Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Republicans Are Evil
Written by Marcia Segelstein - I think she may be right! Living in a part of the country that is most definitely "blue" (as opposed to "red"), it's easy to begin to feel a little isolated, and certainly out of the mainstream. So it was especially fun reading Harry Stein's latest book, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican. Like me, Stein lives in the northern suburbs of New York City, in what he describes as a wildly liberal enclave of hip, culturally elite suburbanites. Stein calls himself a libertarian-conservative and he paints a vivid picture, which I can easily relate to, of what it's like to live surrounded by liberals. The book title's origin speaks volumes. Stein and his wife attended a dinner party during the most recent presidential primary season and, as Stein describes it, "the discussion turned to the glories of The Messiah." Stein had the temerity to mention Obama's lack of experience, which was apparently over the top for at least one fellow diner. "[T]he guy beside me, who'd known me all of 15 minutes, drew back his chair, cast me a savage look, and roared...'I can't believe I'm sitting next to a Republican!'" Yes folks, welcome to Blue America. I have always been struck by the propensity of liberals to attack conservatives. Tolerance, for liberals at least, seems to apply to everyone except conservatives. Diversity is about skin color, not diversity of thought. My views have been called repugnant, even by some near and dear to me, based purely on assumptions about what I believe. Stein writes about "how astonishingly little they [liberals] know about us." Beyond making assumptions about what conservatives actually believe, in my experience liberals also tend to assume everyone around them is liberal, too. The beautiful, brainy daughter of close friends, a Harvard graduate now working in the northeast, echoed similar sentiments recently. "I started my job during the election," she told me, "and people made the assumption that everyone was liberal. It was perfectly fine to lambaste McCain or Palin in public." In her experience, if you're perceived as a smart, decent human being, liberals can't imagine the possibility that you might be a conservative. What happens when people find out she is? She told me most people react with surprise, and then drop it. Much to her frustration, no one asks more about her views, or expresses any interest in them. "Liberals pride themselves on being tolerant," she told me, "but they're the most closed-minded." Stein would concur. He describes another encounter with a liberal, a guy he knew slightly, this time in the supermarket. Stein nodded to acknowledge him, when suddenly, "he spat out: 'You people disgust me!'" All this guy actually knew about Stein was that he'd written a conservative book. "'You're disgusting," he sputtered, swiping up his shopping bag and stomping away. 'You sicken me!'" Revealing your conservative leanings can be tricky, and sometimes it's easier just to keep quiet. One of Stein's conservative acquaintances, for example, didn't want his name used in the book. "'Why get into arguments with people?'" he told Stein. "'Your kids have to go to school with their kids, and it just leads to no good.'" A few years ago I chose not to allow my then elementary school-aged children to attend a school assembly promoting same-sex "marriage." After babysitting them and a handful of other children in the school library until the assembly was over, I ran into a couple of mothers who'd come to watch the assembly for themselves. One was a friend who knew and accepted my point of view and gave me her take on the series of skits called "Cootie Shots." The other made it clear that she was happy about the school's decision to put on the assembly. After all, she pointedly remarked, she didn't want her kids growing up to be rednecks. Stein asked a liberal editor at a publishing house he knows for "a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives." Without missing a beat she replied, "Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists....They hate everyone who's not a rich white guy." I have long thought that one of the striking differences between liberals and conservatives is this: liberals believe conservatives are evil, while conservatives believe liberals are wrong. Stein recounts something his friend Marlene told him, which makes the point. "[S]omeone I've known for 27 or 28 years actually said to me, 'Marlene, I know you've worked with the mentally ill, so I know you care about people. But how can you be a good person and a conservative?'" I guess this is news we can use, as the saying goes. It's important to keep in mind that the label "conservative" (or Republican) brands us, in the minds of many liberals, as just plain bad people. And while we shouldn't worry too much about how we're perceived, we should be concerned about the future of conservatism and getting its true message across. The country our children will inherit may depend on it.