October 31, 2006
So today when I read The Elephant in the Room, I could completely relate.
Judith says that it's usually Democrats who shun Republican friendships, but I have found myself as the shunner before. I have a few friends with whom I can have rational and polite discussions about the war or politics, but I have more than enough experience with those people who Make Pronouncements:
Another thing [Democrats] do which Kornblat doesn't give an example of, but which we all have experienced: They always start political conversations. None of us do. We have learned that no one wants to argue issues on their merits, that the room gets very quiet and unfriendly, that people start screaming at you, or rant the most loopy beliefs and conspiracy theories. We just assume that is not a topic anyone can treat in a dispassionate manner.
But they always provoke political conversations. Well, not conversations, which would be enjoyable and enlightening. They make pronouncements. And look around the room to see if anyone not only doesn't agree, but doesn't agree enthusiastically. As a friend deep in the closet in the theater world put it, you can't just sit quietly and wait for the topic to change. No, you are suspect if you do not vocally endorse the official opinion of the group. You thought you were in a project meeting or a coffee klatch or a dinner party, and all of a sudden it has turned into the Communist Youth League Self-Criticism Session.
There are only so many times I can stomach pronouncements like "Whew, won't it be better when Kerry is president?" or "So can you believe this crap that Bush is pulling?" And it's not easy to be friends with someone who walks into work, slams a copy of Fahrenheit 911 on my desk and says, "You need to watch this so maybe you'll think twice about voting for Bush." And so I end up distancing myself from those people. It's fine to have a friend who's a Democrat, but it's a drag to have a friend who says you're no better than Mohammad Atta. Or a friend who can't even muster up any sympathy that your husband is at war because "well, you started it." Or someone who says your friend with the gaping hole in his torso from an RPG is has been brainwashed into fighting for lies. I don't have much use for people like that in my life.
What's funny is that now the scales have tipped in my life. I don't blog massive rants like I did three years ago because I have more people in my Real Life to talk to about this stuff. And this weekend was unlike anything I've ever experienced: being with a group of people who are even bigger rightwing nutjobs than I am! I spent most of the weekend with my jaw on the floor, and I came home squealing to my husband about all the stuff people had said. It was fun, it was fun to not have to tiptoe around to avoid offending someone. And the lone Democrat in the room got some gentle ribbing and jokes tossed his way, but we all got along marvelously. Common ground and all.
So I can't say I've never shunned, but I certainly am capable of being friends with Democrats. No seriously, I am. I just prefer people who join me in a pretend throw up when I say the name Christiane Amanpour.
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