The short conversation below was a reaction, I think, to a previous post I made here, recording my conversation with a conservative lady. Anyone reading this can judge it for themselves, but I think there are a few things in what the conservative man said that deserve comment.
One thing I notice is that conservatives often seem to have a resentful tone. I used to listen to Michael Savage fairly often when my car had a working radio, so I know a little bit of his story. Back in the 70’s he applied for a job, but had it go to someone else whom he didn’t consider as qualified. That was when there was a policy to hire minorities who might not be as qualified as some applicants, trying to make up for hiring policies in the past. I can’t remember now what the name of the policy was, but it was quite famous and infamous at the time. Mr. Savage has done quite well for himself since then, since he has a pretty popular radio show and has published quite a number of books. I doubt that he has to worry about becoming homeless anytime soon, but he still seems to be extremely pissed about having not gotten that job, probably some 35 years later. I can’t say that I understand why.
And he’s by no means the only resentful conservative. Rush Limbaugh and Cal Thomas are too, to name only a couple more. And all of the above have had pretty successful careers.
No doubt we liberals seem resentful at times too. With conservatives the resentment seems to go back further, and to now be highly organized. I tend to notice demonization more on the conservative side of the aisle, but no doubt liberals are guilty of it too. A couple of quick examples, though. According to what I’ve read, when Sarah Palin talked about “death panels’ (my initial reaction was, We already have those), she added that liberal women would probably abort any retarded child. My mother is liberal, though neither CT scans nor abortion were readily available when she was having children. When my sister was born retarded she apparently had some difficulty accepting that, but eventually did. I was too young to see that for myself at the time, but as we grew older, we all understood my sister’s situation, and had no difficulty accepting it and her. My mother kept her until she was no longer able to physically do so, then put her in an institution, fortunately a good one, which was close enough that she could visit my sister frequently—I think at least once a week.
My sister never learned to walk, talk, or do any kind of self-care, so she was more retarded than a lot of that population. Despite that, I don’t think my mother loved her any less, nor do I think she would have aborted her, had she had that option. Ms Palin was indulging in stereotyping and demonization.
I think I’ve mentioned in another post that the first time I heard of Glenn Beck it was regarding a comment he made that those concerned about social justice are all Nazis and Communists. He didn’t know my parents, both of whom were devout Christians. My father felt that Christians ought to stand together, and didn’t draw distinctions between black and white Christians. My mother had had a black friend during the 1920’s or 30’s, which I think was fairly rare for a white person at that time. She was very interested in the Civil Rights movement, though she couldn’t do a lot about it in the 1950’s and 60’s when she was bringing up four children, and later working as well, but she certainly didn’t teach us to be prejudiced against black people. Mr. Beck, in that instance, was demonizing too. In a poem I wrote, Demonizing makes you a demon, which didn’t come out very poetically, but I think it’s true. When you demonize people, you’re encouraging demonic behavior, in yourself or others. The more we do it, the less we’re able to see people we disagree with as human beings like ourselves. That may encourage us to moralize about the behavior of others, which I don’t think is very helpful. It may make us feel superior, but that’s probably one of the sources of resentment on both sides.
One thing I try to be aware of is that my point of view is incomplete. I have a general idea what the US Constitution is about, but have never studied it, for example. And I think it was Aldous Huxley who pointed out that the conscious mind makes decisions on what it will pay attention to, and what it will ignore. So it takes a great deal of effort to see things as they really are. Few of us are willing to make that effort, so few of us do see clearly. That’s not just in politics. I mentioned Carlo Rovelli in a previous post, who sees the really innovative scientists as people who were able to look at things from an unusual perspective. Albert Einstein was able to do that, in his Theory of General Relativity, and so were a number of scientists who followed him and investigated quantum mechanics. The were people willing to look at things without following a “correct line” or be “politically correct”. People with originality of vision of that sort aren’t common these days.
To be fair, I don’t think conservatives are wrong in saying that government is too big and too intrusive, but I quarrel with the areas they want to defund. Getting rid of police, firemen, and public school teachers doesn’t do this country much good, in my opinion. And when Mitch McConnell said, several years ago, that his number one priority was to make President Obama a one-term president, I have a lot of trouble with that. Surely his first priority should be to serve the citizens of this country, no matter who happens to be president, and depriving American citizens of services they need and pay taxes to support doesn’t seem to be serving the public very well. If he were to help the President attain reasonable goals, he’d run the risk of the President’s policies working, so instead, he and the rest of the Republicans obstruct all positive policies, to the detriment of the public, and maybe eventually to themselves. I am unable to see that as a way to solve problems that need to be solved, and there are a lot of those.
And while there are problems when government gets too big, there are also problems when it’s not strong enough. Karl Rove is reported to have said that he wanted government to be small enough to drown in a bathtub. I wonder what’s behind that comment. We have the example of 1920’s Germany and China, in which the governments weren’t strong enough. It’s no secret what happened in those countries subsequently.
I’d be willing to talk with either the conservative man or woman about any issue they may care to bring up, if they would also be willing. Without such a conversation, and on a large scale, what I foresee is disaster. I hope I’m wrong.
Conservative Man: I tried to comment on your reaction to my thoughts and the results are…until you liberal minded people read, study, listen to and know the constitution, Mark Levin, William F. Buckley for at least one year. Without you doing that any conversation with a liberal is a waste of time! To quote M. Savage, “liberalism is a mental disease” !!!!
Me: It’s true I don’t know the constitution as well as I might, so maybe what I have to say is a waste of time. Of course Michael Savage isn’t the only one who believes that, and such is the division in our country now that conservatives believe that about liberals, while liberals believe it about conservatives too. I call it demonization: you don’t agree with me, so that makes you evil, and vice versa. It seems to me that, if anything, the conversation I recorded part of demonstrates that both the conservative lady and I have beliefs we’re passionate about, which is certainly our right as Americans, but doesn’t demonstrate the correctness or incorrectness of those beliefs on either side. I think one thing we have in common is a concern that our country’s on a bad path, though we disagree on just what that path means, and how to correct it. If that conversation is a waste of time, then I’m afraid for this country, and the people I care about.