Maybe I’m not so paranoid after all

Last year, when I wrote about my decision to keep my newfound conservatism under wraps in my bluest of blue communities, I got three types of responses.  The first came from people who could completely relate to my concern about verbal attacks and social isolation.  The second came from people, braver than I, who urged me to suffer those slings and arrows.  I admire these people, but that’s not my temperament.  The third response came from people who assured me (always politely) that I was just being silly, and that my political reorientation shouldn’t affect my relationships within my community.  I wasn’t so sure about this last viewpoint, and I’m even less sure now after reading today’s Best of the Web.

There, I learn that the New York Times ran an article today about social divides due to politics:

FOR years, Sheri Langham looked at the Republican politics of her parents as a tolerable quirk, one she could roll her eyes at and turn away from when the disagreements grew a bit deep.

But earlier this year, Ms. Langham, 37, an ardent Democrat, found herself suddenly unable even to speak to her 65-year-old mother, a retiree in Arizona who, as an enthusiastic supporter of President Bush, “became the face of the enemy,” she said.

“Things were getting to me, and it became such a moral litmus test that all I could think about was, ‘How can she support these people?’ ” said Ms. Langham, a stay-at-home mother in suburban Virginia.

The mother and daughter had been close, but suddenly they stopped talking and exchanging e-mail messages. The freeze lasted almost a month.

As part of the same piece, Best of the Web points to Josh Trevino’s observation that, although the NYTimes article is anxious to show this divide as being bipartisan, the fact is that “every person in the piece who actively rejects a friend or family member over politics is a Democrat.”  That is, while the piece riffs on both Republicans and Democrats who drift away from tedious, polarized social situations, it also speaks of some Democrats who are so very angry they actively sever relationships:

The red-blue/50-50 nation thing has been done to death, not least by peddlers of reductionist theses like David Brooks, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to it. This Anne Kornblut NYT piece on the fraying of friendships and relationships between Democrats and Republicans has both the ring of truth and a rather troubling subtext: every person in the piece who actively rejects a friend or family member over politics is a Democrat. This coincides rather well with my own experience, but that means nothing, as no Republican friend is going to eschew me for being Republican. And I have more than a few longsuffering Democratic friends, not the least of whom is my own wife, who continue to tolerate my active espousal of things wrongly abhorrent to them. Bless them all.

Still, if the subject at hand is not truly quantifiable, we can nonetheless discuss it and try to draw some conclusions. Chief among them here is the observation that the American left — which we’ll posit as synonymous with Democrats here — is sincerely angry, and the anger goes beyond reason in a surprising number of cases. The conservative view of politics holds that it does not encompass all spheres of human activity. (As an aside, the apolitical realm is not the “private” sphere advanced by the modern left.) There is no sound reason, for example, to reject association with like-minded parents, or friendships with co-workers, or the company of one’s own mother, on the grounds of political disagreements. Yet we see emphatic Democrats doing all these things in Kornblut’s piece. Why? We can only hypothesize, with the caveat that perhaps, if the tables were turned, Republicans and conservatives might behave the same way toward their family and neighbors — even if, in the last comparable period, from January 1993 through January 1995, it doesn’t seem they did.

A core leftist tenet may be expressed in the old feminist cliché, “the personal is political.” This gets muddied a bit by the left’s predilection for espousing “privacy,” as found in some metaphysical emanation or penumbra of the Constitution; but the net — and discrete — effect of this espousal is not a depoliticizing of the “private” sphere. Precisely the opposite: where “privacy” is invoked, it is toward a definite politicized end, be it the legitimization of arbitrary couplings under the rubric of marriage, or the breaking-down of the social structures necessary for the maintenance of a conservative order. In this context, it becomes extraordinarily difficult to maintain relationships with people with whom one disagrees on political or ideological grounds.

There is an internal consistency here, but it’s pitiable nonetheless. The spectacle of a grown woman rejecting her own aged mother over their conflicting opinions on the Bush Administration, to take just one anecdote from Kornblut’s piece, is at best an affront to piety borne of a monumental lack of perspective.

As I wrote a long time ago, I vote my conscience, but I live in my community — and I’m not going to make my day to day life a potentially unpleasant experience when I don’t have to.

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  • erp

    You and your husband must still make a living and bring up your kids and that’s the most important consideration. I didn’t start “speaking out” on the less controversial local issues until my youngest was safely out of the public school system, and didn’t really speak out on political issues until we retired and weren’t at the mercy of the worst kind of academic PC for our livelihood and social network.

    I hope things begin to change as I think they already are and if this election goes as I hope and pray it does, then the pace of change may accelerate.

  • helenl

    We do well to remember that both Republicans and Democrats are people and that most people want to “vote their consciences” and “live in peace” next door to people who don’t necessarily vote the same way they do. Bookworm, you’re cool. I may disagree with your views sometimes (not always), but you seem to think things through. I do, however, object to Y. answering questions I asked you. And please don’t try to tell me all Republicans think alike. I know there are nuts on both sides of most trees.

  • helenl

    And Y. I didn’t mean you were nut. Sorry if it looked that way.

  • mamapajamas

    Helen… why on earth would BW or anyone else make a claim that “all Republicans think alike”???

    We don’t we are NOT a monolithic organization where everyone gets talking points and marching orders and then goes on to carry them out. We are intelligent people, we tend to be entrepreneurs, and are pretty much noted for having widely differing views. There are some party platforms that most of us agree upon, but even there we’re not a monolith.

    The notion that we DO all think alike and get our marching orders from Rush Limbaugh is a DEMOCRAT talking point.

  • Ymarsakar

    Just for the record, helen didn’t even write down Bookworm’s name in her question. Someone writes down a question on an internet forum, and is upset cause they don’t get the one on one environment of an email discussion? What is this, high school? The “I’m not talking to you”, thing?

    I wasn’t answering you helen. I wouldn’t devote that much time to a response, solely for your benefit.

    There is no sound reason, for example, to reject association with like-minded parents, or friendships with co-workers, or the company of one’s own mother, on the grounds of political disagreements.

    Love the sinner but hate the sin time?

    The Good and the Evil for the Left, is inextricably linked to the political positions. The fact that these political positions are extremely parochial and reactionary, also doesn’t provide much relief for cosmopolitan classical liberals or just those who disagree.

  • helenl

    Mampajama, No one said that all Republicans think alike. I said they don’t. And I won’t hear otherwise. Thus, Y.’s thoughts aren’t necessarily those of Bookworm. I know that both Republicans and Democrats include thinking individuals who study the issues and vote their consciences and fruitcakes who think discussion means calling people who don’t think like you (and don’t want to) names.

    Y., It seems obvious to me that comments that aren’t specifically addressed to a person by name are to the blogger who wrote the post. But apparently you don’t think like that. This isn’t a forum; it’s a blog: Bookworm’s blog to be exact. Comments are left for the blogger. I was asking BW for clarification of a point she made. If I wanted to leave you a comment, I’d go to your blog and leave one. You will notice I have not done that. I have nothing to say to you. For the most part I don’t know what you are talking about.

    It seems Bookworm’s point, that we can have and express opinions and vote according to those opinions and still be civil to those who think otherwise, is being sorely tested. No wonder she is paranoid. Peace.

  • Oldflyer

    How sad. I just can’t imagine letting political differences separate family and friends.

    From personal experience:

    My wife and I are pretty passionate and partisan.

    One of our daughter’s politcal view has been 180 degrees from ours her whole adult life. We sometimes chide each other gently, but back off quickly if it starts to get heated–or just don’t talk about it at all. We understand that each other’s views are strongly held, and will not be changed by argument. There are more important aspects of our relationship.

    The other daughter’s basic politics we really don’t know; although we know some of her positions don’t agree with ours. She is a health care professional in a LA County facility. Her big heart is totally sympathetic to illegal immigrants, even though intellectually she knows they represent a huge drain on health care facilities and funds. She would not bring herself to take action against them. Otherwise she knows our politics and keeps hers private–nor do we question her because it isn’t central to our relationship.

    One of my oldest friends was on Senator John Glenn’s staff for many years. During that time I always assumed he was a Democrat, but did not ask because I did not want our friendship to be strained in any way. Turns out he wasn’t. However, he respected the Senator enormously and was able to work loyally for him on Armed Forces matters, while evidently disagreeing with other aspects of his politics.

    I think a good bit of the media; a certain per centage of politcal hacks; and many of the blogers are feeding this destructive vitriol for varying motives. It sometimes feels like it could spiral out of control. I worry, but take some measure of comfort in the knowledge of our national history. We have survived a lot.

    I hasten to say BW, that I do not include you in the above comments about bloggers. This is one of many thoughtful sites that illuminate rather than obfuscate.

  • Earl

    I wonder if it doesn’t come down to how one sees the “opposition”…..I get the feeling that those Democrats willing to cut off their mother (or others) who support the President in the GWOT really do believe that what is being done by the Admin is “evil”….. And, if they do, it is easy for me to understand why they don’t want a close relationship with someone who supports evil. I cannot imagine maintaining a close relationship with an abortionist, for example. To be a “friend” to someone who killed unborn children for money is just beyond my capabilities….and if a Democrat sees my support for the current Admin in the same way (incredible as that way of looking at things appears to me), then it makes sense to curtail the friendship.

  • helenl

    I’m a Democrat. So are members of my immediate family, my sister’s family, and our mother. Our brother’s family is Republican. My sister, brother, and I were raised by Christian parents who taught us to love and respect each other. We were also taught that we could think for ourselves.

    I understand why my brother votes Republican. The reason (abortion) isn’t enough for me, but apparently it is for him. I personally am against abortion but do not presume to make this serious, often life-changing decision for everyone. Everyone I know who has had an abortion has come out the worse for it. Still, I believe if choice matters in some ways, it matters in all ways. I am a pacifist. I think Bush is the picture of evil; He started a war. My brother’s family believes in the “just war” theory. All of us think there are no candidates that fit views on all of the issues. We do the best we can given the choices we are given.

    We do not discuss politics at family gatherings. We think life is about more than just politics.

  • JJ

    I think the fascinating part is that the people who cut people off tend to be the Democrats. That strikes me as by far the most interesting part of the story, and naturally the ace reporters at the NY Times missed it. Or tried to cover it up. It’s either lousy reporting, or sleazy reporting – either is typical for that paper.

    Having encountered, and having known other people who’ve encountered the same sort of thing, I have moments when I begin to wonder if liberalism as currently practiced and/or expressed isn’t a form of illness.

    I suspect Ymarsarker is right: good and evil are inextricably linked to politics for liberals – and it makes for a really narrow and destructive world view. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, Barbara Boxer, Lurch, et al – it’s a long list: they don’t just disagree with George Bush, they positively, in a very active sense, HATE the man. It makes them nuts, too; listen to what comes out of their mouths.

    I don’t think he, on the other hand, hates anybody in US politics.

    The liberals seem to be real good haters. I don’t know what’s gone wrong inside their heads, but I do know most Americans are fundamentally decent, and these people simply are not. Which is why the number of people registering as Democrats goes down and down.

    When they aren’t running things they are really ugly – and a diminishing number of us respond positively to that. Which actually cheers me up, that America is better than its politicians. Vitriol, hate, and screeching aren’t winning for them, and that’s a heartening sign.

    I don’t think they’e going to be in control of anything after next Tuesday, either.

  • Ymarsakar

    Neo and Bookworm are in synch again.

    Some nice comments about the liberal experience. Or the fake liberal, take your pick.

    But apparently you don’t think like that.

    True, usually I don’t think like most people, so the idea of getting upset and conflicted over someone else posting after your comment on the same subject, makes not only no sense to me but is abnormal as well.

    I have nothing to say to you.

    Then stop baiting me with comments about “Ymarsakar the official waba waba”. I didn’t mention your name with conspiracy theories, now did I. You took offense because of your own personal prejudices, not because of any rude or dishonorable conduct on my part.

    That is right helen, I don’t think someone posting right after comment A is automatically having a private conversation with Commentator A. Which is why you thought I was talking to you, and why I thought I was just making a comment on some similar subjects covered before up top.

    And it is also why I understand two different perspectives, while you don’t wish to. You don’t wish to converse or argue with me, then stop putting your prejudices in drive that I’m talking directly to you all the time. That way you don’t go mentioning my name and inviting backlash for no reason.

    You got a very weird way of doing things helen. You don’t want to talk to me, which is why you mentioned my name in the third person, sarcastically implying an improper status of official spokesperson for BW.

    At least have the sense, not to talk about people, if you don’t want to talk about the issues of substance that those people have written about, helen.

    We’ve made our positions clear, as clear can be. There is nothing else I can or will do about the subject.

  • Danny Lemieux

    HelenL’s comments about Bush are interesting: in her view, Bush is “evil” personified because he “started” a war. For conservatives, it was the islamofascists that started the war, well before 9/11. Don’t believe me? Saddam Hussein, Iran and Osama Bin Laden all officially declared war against the United States – that is an act of war! Although Saddam was defeated in the first Gulf War, he never officially surrendered (a stupid tactical mistake on the part of the coalition). Bush simply started a couple of new fronts in that war after 9/11.I have learned that, for the Left, the current events are viewed as a choice between “war” and “no war”. For conservatives, the choice is between “limited war” to quash a growing menace while still manageable, and a far greater and more destructive “world war” that may see mushroom clouds on our own soil. Unfortunately, it is the Liberal/Left like HelenL that is most likely to plunge the world into a devastating world war. Unlike the Liberal/Left, I can attribute the motives of the HelenLs of the world to misplaced, myopic good-heartedness. Unfortunately, the Liberal/Left’s very limited (even dangerous) world view is only capable of attributing the motives of conservatives to unmitigated evil. Given such stereotypes and caricatures, discourse has become virtually impossible.

  • William

    My big problem is why can’t I put a sign (supporting a Republican) on my lawn without it being stolen? Hey, I understand the fact that people don’t discuss politics–they argue about it. But why can’t I have a sign–A SIGN–remain unmolested. I’m quite sure a Republican didn’t steal it, so, someone who is a Democrat or supports a democrat–or just ‘dislikes’ Republicans did.

    Yes, politics can alienate people from family and friends–that’s historical, but when alienation turns to breaking the law that’s a serious problem.

  • Marguerite

    Bookworm, your writing is so well thought out and not the least paranoid. I find no delusions of grandeur or persecution, which would characterize paranoia. I notice in conversations w/friends on both sides that it is those on the right that tend to remain calm and resist name-calling. I don’t attribute evil to Helen because she differs w/me. She is a human being, she breathes the same air as I do, and some experiences and thought processes have brought her to very different conclusions than mine. I think she is just wrong.

  • Ymarsakar

    Bush is pretty evil, well at least, I hope he gets more evil, it would do a lot of good. Depends on what evil is, really. If evil is human liberty and what not for all of humanity, then well, ja, Bush is evil. If war is always evil defacto and de jure, then ya, Bush is evil.

    For conservatives, most often they just want the solutions, they don’t care about who you are or how you do it, just that you deliver. None of this nepotism thing, none of this “who do you know in washington” patronage system. Simple private sector business. You provide a service, we pay you for it, and you deliver. Case closed.

    If somebody tries to get in the way of the project, then they are simply an obstacle that must be removed. But the goal isn’t to fight these protestors and obstructions, the goal is to create and building something useful and beautiful to humanity. ALl the nuisances must be gotten rid of, but when they are gotten rid of, then they no longer become a problem.

    For the Left, Bush is some kind of demonic figure out of legends. He is the source of evil, he is the object that they must destroy, because without the goal of destroying something worthwhile, they may actually have to you know, building something creative and constructive.

    You may relate it to how governments terrorize and keep control over their people. If a government can’t do anything substantial and worthwhile for its people, then the government just finds a convenient scapegoat and ramps up the hate and jihad against it. Mexico does it when they talk about fascist Americans putting up the Berlin wall, while at the same time suppressing protests within their own country via the gestapo police. The Islamic JIhad does it with the “America enemy to humanity” riff they brainwash children with. All of these failed people, nations, and countries need to find an enemy, any enemy, in order to say “look, we got to destroy this guy first, then we can build what you need and want”. Except these people have no intention or ability of building anything. The ACLU and CAIR never could build or maintain civil liberties, but what they do know is how to destroy them.

    The right, conservatives, republicans, neo-neocons, whatever you call them, are simply interested on building up and securing human rights First and Foremost. If not human rights, then something positive, like national security. Most of them have little to no enmity towards the Left, other than the fact that they believe the Left isn’t playing fair and is destroying some good projects like Iraq and Afghanistan.

    A classical liberal consultant, once related a story about how when he met two groups on the abortion issue, when he was running for office, the views he got from the conservatives was much more reasonable than the planned parenthood crowd. He was able to get the conservatives to agree that simply preventing state funding, using their tax dollars, to promote abortion would be something the Right would be satisfied with. While the Left was no holds bar, give me what I want or I will cry out it.

  • Ymarsakar

    Danny, war is when someone invades you. SO to the Left, America is only at war when invaded. Which means, they can ignore the problem, and use their valuable time attacking RUsh and Bush, until the barbarians are right at the gates. Then they will scream to the military, the now unstretched, fat, and slow military, that they had better go out and die for the sake of the fattened up political elites.

    It is like the worst combinations of Republican isolationism with the absolute righteousness of national security.

  • Scott in SF

    Politics, Sex and Religion are not polite conversation.
    Never have been, never will be.
    I love to argue, I thrive on controversy, but I know not to let my views be known unless I’m willing to accept that it might result in my complete isolation.
    That doesn’t mean that I can’t have a little fun at the expense of some irrational loud mouth ideologue. It does mean that I need to be very careful and know in advance that I will quickly return to “the weather” if the conversation starts to get interesting.
    In other words, I might challenge the idea of rent control on economic grounds as a theoretical possibility, but I’m not going to say I think George W. Bush is the best president we’ve had in my lifetime (which is what I actually think).
    Heavens, I was at a client’s party (one of Bookworm’s wealthy neighbors) the other day with my g-friend and she met a woman who was obviously a nazi and my g-friend started yelling about it. It was a close call, could have lost everything.

  • jg

    “and she met a woman who was obviously a nazi”

    Thanks, Scott for your update. And in the Blue State capital, no less.

    Thomas Lifson links to Timeswatch, a new blog for me.
    The blog is dedicated to keeping the New York Times objective (obviously a failed task).

    Note Timeswatch’s comments from a recent liberal gathering in New York City.
    I like the fact that the President, whose observation of the American democracy against the invective of the Left has always been impressive; and we Red Staters, get knocks from NY BLUE STATERS. Indeed we in the Red States get a KERRY-LIKE smear about intelligence! –Well, I AM intelligent enough to CRITICALLY read the New York Times!

    The below speaks to Bookworm’s post:

    “Besides the liberal unanimity of the (NY Times) panel, what struck me was the condescending and sometimes paranoid liberalism of the (NYC) audience questioners. Of the seven or eight audience members who addressed the panel, none said anything that could be remotely construed as Republican or even moderate. Instead, the panelists got foreboding questionings of whether Bush believed in democracy and whether Red State folk are as ignorant as they are because they don’t read the New York Times. Such rants were mostly humored and deflected by the panelists. It’s no wonder liberal journalists can plausibly think of themselves as moderates — compared to their fellow Manhattan residents, they might be.”