Sunday, July 17, 2011

Politics In Conversation

I don't get it, frankly. I read Tracy's FB news. I haven't done a census, but she likely has slightly more conservative than liberal friends, among those that are political at all. But I don't see political comments inserted by conservatives in the general flow of things, apropos of nothing. I don't see many from liberals either, but the few that I do see are always from liberals, and always of the entirely social variety, rather sneering at how hateful/stupid/angry a particular conservative, or perhaps Republicans in general, are.

Are people just unaware that friends who disagree with their politics are "present," and may find such things insulting? I am not sure if it is merely an insensitivity, or a communication of enforcement "My friends have these politics. I will cut you publicly if you say otherwise?" Who wants a friend like that?

I have seen the same in conversation, of course. I imagine everyone has. It is most common in a situation where the speaker believes that everyone present must of course share their views on the subject. I have certainly heard conservatives do it, not so much at the churches I have attended as at the schools my children attended. One could hear such assumptions, a "my how terrible those people out there are" attitude on a variety of subjects, political, social, religious - not only in conversation while slicing tomatoes or waiting for soccer teams to return, but from the speakers at events. I found it offensive then, also. I wondered with that group as well if there were something worse than insensitivity present, a declaration of "if you want to be one of us you have to believe this."

I hear it all the time at work, enough so that it seems like background now. The same half-dozen liberals make hateful comments all the time, and an overlapping half-dozen will make anti-Christian statements. Sometimes a new voice will be heard from, or the context will be different, and it will catch my resentment unaware.

I can hardly be accused of not wanting to discuss politics and religion. But there is a social grace to it, a testing of whether a person wants the topic to come in. It's just rude to stand in the lobby and complain that Obama is being dishonest or foolish. It's rude even in the context of someone making a general comment about a political issue, such as the budget deal. You don't just launch with a pre-emptive strike that you think the people you disagree with are stupid or evil, for the simple reason that the person you are speaking to might be one of them, or one might be overhearing.

Maybe this is a New England thing, where liberals believe they own the culture and have the right to defend it. Maybe the opposite happens in, oh, Oklahoma or something. But from this vantage point, it is a rudeness far more common among liberals.


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Texan99 said...

A friend just mentioned to me that she's begun to find some common ground with a mutual acquaintance, in the context of local neighborhood (civic association) politics. Our mutual acquaintance has many excellent qualities, but they do not include views on race that we two find palatable. She is upset about recent changes in the Houston city council districts that lumped my old neighborhood in with predominantly black neighborhoods. Speaking of this development, she casually suggested to my (wildly liberal) friend that, in private, she was sure it was OK to use what we now call the "N word." My friend had to reply emphatically that it was not at all OK. Well, at least the acquaintance had the good grace to test the waters a bit -- but how could she not have known that she was giving offense?

If only my liberal friends understood how equally offensive it is to jump in with comments about how no sane person could welcome this, that, or the other Republican candidate as an alternative in 2012. I'm finding that even fairly good friends, who know perfectly well what my political views are, will say things like, "I know you've said you won't be supporting President Obama in the next election, but surely you don't mean you'd vote for Rick Perry instead? Sarah Palin? Michelle Bachman?!?!?"

I don't agree with my liberal friends about issues such as global warming. I'm pretty sure I don't react to them, however, with comments like, "Oh, you don't mean that you believe in AGW, even someone like you, evidently intelligent and well-educated?" Nevertheless, I try to keep in mind how easy it is to fall into that kind of offensive conversational habit. I need to guard myself more carefully, for instance, against casual insults directed at unions in the presence of my sister, who works for one and can't for the life of her see what's wrong with them. I shocked her deeply once by thoughtlessly remarking that unions had destroyed Detroit.

Donna B. said...

The worst example of this I've witnessed made me nauseous and made me cry. Of course, I was emotional anyway as it took place immediately after the funeral of my 18 year old niece.

Another relative, one I'd looked up to for most of my life (a minister, in fact) turned the conversation to the upcoming election (2004). After stating that he was sure the entire state of Arkansas would go for Kerry, he did a little "monkey" dance depicting what he thought of Bush.

I'm not sure there is anything he could do to regain my respect. But since I now compare all instances of political conversation to this most of it seems quite civil.

Anonymous said...

I have been suffering under liberal-leftists' gratuitous slams for 45 years and counting. It has baffled me, frustrated me, infuriated me. The flat-out assumption that any reasonable sane good person MUST agree with them is unbelievable.

I know this has caused some cognitive dissonance on Facebook, where I have come completely out of the closet with my views. So many of my friends always took me as one of that hail-fellow-well-met-ChimpyBushMacHitlerBurton tribe that, having hitherto known me to be an intelligent and literate person, they are having to readjust.

(So far only one of them has dropped me.)

Speaking of tribes, AVI, I have found your posts on the subject to be a great help in understanding this phenomenon. Saying something bigoted, hateful, and outrageous about Republicans is very definitely intended to be a secret-handshake among members of the Arts 'n' Humanities Kool Kids Klub.

I am a card-carrying member of that tribe in every respect: by inclination, by history, and by family heritage. I have dedicated my life to it. Yet I can't dismiss every single one of my loudmouth-left tribefellows as shallow, silly, and ignorant -- or can I?

It's getting easier all the time.

Meanwhile, your posts about tribes, the A 'n' H in particular, and about your own political evolution, continue to enlighten and comfort me. I don't comment very often, but I check in here every day, and I thought you should know that what you and Mrs. AVI and your sons have to say is read and appreciated.

Sam L. said...

My impression is that the liberal/progressive types are so convinced they are right that "it must be so". After all, the NYT and WaPo and the alphabet networks and cables tell them so.

But then I live in a left-leaning town (unreconstructed hippies, etc.) and majority leftie state on the urban axis.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Yeah, sto credits gave me the most spot-on compliments evah.

I have reflected today, before reading the comments, that people who lay down markers like this sometimes tell themselves that they are "standing up for" one cause or another which they feel needs public support. Yes, some are insensitive or willing to sacrifice other virtues for the sake of being amusing, but I conclude that many, perhaps most of these amazingly rude people believe they are performing a social good. They see themselves as knights errant, ready in all their travels to plant the flag for traditional marriage, or the way of peace, or kicking the powerful in the balls. In a world gone mad, they, they few, have the courage to stand up to George Bush and his cabal/junta/minions/whatever. It's one of those "Truth To Power" things where the meaning inverts. It now means "telling people who already agree with you what they want to hear."

More arrant than errant, then. (Though yes, the words have been related in the past. But they are distinct now.

james said...

I notice that complaints about the weather are more common than comments of delight in it. I suppose there's something about shared suffering that invites a bond.
Some of the political nastiness seems almost as automatic, and about as emotionally significant, as complaints about the heat: "Isn't ChimpyMcHitler evil this week?" "Yah, you betcha."

But you're right. They aren't horrified if their audience includes a Senegalese who finds the weather mild or a farmer who thinks the downpour that ruined the alfresco wedding is just what he needs. Those are forgivable deviations.

Dubbahdee said...

Ahhh, I have seen plenty of either from both sides.

Most recently an FB friend of mind posted a photo of a urinal with a screen forming a picture of the current president.

I consider myself independent, beholden to neither party, and largely fed up with foolishness wherever it pops up -- a longstanding NH tradition. But this sort of thing just grates me. It goes beyond political speech into personal invective. And I don't see the imbalance you seem to project.

It could be that "liberals" are snotty and condescending whereas "conservatives" are overbearing and pugilistic. Beyond direction, differences may be more about style rather than quantity.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

There's something to that style difference