by Jeff Swanson
I knew someone who characterized himself as ‘to the left of Che Guevara‘. Quite a statement. He was very left and did not apologize for it. He blamed his Catholic School upbringing, though I thought that lacked personal responsibility. He was also one of the most thoughtful debaters I’ve spoke to about politics. He wanted to know what I thought and why I thought it.
This was not a fantasy. Sadly, this man is what’s called an anomoly.
I often thought how unfair it is to be a Republican or Conservative. To exist in my Chicagoland world, I must keep a lid on my thoughts. For that matter, why is it that I have to keep the familial peace? For me, it’s an issue with the in-laws.
I should mention that my immediate family believes that politics is personal and should be left to ones self. Perhaps I missed that family meeting…
Nonetheless, many in-laws, and it’s when you get in to the aunts, uncles, cousins and such, do not believe what I do. Nice people. Great people. Just leave the tinderbox of politics aside and you will get along just fine.
To be clear, you must leave politics behind. You are a conservative. Some are better sports than others. One of the uncles and I did sort of start a political practical joke deal for a while. He’d place a Bill Clinton book in front of me when I visited or plastered his fridge with ‘I Hate Bush’ stickers. Sounds mean but all in good fun.
The point remains, I often sat silent as I heard a member of the family rave on about something I felt wasn’t true. And I kept my trap shut. You must do that to keep the peace, even when the facts are on your side.
Why? Liberals really don’t like being wrong. I mean, they really don’t like it.
It’s why the ‘liberals are people of intellect and conservatives are mouth breathing knuckle draggers’ meme has continued for so long. To tell a liberal they are wrong and do so with irrefutable facts is to have performed a politically blasphemous act.
I remember in college, a good friend of mine was the lion of the Philosophy department. I toyed with philosophy for a while but found it would be a career-less path…and my friend with a PhD is teaching third grade.
My friend had a little house gathering with all of his philosophy friends and invited me too. He was a great friend, a liberal and was always accepting of my Republicaness. Yet, he knew his fellow department members would not…So he told them, ‘hey, I invited my friend to the party. Though I should warn you, he’s a conservative and an unapologetic capitalist’. He set me up. He told me that he did so before I went to the party, with a slightly evil laugh.
I’m a good debater, I think. In my mind anyway.
When I arrived at the party, these folks were taking numbers to see who could take the biggest shot at me. It was great entertainment for my friend. Actually, it was for me too. I recall telling a socialist/pacificst fella that even though he thinks wearing an army coat was subversive, that I thought it was a decision lacking vision and originality. Wearing the opposite of what you believe was too easy. Then again, I hated the whole ‘new to college now I’m going to get rebellious and weird’ deal.
The point was this, I had a full evening of being able to debate out loud. That was the benefit and a rarity for a Republican. However, down to nearly a person, none of them wanted to find out why I believed what I did. Or why their highly revered lion of the department (and my friend) respected me as much as he did.
Towards the end of the evening, a few of us were remaining and one of my foe asked, ‘why would show up where everyone would prove you wrong?’. My friend interceded that ‘None of you. Not a one asked him why he believes what he does. You spent all night trying to prove him wrong. Maybe all of you should ask if philosophy is your bag because you don’t bother learning anything. Maybe you all should have asked my why I respect him.’
Silence fell over the room.
And there it is. It’s not about discovery. It’s not about the best solution. It’s not even about actual facts (Global Warming anyone?). It’s about clinging to what you believe despite what would be factually accurate.
It’s about not having the humility to listen with the thought that you might be wrong or even change your mind.