Saturday, March 1, 2008

Liberalism is Hard

I spent the morning at the Bagel Shop, as I usually do on weekends. I stop in some weekday mornings as well, but not very often anymore. This is because when I do I'm there longer than I should be and get an even later start on my workday than I normally do.

It's a great little place and there's a group of "regulars" who sit around, chat, laugh, and solve all the world's problems. It's a very eclectic little group, with all types represented. A lawyer, a couple of financial people, a doctor, a drug co. sales rep, a farrior, (that's right-a horse shoer), and right down the line to yours truly, the token struggling guy in construction.

This being small town Southern America, the vast majority of the crowd is conservative. OK, they're all conservative, except the lawyer, and he's gotten to where he hardly ever comes in anymore. I think I know why he doesn't. The closer we get to election time, the more rabid the conservative rhetoric is getting there. I really like most of these people and think they are really decent, honest, friendly folks. But sometimes it's very hard to listen to the hateful way they refer to anyone opposing their political views.

Most of them know that I'm a left-leaning kind of guy, and they used to use phrases like "in my opinion", or "but don't you think". Lately though the talk has gotten downright visceral, and many of them have either forgotten or don't care that there is at least 1 person among them who is on the recieving end of the epithats they are spewing. It's almost as though they think "well, yeah, you may be a democrat, but you wouldn't vote for HIM, would you?" There is also kind of a pack mentality that sets in, and the slurring and demeaning just feeds off itself, and they assume that everyone in the place, even those they don't know from Adam, must agree with them, because to not agree would be "un-American". After all, his name is Hussein, and she tried to send the country into communism with that damn health care plan of hers, right?

The thing is, I may disagree - strongly - with their political views, and I may think they are motivated by a complete self-centered-ness, or a paranoid fear, or both. Yet I also know that they will do anything to help a friend, are very active in charities, and are often the nicest bunch you would ever want to meet. So I try not to demonize them for their political leanings.

Now if only I could get the same consideration.

You see, this is a constant theme with conservatism these days that really annoys me. It is also, in my humble, non-higher educated opinion, why conservatives have been kicking liberals' asses for a while now. Liberals, as part of their make-up and belief system, do not judge others who don't follow their own specific set of ethics and rules. They are tolerant, by definitiion. They take pains to allow others their space, and respect their beliefs. So it is naturally harder for them to relegate an entire group of humans to a lessor standing because of the name they choose to call themselves, or the company they keep. Conservatives, on the other hand, led by the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world, have no qualms assigning the word liberal to all Democrats, and then proceeding to declare all liberals anti-American, anti-Christian, anti-Moral, anti-Work, and all manners of other anti's. In other words, they demonize them. If you think it was a mistake to go into Iraq, you're a terrorist lover and you don't care about our troops. If you believe we should provide health care for everyone in the country, you're a communist, or you just want to raise taxes, or you want the government to control everyone's life. It's no wonder, given the images stirred up by the right-wing fear-machine, that conservatives can get their members to rally around their causes so much better than liberals can. Our tolerance is our trademark, but also our undoing.

I think one reason that the crew at the Bagel Shop tends to carry on about liberals as though I'm not there is that they have been conditioned to believe that all good, God-fearing, decent, working guys have to be conservative. I'm just like one of them, so it's easy to assume I must think the same as them. I often try to respond in ways to let them know that there are other sides to every issue. I very rarely get "into it" with them when the whole group is there because there are a couple of them for whom that would just be a waste of time and result in raised voices and probably a scene, which I have no desire to create. But when I'm sitting with just one or two of them, especially with some of the group who enjoy real conversation, I will make a stand for what I believe, thereby letting them know that there are actually non-conservatives out here who work, struggle, love their kids, coach baseball, believe in God (sorta), and don't really hate their country. I can only hope that they will come away with a sense that maybe all liberals aren't the crazy, demonic radicals they've been led to believe in. Maybe some liberals have actually thought about the issues and came to a rational decision that this is a better way.

It actually irritates the hell out of me that liberals are condemned for wanting to "control people's lives" and conservatives sell themselves as the "keep the government out of my life" bloc. This after conservative leaders have actually tried to pass an amendment to our hallowed constitution that would deny the rights of a relatively small group of people just because they have a different sexual preference. Just how intrusive is THAT? Apparently it's socialism if the government tries to get involved in your health care, but just "right" if the government wants to choose your sexual preference. I started to write more on this, but it begs it's own post, so I'll get back to it

I know a lot of very decent people who are die-hard Republicans, including the vast majority of my own family. I think there are those in that party who represent some of the worst problems with our society, but I don't judge everyone who calls themself a Republican by those members. I only ask that conservatives do the same, and not buy into the hate-mongering and fear tactics that so many of their spokespeople engage in.



Displaced Heel said...

I just found your blog, and read through until this post, and I am blown away. First, I will pray for you and your wife and your family. I can't imagine, and hope I never have to, go through what you are going through.

Your post on liberal vs. conservatism struck a note with me as well. My husband is on the right side of socialism, while I voted for "Uncle Jesse (Helms)" while a resident Tar Heel. My parents are the conservatives that you describe; I try very hard to tell my children both sides of any issue so as not to portray their dad in a negative cast. It is difficult, but kind of funny to see the different things we end up on the opposite sides of. For example, I am a conservative who believes in very strict gun control; if the Constitution were interpreted correctly, we could all bear muskets, and not semi-automatics. My husband, a cradle Catholic, is completely anti-abortion, while I see that as a personal issue, and not one that should be voted upon by uninvolved people. I think it would be fun to be part of your bagel crowd (does that have anything to do with you being Jewish now!?--Was that too irreverent? Sorry!)

Thanks for commenting on my blog. I will keep your family in my prayers, and GO HEELS! Not so big on the baseball--although I can pretty much call the World Series winners after the pennant races. Just a sports nut.

Displaced Heel

SoSock said...

Thanks DH (hey, you may not be a baseball person, but that one's just too easy!)
I always have found that while I identify myself as a liberal, there are liberals among my friends who chastise me for some of my views or comments. I really do understand some of the frustrations of conservatives, and know they make valid, relevant points on some issues. I think if more people would specifically look for the points they agree with in the other side's arguments, it would make it easier to work out the differences and actually accomplish something as a group, instead of stifling all progress with unbudging stand-offs.
And no, it's not irreverent to mention bagels and jewish in the same sentence. I started going there more for the coffee shop aspect than the bagels, but have become hooked on the bagels now. I actually was not raised jewish so I didn't grow up with bagels. And I will poke fun at ANYONE. I may be liberal but I hate people with no sense of humor about themselves.
Get over it, folks! We're all a stereotype of one sort or another.
I'm a gray-haired, white, old-hippie, Bahston Red Sox lovin', southern born, radical environmentalist, construction worker, heterosexual guy from North Carolina. There's a lot of jokes in there, and I'll laugh at all of them!

Marisela said...

Well written article.