Do you like to talk about politics? I do.

Recently during a Scrabble game, a desultory conversation arose about a conversation we’d had earlier that day. Partygirl had told us that she knew a lot of Catholics who were “voting their religion” — that is, voting for McCain in spite of his clear problems because he was less likely to favor access to abortion than Obama.

“She’s a reformed Republican, you know,” I said.

Now, I like to talk about politics, but I don’t like to argue about it. I try not to say any Fighting Words, including words like “reformed Republican” if that would be Fighting Words to someone in the room.

The “someone in the room” bit is touchy, I know. My friend Elkhorn and I are both white women married to men of other races, and both of us have had the experience of someone’s saying some racist thing in front of us and then apologizing on the grounds that they didn’t know we were in mixed marriages. I don’t accept those apologies. If you only make racist remarks when everyone in the room with you shares your ethnic background, or only say nasty things about some religious group when you think nobody present is a member of that group, or avoid making your sexist remarks in mixed company — well, you’re a bigot, that’s what.

But inflammatory political remarks are part of our heritage here in Hamburger-a-go-go-land. And I was there in a room containing intelligent young people doing things like working for Legal Aid, so I didn’t expect any of them to be Republicans.

One of them was.

“Really?” I said in a benign voice. “Did you vote for Bush?”

“Yes,” he growled. “And it’s not as though I’m not smart enough to defend myself.”

There was a silence.

Not smart enough. Where had that come from? The guy was beating me at Scrabble. #2 daughter was beating him, of course, but she’s a Scrabble shark. There hadn’t been any threateningly intellectual conversations or anything. Physics had not been mentioned.

…to defend myself. And where had that come from? I had given him home-baked cookies. No one was wearing a gun. The guy’s a law student, for heaven’s sake. You’d think he would be familiar enough with situations requiring a person to defend himself that it would be clear that my living room, with cookies and Scrabble, wasn’t such a situation.

Are young Republicans just feeling defensive these days?

The silence lengthened. I asked his opinion about McCain and listened respectfully and nodded a lot. We had a chat about vice presidential prospects. We moved on.

I’ve got to quit stereotyping.