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Kirby: It's better to work things out reasonably, even with Utah Republicans

Published March 10, 2014 11:34 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2014, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

As a rule, I don't much care for Utah Republicans. My politics — what few I remain aware of — lean more to the left. Big surprise, I know.

Note: We could debate some of my political positions here but let's not and say we did. This isn't about those. This is about what kind of person I allow them to make me.

For example, I try not to let my politics cause me to demonize the opposition. It's not an easy thing to do when the Utah Legislature is in session.

Last week, I attended a dinner at the Grand America. It was the annual meeting of the Utah Hotel & Lodging Association. Also in attendance were a large number of — grim music here — state legislators. Republicans mostly.

Among the Republicans were two good friends. I have known Sen. John Valentine and Rep. Lee Perry for what seems like ever. Lee and I have deep law enforcement backgrounds. We've served on committees together.

Lee: "You're going to get hurt doing that stuff."

Me: "Old news. Check out these new surgery scars."

Meanwhile, John and I go back to the old days when I was a petty criminal and he was preparing for law school. He actually married my co-defendant's sister.

John: "Robert, how's the family?"

Me: "S'up, John? Karen left you yet?"

That's as political as it gets between two notorious Republicans and me. Whatever differences we have aren't as important as longstanding relationships.

I didn't always know this. I once had opinions and causes I was willing to sever every relationship over. Being right (even when it turned out that I wasn't) was all the permission I needed to ruin things for everyone including myself.

Suppose Lee sponsored legislation that would make running over a jackrabbit a third-degree felony? Hey, the state of Utah owns these cute little bunnies. Who am I (or you) to be carelessly running over them?

Alarming, huh? A common rural Utah incident would become vehicular rabbit-cide, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $50,000 fine.

Now further suppose that I thought this was the stupidest bit of legislation ever proposed in Utah. It's not, but just suppose.

Personal freedoms are at stake. Suddenly, not only are jackrabbits decidedly uncute, I might end up spending the rest of my life in prison just because they can't look both ways when crossing a highway.

You can see how a person's passion might get the better of them, to the point where I shouted at Lee, called him names, insulted his family and basically worked myself into such a mood that he refused to ever talk to me again.

It's better to work things out as reasonably as possible. It's not always convenient but at least the doors remain open.

I ended up eating dinner with several Republicans that night, most noticeably Sen. Todd Weiler, R-Woods Cross, and his wife, Elizabeth. She was nice enough to be a Democrat, but I wasn't sure about him at first.

Then came the eventual political confrontation. Todd asked me what I did besides write for The Salt Lake Tribune.

Me: "I shoot cannons."

Him: "Really? Which one? Joe? Chris?"

OK, maybe I can work with another Republican.

Robert Kirby can be reached at rkirby@sltrib.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.