Great Britain, which he also showed me. The British, he explained, had to travel all the way from the North Atlantic to near the tip of South America to fight.
Looking at the ocean between Britain and the Falklands, then the comparatively shorter gap between Argentina and the islands, I reached a quick conclusion. “That can’t have been close. Argentina had to win,” I said.
I was right about the first part, Uncle Jimmy said. It wasn’t close. But Britain won.
I remember wondering how that could be. That led me into studying the comparative military power between those nations. From there I waded into the political differences, which coincided with a growing understanding of the Cold War.
Eventually I became a political junkie. When I got in trouble I would lose television on weekdays, with the sole exception of the nightly news. I quickly learned that if I watched the local 5 p.m. broadcast, the NBC Nightly News at 5:30 p.m., and then switched over the McNeil-Lehrer News Hour at 6 p.m., I could get enough of a televised dose to do quite nicely. And I learned a bit while doing it.
In seventh grade I got daily updates on the fall of the communist bloc thanks to a teacher who taped the 5 a.m. ABC radio news broadcast from KMOX. That cemented my interest. I was addicted to politics and stayed that way right through high school and college.
Today I occasionally get questions from longtime friends about what I think of what’s happening in Washington. And, to my chagrin and their amusement, I mostly keep my mouth shut. It’s not that I’m no longer interested in politics, just that it’s not prudent for me to talk about it with the same zeal as I did 20 years ago.
The standard reaction is to laugh when I opt out of commenting. Never, they say, did they think they would see a day when I willingly passed up an opportunity to talk politics. I have friends who are lifelong liberals and committed conservatives, and their delight at my discomfiture is a decidedly bipartisan reaction.
Fortunately, I have a way out. I’ve been a Cardinals fan at least as long as I have been a political junkie. And, since most of my friends are from the St. Louis area, it’s not too difficult to change the conversation in that direction.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some thoughts on Mike Matheney and the Cards’ bullpen that I don’t have to keep silent.