Opinion | ‘I Miss My Friends’: The Heartbreak of Political Breakups in the Trump Era – The New York Times

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Guest Essay

Mr. Cullen is the editor of The Storm Lake Times Pilot in northwestern Iowa.
I miss my friends. We lost one another somewhere along the way, through the pandemic and politics of the last few years, old boys who had known one another since Little League and caught boatloads of walleyes together on Storm Lake in Iowa.
We gathered around a pool table a couple of times a week for many years to see where the fish were biting, to learn who is putting up that building on the edge of town and to exaggerate exploits of days gone by. Our political discussions were limited to Hawkeyes (University of Iowa) versus Cyclones (Iowa State) football or how city hall don’t know siccum.
There were complaints that Barack Obama wanted to take our guns. And that those idlers ought to get a job and quit complaining. And that a little guy couldn’t compete in the trades anymore when the big outfits hired undocumented labor to underbid them on local jobs.
But it was mainly jokes shouted over classic rock. If things got too heavy, our resident sage, Rooster, would commandeer the discussion and suck all the oxygen from the room with a rant about how most of the world’s problems could be solved or at least avoided if weed were legal.
Not even Rooster could talk over Donald Trump. A would-be tyrant holed up at a Florida golf course with a bunch of sycophants changed the conversation in our metal shed. Its walls could not ward off the bombardment of propaganda, lies and false fears fostered by a half century of justifiable frustration wrought by consolidation, decline and loss.
The pandemic kept us away. I was lonely. I visited Rooster at his little bachelor shack and watched “Wagon Train” reruns. He wasn’t feeling the best. We got back to shooting pool, though it wasn’t long before Rooster laid down his guns and died. Cancer got him fast. It should have shaken us straight, but hell sort of broke loose. Arguments started over vaccines and masks and Mr. Trump. The rodeo clown was no longer there to distract the raging bull set loose by the bombardment.
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