His cousin pleads, “Stop judging me by my last name!”
I find myself in Rush Limbaugh’s library standing next to a leather couch upon which Ann Coulter is perched. The room is festive — crowded with relatives, wineglasses, cigar smoke and loud conversation. I am glaring silently at my mom from across the room with my arms crossed in the “unapproachable way” I know she hates. Mom says I have to introduce myself to Ann because everyone else in the family has met her, Thanksgiving vacation is almost over, she is Rush’s guest, and I am being childish and rude. I have never spoken with Ann or read any of her books, but based on her public persona, I have decided that she is someone I hate. I feel fine about this — happy about this — why would I want to talk to her?
And suddenly I realize that I have become the person I can’t stand.
You see, I’m judging her based on her public persona before ever meeting her. And if we talk, and I actually like her, which I might — that will mean she’s become one more person I have to admit I like even though I’m not supposed to.
My cousin warned me before I left for college that it would continue. She had attended my university a few years before. On her first day of class, her professor asked about Rush and proceeded to tell the whole class why he hated him so much. She told me to be careful. She told me which professors not to take — classes where I might suffer grade bias.
She peers through her thick bifocals at my I.D. and says, “I bet you’re not too proud of that last name right now,” …
Upon introduction, the secretary says, “So, do you do drugs too?”
Sometimes he invites you to his house for Thanksgiving, you and every single one of your relatives, all expenses paid, and he puts you up in a resort that makes you feel like a movie star. He gives you a room key that doubles as his credit card and you can’t help but charge Chanel sunglasses on it for everything he did the previous year that had made your job as a new teacher in a liberal high school any harder.
He’s the guy who puts “March of the Penguins” on his home movie theater screen for the little cousins to watch and makes sure his candy bowls are filled with jelly beans and doesn’t swear when my nephew tries to throw his antiques down the stairs.
He’s the guy who came from nothing to something and knows what it feels like to miss Missouri.
One Thanksgiving he stands in front of all us relatives in his Versailles-looking living room, and before my grandpa prays over our meal, Cousin Rusty apologizes. He says he’s afraid he has made it tough to be a Limbaugh this past year, and his voice breaks like I have never heard it do before. Cousin Rusty is OK.