August 18, 2008

DUNCE

Oh how I wish this were made up. I really do.

I don't know that I can come up with one that's that bad. I once met a Canadian my age who'd never heard of the Berlin Wall. I said, "Did you not watch any TV in 1989?"

Shoot, I was embarrassed during the Olympics opening ceremony when I didn't know where to find countries like Benin or Comoros. I felt like a dunce.

Every time I feel like I'm on the lower half of the intelligence bell curve, something reminds me that maybe I'm a little too hard on myself.

Posted by: Sarah at 07:07 AM | Comments (2) | Add Comment
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August 05, 2008

ON THE INTERNET IS BAD ENOUGH

Where on earth to start this post? I guess I'll start here:

I've also managed to confirm through talking to a few other conservative women I know who also live in liberal communities that they too keep their mouths shut about their politics. All of us share stories about listening to anti-Bush tirades at parties without rebutting them, or of smiling wanly at yet another laugh-a-minute comparison between Bush and a puppet, or Bush and a chimpanzee, or Bush and a Southern slave master, etc. We all feel that, while it's important that we vote conservatively so that larger issues are resolved in a conservative way, it's equally important that, to the extent we live in a community, we espouse those community norms.

When Mary Katherine Ham wanted to videoblog me at the last Milblogs conference, I made her laugh by saying that I blog so I don't have to talk. I don't do well in face-to-face discussion of current events and politics. I am not quick-witted or easily able to recall facts I've read. I avoid it. I also, like Tim, think that religion and politics are not for polite company. So I never ever ever ever bring up things that I think might be controversial. Never.

So I'm always amazed when other people do it.

Recently I was introduced to a friend of a friend. The conversation twisted and turned (unimportantly, so I won't relay all the details) until I said something about a diluted gene pool until we're all related to each other. This person, whom I'd known for all of 20 minutes, said, "Not if the right-wing Republicans have anything to say about it."

Yep, upside-down face.

I asked him to explain what he meant, because I really didn't know what he was saying. He went on to explain that, since Republicans oppose immigration and interracial marriage, if they remain in power, we certainly won't all end up related to each other.

And I'm not quick-witted, so I sat there with my mouth hanging open for a second, before I finally said, "I don't believe that's true; do you really believe that?" The other people in the room nodded in agreement, and the conversation moved on to other topics before my brain could even process what had just happened.

If I hadn't just felt like I'd been blindsided, I might've pointed out that I had two best friends in Germany, one who has a black husband and the other just adopted a mixed-race baby. And they're both Republicans. We're not exactly in sync with this guy's view of our party.

I couldn't shake the feeling for a long time of how utterly offended I felt at that moment. This person didn't know me, knew nothing about my values or voting habits, and yet chose to completely smear an entire 50% of the public. What on earth possessed him to do that? What made him so darned certain that I belonged on the same side as he does?

Or did he just not care?

I know the military is supposed to be overwhelmingly conservative, and still I would never dream of assuming that the people around me share my worldview. In fact, there were only two other captains in my husband's language class: one was a limousine liberal who lectures anyone who will sit still for five minutes on Pastafarianism, and the other gave a report on how the US should go through with nuclear disarmament in order to get Iran to. So I don't even think that my experiences in the Army have been that drastically conservative. Once I had to argue with an officer that Cuba was not in fact paradise on earth, for pete's sake.

So even though I now have all of you -- and how I heart you all -- and I'm no longer as lonely as I was five years ago when I wrote A Long Time Coming and The Meaning of a Word, and certainly not as lonely as I felt listening to a college audience sneer at Dinesh D'Souza, I'm still kind of a closet conservative when it comes to public life.

Well, maybe that's not really a true statement. I'd like to think it's just that I possess a little thing called Tact, and that it makes me a good person to not go around Proclaiming Things, you know, like all Republicans are racists who want to preserve white bloodlines.

But this brings us full circle to something I blog about regularly as The Dilemma. It boils down to me to a short passage from Carl Sagan:

Imagine that you enter a big-city taxicab and the moment you get settled in, the driver begins a harangue about the supposed inequities and inferiorities of another ethnic group. Is your best course to keep quiet, bearing in mind that silence conveys assent? Or is it your moral responsibility to argue with him, to express outrage, even to leave the cab -- because you know that every silent assent will encourage him next time, and every vigorous dissent will cause him next time to think twice?

Neo-neocon (which incidentally is where I began this link journey I've been on all day long) believes we must give these cab drivers "vigorous dissent":

The temptation to “pass” for liberal is very great. I understand; I do. I even feel your pain.

But I have come to believe that the costs of keeping silent are much greater than the costs of speaking up—both for Bookworm and her fellow closet Republicans, and for our country. And yes, even for her liberal friends.

The Bookworm she speaks of is the author of the quote that began this post, as well as this:

I know I should be speaking out when I hear statements such as these, but the sad fact is that I like these people. Barring their monomaniacal animosity towards Bush and the Republicans, they’re otherwise very nice: they’re hard workers, loving parents, good neighbors and helpful and reliable friends. Being the social creature that I am, I don’t want with one word (”Republican”) to turn these friendships upside down and inside out.

Sigh. I understand. And that's why, four years after reading The Demon-Haunted World, I am still struggling with The Dilemma. And why I had nothing ready as a comeback when I heard someone completely tar and feather me as a racist by association.

I've talked to CaliValleyGirl about this concept before, that someone has to be the vanguard, someone has to put a positive face on Republicans. Maybe it should be me? Maybe it should be the girl who once got told that she couldn't possibly be a Republican because she's so open-minded and curious about the world. Funny, I don't seem like a hatemonger.

But I still don't want to come out of the closet. On the internet is bad enough.

*****

By the way, when CaliValleyGirl first read my blog, she said it was like she could've written it herself. Cali, can we invite Lissa to our club? Because I absolutely could've written this post.

Which begs the question . . . why am I doing it in this blog???

Because I’m tired of reading all sorts of things I agree with and then not being able to form my own, coherent opinion on it. Because I need to be more honest, instead of relying on assumptions. Because I need help figuring out what I believe in, and why, and then articulating it. Because as things go right now, I assume that my friends and family wouldn’t agree with any of my viewpoints, so I keep them to myself — where they do not get developed OR challenged. And that’s not useful.

Finally, because I need to grow a thicker skin. When I said in my “About” page that I’m a professional middle child, I meant it. I pride myself on my “schmoozing” skills, in that I can get along with and entertain just about anybody. But, conversely, I quake when writing things that I *know* my nearest and dearest think are wrong, wrong, wrong. I don’t like rocking the boat, and I’m pretty thin-skinned when it comes to their approval.

Read the whole thing, and then bookmark her.

And after all this time, and *hours* of reading and writing, I am absolutely no closer to solving The Dilemma.

But I got a big blog post out of it.

Posted by: Sarah at 03:24 PM | Comments (10) | Add Comment
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