For the NaNo Excerpt Blog Chain.

“And what about you?” I finally had to say. “Reaming me out like this? If you feel so strongly, why aren’t you writing a column? If you think I’m such a cynic, why’d you even come? I think you and I both knew Bose wasn’t going to show up and that he never is.”

Karen’s eyes smoldered under her bangs. “I came because talking with you is one of the few times I have to organize a cogent defense of what I believe,” she said. “Even when you’re playing the cynic, as I said before, you make for a good verbal sparring partner. I tend to use ideology and politics as razors to determine who I associate with, and I’ve recently come to realize that demanding ideological purity of everyone means that I risk isolating myself in a liberal echo chamber where I only hear people that agree with me.”

“Isolating yourself in a university, in other words?”

“The very same. And I have a feeling that if you were ever honest about yourself, willing to stand up for whatever you believe in, we’d have a lot to argue about. A lot more to argue about. I’m coming to think that politics are nothing unless they’re held to the flame and tempered, which I don’t see happening a lot. Dr. Bose, Dr. Ross, the Nothing, the College Republicrats and Democricans…despite what they say, they see these kids as vessels to be filled with whatever they think should go in there, not what the kids truly come to believe themselves.”

“So you agree with me, then, about kids being spoiled.” It wasn’t much, but I had to try and spring the same sort of rhetorical trap on Karen that she’d just about sprung on me.

“I agree that everyone wants to raise a generation of parrots,” Karen said. “I think the Nothing is right about the inequity of society, of the exploitation of students for profit and the use of grad students like us as disposable rags. But if I just tell that to someone, what am I accomplishing other than to ask them to uncritically accept my views over uncritically accepting someone else’s?”

I nodded thoughtfully. “Could be. So that’s why you want to make me out to be like my friend Jim, a raging right-winger with more guns than teeth who never met a social program he didn’t want to string up and gut like a winter buck?”

This time Karen looked a little disconcerted. “I…no. Well, maybe. I don’t know. All I know is that even when you’re being evasive it makes me think in a way that my little echo chamber doesn’t. If you’d take positions and defend them instead of just lashing out at whatever annoys you…”

“So you could feel better about yourself by seeing how wrong I am?” The words were out before I’d had a chance to filter them.

“No, I…”

“Look, Karen. I hate politics. I hate everything about them, from how they drive apart people who should be friends to the way people act like they define you like some kind of standardized test. I cross to the other side of the street when I see people with signs and fliers even if they’re for something I agree with. I oppose all protests and counterprotests even if they’re for the Society for Distribution of Internet Cat Pictures.” Again the words had spun out before I even had a chance to think on them.

Karen sighed. “I’m sorry. Look, I tend to get excited about things and talk a lot without thinking.”

I wanted to say something reassuring, something that indicated that I felt exactly the same way. “It’s okay,” was all that came out, as stark a proof as ever there was one that my tongue has a sense of humor bordering on the perverse.