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Likewise, I'm Sure: The Enquirer's Peter Bronson

By Kathy Y. Wilson · August 13th, 2003 · Your Negro Tour Guide
People want me to hate Peter Bronson. "How do you sit beside him every week on that show?" they ask of our oppositional banter on Hot Seat, Channel 9's Sunday morning roundtable.

You're probably hoping I'm about to run the Enquirer Metro columnist's ass through the shredder. I do that -- partly for entertainment value but more for the truth -- enough on Hot Seat.

Anything more is mean-spirited. Plus, it's a gimmick -- man vs. woman, white vs. black, conservative vs. open-minded, establishment vs. alternative.

This city runs off melodrama. We get off when people publicly hate one another. The zing of character-assassinating e-mails enthralls us. Not me. I squelch.

"If I get to say what I want, he gets to say what he wants," is my response when people bring up their amazement over us. "You seem so friendly," they say.

It wasn't always like that. Back in the day when Hot Seat co-creators and former co-hosts Aaron Herzig and Fred Nelson first invited me as a guest, I came, butt cheeks clenched, and took a defensive seat beside Peter. Black women must jump in or risk alienation.

I commented on everything during that inaugural taping. I remember pretending to punch Peter in the side of his head. That was the extent of the exorcism.

Herzig and Nelson eventually invited me to be a regular. It's been an education.

First, there's diversity in the outward sameness of the Midwestern white male. They're not all alike, and they're not as powerful as they'd have us all believe. They're skittish.

Close proximity to the opposition fucks 'em up.

Peter fits that white male mold perfectly. I do not hold it against him.

There's a touch of fearlessness in his cyclical attacks on boycotters, police critics, death penalty opponents, President Clinton, all liberals, all Democrats, homosexuals and all the other Others. Some things he just doesn't get.

Most times we agree not to. We drop the debates at Channel 9's door and walk out smiling after Hot Seat tapings.

I know the recoil, however, of being ass-out opinionated. People attack not only his writing but also his character, intentions and, most of all, his racial beliefs. They do the same to me. It's what you sign on for as a columnist.

Here's the short list of what's admirable about Peter: He's a political scholar and a reasonable equalizer around the Hot Seat table, and he doesn't back down.

It'd be easier to oversimplify him, but people are always more complex than their opinions. He loves God and his family. He has nice hands, and even my mother digs him.

But this ain't no Valentine.

Peter is myopic. The threat to his status quo triggers all sorts of defense mechanisms. His blind pro-police stance is equal parts frightening, funny and Devil's advocacy.

More than not he surrounds himself -- on Hot Seat, anyway -- with a parade of lawyers and gun-loving white guys. I'm always the Flygirl in the Buttermilk whenever our third co-host, black Herald publisher Eric Kearney, takes off. It's grown-up punctuation to a lifelong sentence of white-hot minority status.

So big deal. I'm learning, always learning.

I don't pay attention to other local media, but sometimes I read Peter's column for quick tips on what not to do with the marriage of ideas and sentences. I'm sure he has readers whose opinions are in lockstep with his own. Just like he has regular readers who hate reading him but who couldn't stop if therapy intervened.

I got those, too. Sometimes they read us in tandem. Other times my readers wouldn't be caught in the dark with a Bronson column and vice versa.

And this is how it's supposed to be. This is why any comparisons between Peter and me will be as successful as comparing our papers. Neither of us -- papers or columnists -- ever quite get it right, we could always do better and we're always looking for a comfortable spot to rest.

I was surprised by the appearance of Cincinnati ... For Pete's Sake, Peter's new book of collected columns culled from The Enquirer. It's anemic, almost disposable.

I assumed he'd serve up a heap more comfort food to his legions of loyalists. His timing is perfect, though. My collection is right on his heels.

Buy 'em both. Have a dinner party. Spend the evening arguing. It'd be like the Hot Seat home game.

"You are one fine writer," he wrote in the copy of his book he gave to me. What's to hate about that?

Hear Kathy's commentaries on National Public Radio's All Things Considered.


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