Magazine article The American Conservative

Liberal-in-Law

Magazine article The American Conservative

Liberal-in-Law

Article excerpt

My sister-in-law Franny came over from Albuquerque in the summer with her daughter Xuexia. Franny and I have been sparring ever since we first met in London more than 20 years ago. The first round went to Franny. I am not exactly sure what happened on that occasion--maybe we were talking about money, maybe she wanted to know where she could lay her hands on some sterling--but I found myself saying, with elaborate English irony, "I say, Franny, do you have those machines in America that you can stick plastic cards in and get money out of?" Franny looked steadily at me and decided she wasn't going to take any of this garbage. "We invented them, a-hole," she said. What a girl! You could have heard her laugh in Galveston.

Franny rightly takes pride in her country's achievements, and in her own jokes, and she knows her mind, which may explain why she is a left-wing conspiracy nut. She gets her news not from the Albuquerque Journal or even from the New York Times but from the Guardian and BBC websites, from PBS and Air America and Rachel Maddow. I subsist on much the same diet, though with a little help from my friends at the Salisbury Review and, occasionally, L'Osservatore Romano.

We agree on some important stuff, Franny and I, especially on why it is a bad idea to bomb Arab women and children in the name of peace and democracy. But there is a Left-Right tension in our dealings. She has a high opinion of Barack Obama, and I do not. She believes we should still give Michael Jackson the benefit of the doubt, and I do not. She believes the LBJ administration may have been dealing drugs in an attempt to destroy idealism in the young, and ... I.... do ... not.

So we had a lively time of it in London, and most of the time I controlled myself. Just occasionally, though, I would let go and suddenly find myself growing hair and turning into a yellow-dog Republican. No sooner had Franny unpacked her bags than she launched into such a violent attack on the "Nazi" Fox News that I found myself defending Bill O'Reilly. No, really.

Worse was to come. A couple of days later, in an Italian cafe near the British Museum, Franny said she thought that Woodrow Wilson got things pretty much right, especially with the League of Nations, and I started to run around in circles and bark. …

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