My curious habit of conversing with other people over beers, and why I won’t stop doing it

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Beers with New Albany public housing director David Duggins (D) in June, 2022, and U.S. Senator Todd Young (R) in October, 2019.

Today’s dual cover photos depict beers in the act of being consumed, three years apart, illustrating my fundamental position affirming the value of conversation, even when the participants disagree.

As an aside, did you know the Non-Aligned Movement remains in existence? I didn’t.

The Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) is a forum of 120 countries that are not formally aligned with or against any major power bloc. After the United Nations, it is the largest grouping of states worldwide.

The movement originated in the aftermath of the Korean War, as an effort by some countries to counterbalance the rapid bi-polarization of the world during the Cold War, whereby two major powers formed blocs and embarked on a policy to pull the rest of the world into their orbits.

If I consider myself a misplaced European (I do), find my social-democratic-like political orientation to be completely marginalized in the American context (it is), and make peace with the fact that being an expatriate is unlikely at this juncture (alas), then the notion of being non-aligned has considerable appeal.

As such, I’m free to remain a leftist as it pertains to larger issues, and to vote accordingly, while also judging local grassroots political affairs by criteria unique to the immediate acreage lying just outside my front door.

Stated another way, it’s possible for me to have a beer with David Duggins, a Democrat and New Albany’s public housing director, and talk about pressing issues of church-state separation and Supreme Court overreach.

I did so last Saturday.

It’s also possible for me to have a beer with Indiana’s U.S. Senator Todd Young, a Republican, and talk about federal regulatory issues affecting small businesses, American foreign policy, and other topics that have always been of interest to me.

I did this in October, 2019.

What I’m about to say will strike some as unspeakably radical, but here goes: Having a conversation with other people over beers is not the problem, unless you’re concerned it might lead to dialogue in a way that shunning or censoring them almost certainly will not.

What’s more, having a conversation with other people over beers is not synonymous with hopping into bed with them ideologically. Rather, it is exactly as it appears, which is having a conversation over beers.

Now more than ever, I find great comfort in the immortal words of Groucho Marx: “I don’t want to belong to any club that will accept people like me as a member.”

I’m regularly presented with an either/or option of political party in a nation with 10,000 working breweries and probably as many brands of Ranch dressing. One needn’t be a cantankerous, stubbornly contrarian indie to see the absence of choice in a rigged game. But independent I am, and comfortable in my own skin.

The only “plan” I need is the one I’ve always embraced and pursued, which is to do the right thing as often as I can according to the dictates of my own conscience.

Finally, in light of the ruinous and perhaps doomed state of discourse in our country—lest we forget, one local political party has blocked me on social media for almost eight years, and no, it’s not the GOP—I’m more committed than ever before to the ideal of basic roadhouse barroom hospitality, and of a stool at the pub (or a front porch swing, milk crate on a street corner or tree stump in the woods) as a suitable albeit makeshift agora welcoming to all, absent those espousing malice and violence, of course. I propose to continue working toward this ideal, as I have for the better part of 40 years.

Grant me a shrug. I enjoyed my beers with Mr. Duggins and Senator Young, as well as the ensuing conversation with both of them. I’d do it again.

Following are four articles from the former NA Confidential blog, which appeared during the blog’s final months. They’re listed here in reverse chronological order. For those readers interested in background about my declaration of non-alignment, these essays cover the waterfront (sorry, I can’t bring myself to say “shoreline.”)

NA Confidential fought and ran away, but I’ll live to fight another day — just elsewhere.

The long-awaited day has arrived, and the anchor-festooned junta will be awash in Bud Light Peach-A-Rita. Your “Deez Trump Nutz” calendar for 2020 is headed for the landfill, it’s January 1, and NA Confidential has officially concluded its 16-year run.

Help me kill another decade, and maybe there’ll be a box set.

On (or off) the Avenues, there’s got to be a morning after.

It appears Joe Biden will win the election, but I’m not “celebrating” one damn thing beyond the singular and profound relief afforded by NOT being compelled to listen to Donald Trump’s nonsensical, narcissistic bleating and babbling every single day of my life.

I have almost no confidence that the Democratic Party, as currently configured, can do much of anything positive in the years to come. My position has been, and remains, that in spite of differing appearances, our two major political parties are conjoined in their duopoly. If they both can’t be vaporized at once, one must collapse and the other will soon follow.

And I don’t care which one goes first.

ON THE AVENUES: Welcome to the last will and testament of NA Confidential.

Resurrecting NAC wouldn’t be the same. I played the game and lost. So it goes. It may not have been fair or square, and yet make no mistake; I knew exactly the nature of the surreal absurdity I was getting into way back in 2004, purporting to chronicle the life and times of a city that hasn’t been on the cutting edge of anything since the 19th century, and probably never will.

As proof, note that in their most recent races, Donald Trump (Republican President), Jeff Gahan (Democratic Mayor) and Scott Blair (Independent City Council) each won the 6th council district by almost exactly the same percentage of vote as the others.

Huh? If you can explain that, then it’s your turn to grapple with this town’s psychotic DNA.

A change is coming to the model village, and NA Confidential is winding down.

Look, an outsider like me doesn’t climb into the ring imagining miracles. It’s asking a lot to vanquish the overwhelming forces of decades-ingrained ignorance, venality, greed, corruption and inertia by summoning comic book levels of strength and firepower.

Rather, you try to take the bout 15 rounds, looking for chances to score points, all the while conducting yourself with guile and aplomb before the cliquish big fish drown you in their insufferably small pond.

It’s gone 16 years, not 15 rounds, and the final bell is about to sound.

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