Monday, March 20, 2006

How To Tame A Republican (And Then Piss Him Off Again)

I do get some interesting emails in response to my writing, most nice, some a bit disagreeable and occasionally downright venomous. Last week I received an email from a very angry man who was irate at something I had written. This is all it said:
Your politics and ideas stink so much I am thanking God you are not the thing next door to me. I pity your neighbor. I can smell you all the way in Florida.
To which I relied:
And I'm glad you're in Florida as well. See, there's always room for agreement.
He quickly fired back with:
Gosh I hope the NSA reads your emails and keeps you in check when needs be. I will not read any more of your BS because I don't want to end up disliking you as much as I do your compatriot in hate mongering Ms Maureen Dowd. It wouldn't take much of your junk to lump you together with that, that, well never mind. Bye, bye toots. I leave you in the hands of the Dowdy Ms Maureen before I learn to dislike you too. Good luck in your little world of hate.
At this point I considered not responding, but I was so flattered to be lumped in with such great company that I simply couldn’t resist. So, for a day and a half, my new friend and I exchanged emails about random topics and areas of concern for us both. The last email I received from him that day expressed a much different sentiment from the day before:
I know we ended up doing alright. I wish that all liberals were as good as you are. You set an example for them to look up to by not being entirely closed minded about everything a conservative says. I have now come to like you and will now not completely ignore your writings because I have a small insight into you as a person. Even though we may disagree politically your soul is pure and you come by your beliefs honestly. That's good no matter how you believe.

Quite a difference, no? I realized that so much of the political conversation that takes place in this country occurs much like it does during election season, with short sound bites, angry responses and harsh attacks, it’s no wonder we are in such a mess. It’s like the chicken and the egg, I don’t know if how politicians choose to campaign has caused the degeneration of the public dialogue, or if their style of campaign is a result of the public’s short attention span and inability to dissect and retain information. Either way, we are living in a very toxic political environment.

I wish I could report that my new friend and I parted ways on that happy note, but it was not meant to be. Ignoring my plea to steer clear of my writing, he went in search of older articles I had published and so the debate rages on, but we have reached a point where the conversation isn’t marred by rhetoric and hostility, so it no longer feels like a waste of time. We don’t agree on most things, but the disagreement centers mostly on how to achieve what we both want, a better country, a government that behaves morally, prosperity and religious tolerance, all worthy things to strive for.

What I have learned most from this exchange is that religious differences often form the basis of how we view the role of government and how we approach the world, and because of that, it is very difficult to break through the emotion and get to the real debate. I suggested he read an essay, that I enjoyed very much, and that provided some insight into why some people view the role of government as the enforcer of morality and why some of us think that morality is internal, and therefore efforts to enforce morality from the outside is unnecessary and often an infringement on our rights as free citizens. The essay is titled, “Moral Endo-skeletons and Exo-skeletons: A Perspective on America’s Cultural Divide and Current Crisis”, posted at See No Evil, The Blinding of America and in it the author describes those who need strict social rules as having a moral Exo-skeleton, and those of us who do not as having moral Endo-Skeletons. It is a very interesting read and may provide some insight into why those who vote for the interests of the religious right, often do so out of fear of their own weakness, at least that was my reading of it.

Results from another study recently released were published in the Journal of Research Into Personality. Jack and Jeanne Block began tracking 100 pre-school children over 20 years ago and through follow-up interviews, Mr. Block has determined that whiny and insecure children tend to choose conservative ideologies as adults. This study will, no doubt, draw fire from the right, but it seems to confirm what those of us on the left know intuitively, that fear is what is likely behind rigid morality and a desire for rigid social constraints. Liberals want more freedom while conservatives fear it. Liberals strive for tolerance while conservatives view tolerance as the slippery slope toward moral decline.

My new conservative friend described the Endo/Exo-skeleton idea as "hogwash" and if I send him this latest article, I'm sure he'll say the same. It is difficult to accept criticism of one's point of view, especially when it concludes that it was reached by way of fear and weakness. Perhaps there are studies that purport to prove that liberals are weak and fearful as well. If you find one, let me know. What I do know, is that the neo-conservative answer to solving this problem is to create a social cage for us to live inside that will provide the external check on our impulses that they believe are necessary for social order (although they also provide for gaps in the cage that only the elite have access to). With their track record of policy failures abroad, most of us are not interested in testing their theories here at home.

Perhaps we should strive for the liberal ideal instead, enlightenment and the alleviation of the fears that plague the more conservative among us. They may think they'd prefer to live in a social cage where there are fewer decisions to make, but visit any zoo, look into the eyes of the adult animals there, and it is clear that a part of them has already died. The little ones can still run and play and have a good time, but it's only a matter of time before they, too, realize that there is an artificial boundary that limits their potential. There is no excuse for willfully subjecting our children to the same, we all deserve better than that.


Anonymous Dale Hippert said...

I'm not so sure about the Exo/Endo Skeleton arguements. Maybe we should look further inward toward hearts, brains and spleens?

I know that I don't recognize myself in some of the descriptions Republicans make of liberals, and I have serious doubts that most self described conservatives are cognizant of the gap between principles and reality the Republican Party has manifested.

This earlier post on the Smirking Chimp is apropos:

"Even their attitude is not conservative. Being conservative means more than following a political philosophy; it's a certain state of mind--a temperament. It means being discreet, careful, prudent, judicious. There's nothing discreet about rushing to war; there's nothing careful about dismantling Social Security; it's not prudent to run up big deficits; it's not judicious to flout the law.

As Edmund Burke might put it, a real conservative exercises caution, whether he's a president contemplating war, or a liberal riding a bike to work."

12:15 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

I think you hit the nail on the head. It is damned near impossible to have a rational conversation about religion. One side feels morally superior and the other side is right.

3:35 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Dale--Yes, and conservative as in conservation. Of resources, tax dollars, etc.

Yellow Dog--Nicely put.

4:40 PM  
Anonymous jonathan said...


This post seems to have been truncated. Is there a sentence or two missing at the bottom?

5:28 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Jonathan--I'm going to assume that what you read is what I meant to post and the fact that you would suggest this, I find very interesting. When I was writing it this morning, I couldn't figure out how to end it. I read, and re-read the last line, and it didn't feel complete, but I posted it anyway because I couldn't come up with a tidier closing.

I find it funny that you could be so familiar with my style that you would notice it too and I thank you for pointing it out. I did go back and finish the thought, it seems all I needed was a little distance to find the end.

If there really were just a few sentences missing due to some glitch in blogger, then I have just needlessly exposed my neurotic tendency toward irrational perfectionism. If that's the case, thanks a lot man!

6:14 PM  
Blogger Rory Shock said...

wonderful post

7:42 PM  
Anonymous dave said...

Great post, LGND.

This is exactly why I don't have my own blog (well, one of many reasons really). I don't have the patience to deal with people who are overtly venomous; it'd drive me insane. And the thing is, I bet the guy from Florida, if he met you in person instead of the anonymity of cyberspace would've been much more polite. He still would've diasgreed with you, but most people don't deal with others in person as they do from in front of their computer.

There is something inherent about the internet that allows people to lose inhibition in their speech. Which in some ways is a great thing, but people shouldn't lose respect for others just because they aren't face to face.

I can't help but think the rise of the internet, is one of the causes for the polarization of America over the last 10+ years. It is much easier to find people with your same world view on the internet than pre-internet. If you want to be an angry conservative or liberal, there are plenty of places on the internet that you can use to reinforce your worldview. And it is easy to get access to people or places you know don't agree with, simply to start personal attacks.

With anonymity there is no threat of reprisal, outside of a nasty email and no fear of public shame at looking like an idiot. No one will know what you say online, well, maybe except the NSA, so you don't have to take responsibility for what you say.

More power for you for taking the crap I know you must get, Liberal Girl. You're a far better person than I for dealing with it so civilly.

8:25 PM  
Blogger Gratis said...

That's a very interesting story with your new conservative friend. I love it when the feisty one's decide I'm not so bad, except for that, um, liberal thing.

I was wondering if you would like to join DAV (EvilBobby), and therest of us in Conservative Amnesty Month? The reason I ask is that I see you have DAV on you blogroll and I think he would like you to contribute. It's just a thought.

9:15 PM  
Blogger Gratis said...

Shoot, the link in "therest" is actually two links (supposed to be two words). hmmph

9:16 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...


a) Isn't it nice to learn where people really stand? It's kind oflike southern racism vs. northern racism. At least with southern racism, you know what you're dealing.

b) Since Al Gore invented the internet, is he responsible forthe divisiveness?

4:48 AM  
Anonymous dave said...

Yellow Dog:

a) Sure, it's nice too know where people stand, but frankly, if someone hates me, I'd rather not know it. And secondly, because of the anonymity of the Internet you don't know who it is that is doing the hating. They say they are from, say Anytown, USA, but for all you know they could be living across the street. Let them stew in their own hate if they want, but I don't want it inflicted upon me.

B) That's funny...and I didn't say the Internet was THE cause of the polarization of America, rather I think it is one of many causes.

6:24 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...


a) You're right.

b)OK. I was just making a funny. I stretched to get there.

6:56 PM  
Blogger The (liberal)Girl Next Door said...

Rory--Thanks man.

Dave--I feel like I have no choice but to be civil for all of the reasons you've cited. When I first started publishing outside of my blog, I made a choice to use my real name. I felt that it lent me more credibility than if I were to remained anonymous, but it was a big step to take. It wouldn't be hard for someone to track me down and I would hate for anyone to ever be mad enough to want to.

Gratis--I don't know anything about Conservative Amnesty Month, but I must say I'm intrigued. Tell DAV to send me an email.

Yellow Dog & Dave--Carry on boys.

7:00 PM  
Blogger Yellow Dog said...

Careful.A hockey game might break out.

7:43 PM  

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