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
Post contains 1421 words, total size 9 kb.

1 I'm neither Republican nor conservative. But I'm not the current incarnation of liberal, either. And if there's one lesson that I've learned it's that I've had FAR more acceptance from conservatives who find out I think there are far worse threats than gays getting married, and I think DADT is outdated, or that AFG and I lived together before getting married, than liberals who find out I'm pro-victory. In fact, I can't even bring up my own political views to my own family, because the absolute nastiness that ensues is just not worth it. Which is sad, because life is about far more than politics - but to them, politics (whether their facts or right or wrong, or whether it is just a difference of beliefs)determine everything. I HATE that. I absolutely HATE that rather than hold a rational conversation with me about why I switched my view on abortion and an understanding that at base we may never agree but we can certainly try to see where the other person is coming from, there has to be screaming and name-calling. The best example I can think of that summarizes everything to me was when I met my family the week before AFG left for Afghanistan and when I said something about going to war, they comment dropped, "It's not a war." Really? Are people dying? And was it absolutely so necessary to open your fat mouth right before my husband leaves to that not-a-war-zone? But common courtesy just couldn't override politics, that day or any other. GAH! You've got me going on this one...

Posted by: airforcewife at August 05, 2008 04:19 PM (mIbWn)

2 I will post something more thoughtful later on, but I've been meaning to say this for a while now: you and me are the same and different I think. I can relate to why you hate liberals so much. You hear ignorant slander, extreme opinions, and grew up around it all your life. Me, I live in a very conservative state, went to arguably one of the most conservative schools in the nation and heard ignorant slander against liberals, an extreme of what conservative people are like (I am betting if I got out of the damned south). Things that make me wonder if our country has progressed at all from 1876. So when I disagree with you, I always have that thought in the back of my head. I ONLY hear the stupid conservative bullshit, and you ONLY hear the stupid liberal bullshit. And I keep my mouth shut all the time, including on the blog, because in our military community I am a minority. And many of those in our community are blindly conservative without any thought behind their views, in my opinion. I don't want to get the hate messages. I'm happy with my non-thought provoking posts and discussing my views with intelligent individuals I've befriended in college. And I'll think about you the next time I'm at a party and my husbands buddies start gay bashing and passing imaginary laws to limit gay people in whatever way they can. I'll try and remind myself that not all republicans/conservatives are this insane. And mind you, not all liberals are bad, extreme people either. I sit silently too and want to scream at the stupid that surrounds me, but the difference between you and me is tha tyou at least writ about it.

Posted by: Sara at August 05, 2008 04:41 PM (lS9hT)

3 I don't like to get into politics myself. Here's something that might help; what are the positive things that Republicans are doing? Do you have any that you can keep on hand to turn a conversation around? When most people think of Republicans, they think of people who are anti-abortion (which upsets women who want to make their own decisions about their bodies), homophobics (anti gay-marriage, intolerance), racist, and traditionalists who go by the bible and don't think. This is the ugly impression that the world has. I can't think of any good things that Republicans have done. I'm not American, so I don't know. So maybe if you tracked down the good things, wrote them down, kept them in mind to talk about? Maybe that would help change the impression?

Posted by: Elena at August 05, 2008 04:42 PM (vEC+I)

4 Elena: I can answer your question, but I am curious about something...assuming that your news sources are not also American, what is it that Democrats have done that merit praise? If no republican positives are mentioned, surely there are some for the Democrats? (I ask this as a 13th century liberal, because in my opinion things went wrong when the rights of the nobles were unjustly eroded)

Posted by: deskmerc at August 05, 2008 07:54 PM (Ho1gG)

5 What I would consider to be a positive thing like reducing the size of government, most liberals would consider a bad thing, so its not a matter of talking about positives of each party. A bare positive for republicans is that they have staunchly defended the 2nd amendment as an individual right, and that has paid off in the SCOTUS Heller decision. This would also not be viewed as a positive to most liberals. Honestly tho, I don't find either party doing hardly any thing positive at the moment.

Posted by: John aka Blueshift at August 05, 2008 08:38 PM (crTpS)

6 deskmerc, My sources are, mostly, the internet and sometimes stuff I hear on the local news. I know things that the democrats stand for - equal rights for homosexuals (allowing marriage), rights for women to choose (pro-life) - and things like that, but that's also not from the experience of living in your country. You see what I mean? And I don't necessarily mean stuff that Liberals approve of, too. If there's something that the Republicans are proud of that they stand behind, why do they care what the Liberals think about it? I just thought it might help Sarah to have in mind what she's proud of, as a Republican, to talk about if she gets in that situation again. I mean I'm sure she's Republican for a reason, especially if it's to the point where she talks about politics on her blog (which is a dangerous subject, as she's pointed out).

Posted by: Elena at August 06, 2008 04:34 AM (vEC+I)

7 Why, thanks, Sarah! It's fun how big, and yet how small, the Internet can be. I've got you on my Favorites page and check the site just about every day, but I'm not sure I've commented more than once or twice. The fact that you randomly linked me is pretty cool. To the commenters -- my post was about how to deal with liberal family members more than friends, and they were NEVER hateful. They tend to pile on without thinking about it -- they want to save me from myself, and don't always realize that they're putting my back to the wall and jumping all over me -- but I would NEVER characterize it as nastiness. See here: http://lookingforlissa.wordpress.com/2008/08/03/in-fairness/

Posted by: Lissa at August 06, 2008 04:51 AM (fHdl7)

8 You know...this makes me want to blog about something that happened to me a while back.

Posted by: CaliValleyGirl at August 06, 2008 05:14 AM (irIko)

9 Something of this nature happened to me on Monday, and have been feeling kind of uncomfortable about it all week. I live in a pretty liberal city, in which many people just seem to assume that everyone else here believes the same things they do, so they just come out and say whatever they're thinking without regard for how the other person might react. On Monday, one of my bosses, out of idle curiosity while I was helping him with a project, asked me how "the troops" felt in general about the coming election. Politics is a terrible subject to bring up at work in the first place, but this guy is very self-absorbed and very liberal and has no concept of anyone possibly disagreeing with his illustrious opinion. I, surprised, but figuring if I just relay my observations there wouldn't be much of an issue, said something about how my husband has heard many of the guys talking about how they don't feel that Obama has any real respect for soldiers, and that many of them don't agree with his proposed policies, so "the troops" that I know tend to lean toward McCain; of course not all of them, but many of them. After hearing this, he says something like "it's not like there's a right or wrong answer," and then completely contradicts himself and says that there is a wrong answer; that McCain "wants" to be in Iraq and Obama doesn't. I (deep breath) calmly pointed out that as of right now, they both have the same basic policy on the middle east. He says, "yes, but..." and proceeds to tell me that it is more important what we "should have done" in the beginning (i.e., that Obama "opposed" the war in the first place) than what we do about it now. And that it's not like they're really accomplishing anything over there anyway. And that there are "only a few countries in the 20th century that have invaded unilaterally; Nazi Germany and us in Iraq, twice" (he obviously knows next to nothing about world history). What!?! I couldn't believe he said that. To me. What kind of person tells an army spouse that what their husband does for a living is pointless, and then compares us to Nazi Germany? I was in shock. I almost just walked out of the room, but he is my boss so I felt obligated to finish helping him with the file he was trying to fix. But I couldn't think of a single thing to say that would have made this arrogant guy realize that his comment was actually very rude and inconsiderate. Every response that ran through my head made me think that he would just feel sorry for me (poor girl...she and her husband have been brainwashed by the military), or decide to start a political argument with me, which is the last thing I want. I am by no means good at debating, and this guy basically does that for a living. Yeah, I've discovered that it's easiest to just "blend in" in my daily life. Anytime I'm downtown I try to remain completely apolitical, neutral. It wears down on me sometimes, but it's easier than arguing with every liberal who thinks that everyone else in this city believes the same things they do.

Posted by: Emily at August 06, 2008 01:52 PM (jAos7)

10 Since I AM a Liberal, I will deny that we all think NeoCons are stupid, knuckledragging morons who want us to go back to the days of long skirts and women who are slaves to their husbands, or are all warmongering jackasses. BUT I will take issue that all of US are aging hippies who want to take away all guns, believe in free love (translate: orgies) and are stoned out of our minds. We may think the invasion of Iraq was wrong and based on lies, but now that we are there, we must assist the Iraqi government in rebuilding what was broken/abused/decimated by Sadam Hussein and try to help the sects come to some sort of agreement by which they can live. The civilians who think all soldiers are slavering blood thirsty - well, those are not all liberal nor conservative, they are just civilians. I won't deny that I won't be voting for McCain. His record speaks for itself, in the avenues I care about. I'm not over the moon about Obama either, but he's better, in my opinion, than the alternative. See, we can be polite about our differences, we can agree on what we have in common. LAW

Posted by: liberal army wife at August 07, 2008 01:15 AM (A7iUf)

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