It makes you wonder if there's any possiblity for meaningful dialogue across the political divide.
Maybe there is and maybe there isn't.
I had a recent argument with a close friend who is, I think, a devout Republican. We were driving along Fairfax Ave in Los Angeles in my friends bright red Chevy truck. He was at the wheel while I sat in the passenger seat. As we began to move forward at a just changed green light, a car came up along our right side in the far right lane and began to accellerate in order to pass us.
My friend became incensed.
"Mother-fucker!" he muttered and stomped on the gas to give chase in order to block the person from being able to pass him, completely ignoring the BUS that was stopped in the right lane about 100 feet ahead and was blocking the car trying to pass us.
After a couple tense seconds of this strange game of "chicken", the car managed to squeeze ahead of us before being forced to emergency brake and avoid the Bus.
This is where the argument began.
"What the HELL was that about?" I said. And my friend went on to explain that there's No Passing on the Right!
I was like "WHAT?" as I tried to imagine how that could be possible. I fully understood that during two-lane highway driving it's preferable that you pass on the left, with slower traffic remaining on the right, but outside of that situation, let me see - you're supposed to drive down the road when someone is to your left but he's going slow, so you have to change lanes to go behind him, then over to his left - pass him - then change two more lanes to get back to where you started rather than just driving forward normally? I've been driving myself for a least a couple decades, almost longer than he's been alive. So I quite calmly and rationally said "No, Fucking way!".
"I'll bet you" he said.
Being incredibly broke at the time and not willing to waste what little cash I had on a pinheaded bet, I declined.
But later I did go and look it up, then emailed it too him.
Overtake and Pass to Left
21750. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle or a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left at a safe distance without interfering with the safe operation of the overtaken vehicle or bicycle, subject to the limitations and exceptions hereinafter stated.
- Amended Sec. 7, Ch. 674, Stats. 1996. Effective January 1, 1997.
- Passing on the Right
21754. The driver of a motor vehicle may overtake and pass to the right of another vehicle only under the following conditions:
(a) When the vehicle overtaken is making or about to make a left turn.
(b) Upon a highway within a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lines of moving vehicles in the direction of travel.
(c) Upon any highway outside of a business or residence district with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width and clearly marked for two or more lines of moving traffic in the direction of travel.
(d) Upon a one-way street.
(e) Upon a highway divided into two roadways where traffic is restricted to one direction upon each of such roadways.
The provisions of this section shall not relieve the driver of a slow moving vehicle from the duty to drive as closely as practicable to the right hand edge of the roadway.
21755. The driver of a motor vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety. In no event shall such movement be made by driving off the paved or main-traveled portion of the roadway.
On the night in question, I had said "What if that guy had crashed because you blocked him from changing lanes?" and he had said "The cops would ask him why he was trying to pass on the right?" In other words his little act of road-rage by deliberately failing to yield would have been, in his opinion, completely irrelevant even if it caused someone to crash into a bus or if the car had been forced to side-swipe his truck in order to avoid the bus. This of course takes me to the section on Yielding in the California Vehicle Code:
Yielding for Passing
21753. Except when passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall safely move to the right-hand side of the highway in favor of the overtaking vehicle after an audible signal or a momentary flash of headlights by the overtaking vehicle, and shall not increase the speed of his or her vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle. This section does not require the driver of an overtaken vehicle to drive on the shoulder of the highway in order to allow the overtaking vehicle to pass.
And here's where it gets interesting.
He kept arguing.
He had originally claimed that you can't *EVER* pass someone on the right - but I had it in black-and-white that you can depending on whether you could do so "safely", and he then began to quibble about whether the person trying to pass us on that rainy evening had done so in a "safe" manner or not - while ignoring the fact that it was his own act of failing to yield that made the entire event dangerous to start with.
This is what I call Cognitive Dissonance.
If my research had gone against my view that you can pass on the right, I feel I would have been obliged to admit it. I would have been required as a matter of honor, and due recognition of reality, to correct my view. I would prefer to be wrong, and discover it so I can get the facts right - than be wrong and continue to think I'm right, but maybe that's just me.
But for this guy, this Republican, noooOOoo. Now I'm really glad we didn't put money on this - because he never would have paid up.
My friend is a smart guy, he's not a fool. (Okay, usually not). But in this situation it seems to me that his ego was on the line. That driver had offended his sense of righteousness, it was all that guys fault for not towing-the-line and abiding by the rules (which only exist in my friends head) that caused him to act rashly and dangerously and also completely excused this action as justified in his own mind, even if it had lead to that driver - or others persons - being seriously hurt.
Scared yet? I am.
Part of this syndrome just might explain the recent polls from PIPA (http://www.pipa.org/) which indicate that most Bush supportors still continue to believe that Saddam Hussein possessed Weapons and Mass Destruction, had a burgeoning Nuclear Program and was a support of Osama Bin Ladin, Al Qaeda and 9/11. (All of which, yes dear reader, my Republican/Conservative friend still believes even when I confronted him with findings of the Duelfer reports-- "Well, he used to have weapons didn't he - where'd they go? Did they find they find the destroyed remains?")
He also once told me that Republicans were more "Religious" than Democrats - but I'll save that gem for a blog rant on another day.
I think issues like this should be above whether you are Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative.
There is such as thing as objective truth. There is such a thing as fact. There is demonstrable reality.
I don't for second believe that Democrats have a better grasp on this - only that the current Administration needs people to ignore truth, while Democrats depend on people recognizing it. This might change if Democrats gain control of the Administration and the Congress, but I hope that if it does at least some people will be able and willing to continue to recognize and tell the truth rather than let their ego get in the way.
In all honesty, I doubt that will happen. I think ego will take over and again begin to distort reality when it's inconvienent. But I hope not.
All we can do it hope.