On Brussels Sprouts, Obama, Fox News, and Cats

I’ve been on an odd streak lately. Last night I had dinner at a restaurant in Florida with some friends, and, for the fifth consecutive night, I ate some Brussels sprouts. I love Brussels sprouts. Last night’s version had been sautéed with bacon, mushrooms and onions. For some at my table, the dish was ambrosia; for the rest, it was as if we had ordered monkey brain tartare. There is no middle ground with Brussels sprouts. People seem to either adore them or loathe them; very few can take them or leave them.

Barack Obama is the Brussels sprouts of presidents. (Hmm. Should the 22nd Amendment be repealed, that might not be a bad reelection slogan.) In any event, his supporters see him as some sort of savior on a holy mission, while his detractors tend to view him as a closet Marxist out to undermine the fabric of America. (George W. Bush, while reviled by the Left, found less ardent support from the Right, so the divide was not as great.) There are simply certain things in life that have no lukewarm setting. One might hate them or one might love them, but it’s generally one or the other. Think Brussels sprouts and Obama. For neutrality, you might have to turn to corn and Eisenhower.

The Fox News Channel elicits similarly disparate reactions. For its regular viewers, Fox News represents their only respite from the incessant left wing caterwauling of the mainstream media. For detractors, the network is a shameless shill for Conservative causes. I admire those on the latter end of the spectrum, because they’ve accomplished the mystical feat of coming to that conclusion without actually tuning in. (“I never watch that horrible channel!”) It’s not unlike Yogi Berra’s purported comment that nobody ever went to a particular restaurant because it was too crowded.

In the animal world, it’s cats that create the most visceral reactions, both positively and negatively. Even in Switzerland, there is very little neutrality on the subject; one is either a cat lover or a cat hater. (No one has ever published a book called 1,000 Ways to Kill a Parakeet.) Historically, cats have been symbols of Satanism and witchcraft, while some societies have worshipped and treasured them. People can have mixed feelings about dogs, goldfish, turtles or wombats, but rare is the person who can take or leave a cat.

I’m not sure why some things in life are so polarizing. And for those on either side of these great divides, it’s difficult to understand those on the other end. I mean, how can you not like Brussels sprouts? Are there any other examples where rapprochement seems impossible?