First published on PJMedia.com, January 3, 2012 as an advice column.
Dear Belladonna Rogers,
Of all the challenges I face dealing with leftists, one of the most difficult is contending with their anti-Israel bias. I realize Ron Paul has also expressed and mobilized anti-Israeli sentiments, but I, personally, don’t have to deal with them and hope I never do. How can I deal with the growing, overt liberal animus toward Israel?
Chagrined in Chicago
Much of the malicious and inaccurate criticism of Israel stems from two sources: ignorance and anti-Semitism.
If the criticism is based on the first, you can counteract it with facts. Here are four of the principal, hostile myths about Israel and the facts to rebut them.
(1) Israel is a foreign implant, a Western outpost, alien to the Middle East.
To the contrary, Israel is the historic homeland of the Jewish people, who were living there for centuries before Christianity or Islam began. Jews have lived in what is now Israel continuously for more than two millennia.
(2) Israel has imperial ambitions and seeks to expand its territory and dominate others.
When it was established by a vote of the United Nations in 1948, Israel accepted the borders that the UN drew. The year it was founded, the surrounding Arab countries, however, all attacked Israel in an effort to destroy it. Israel ended the war with more territory than it had had at the beginning. In 1967, Arab aggression led to another war of self-defense in which Israel captured more territory. The Israeli government immediately offered to return the territory in exchange for peace. In 1979-82 it did return territory to Egypt as part of a peace treaty brokered by the United States.
It has conducted negotiations with Syria to the north, and the Palestine Liberation Organization to the west, for the same purpose, but neither of them has been willing to make peace with Israel. For that reason the Golan Heights, to the north, and the West Bank of the Jordan River, to the west, have remained under Israeli control. At no time has Israel sought to enlarge its territory by attacking others in an “imperial” effort. Its boundaries have changed only as a result of wars initiated against Israel by its Arab neighbors.
(3) Israel is not a democracy.
The status of the Arabs living in the West Bank is the subject of negotiations, as discussed above. As for the rest of Israel, it is a Western-style parliamentary democracy in which full civil and political rights, including the right to vote, extend to all of its citizens, including its almost one million Arabs citizens, both Christian and Muslim, and to all women. (Full American-style rights are not available to the citizens of any Arab country.) Arabs have been elected to, and serve in, the Israeli legislature, the Knesset.
(4) Israel and its friends manipulate American foreign policy.
This is the canard of the vicious polemic written by Professors John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. They charged that Israel and its friends were responsible for the American war in Iraq, which the two professors opposed.
The president, vice president, secretaries of state, and defense and national security advisor of the George W. Bush administration (none of whom is Jewish), who made the decision to go to war, were not, of course, manipulated by anyone, nor was the United States Congress, which supported the decision.
Indeed, Israeli government officials privately counseled their American counterparts against the Iraq war, believing that Iran posed the greater threat.
When Anti-Semitic Bigotry Is at the Root of Anti-Israeli Sentiment
As for anti-Semitic bigotry as a source of anti-Israeli sentiment – a subject on which Eliot A. Cohen has written brilliantly — here are some telltale signs that this ancient hatred is the underlying cause of the animus against the modern Jewish state:
(1) When people refuse to accept the validity of the facts presented above.
(2) When the critic demonizes Israel and Jews, assigning to them responsibility for things with which they have no connection (e.g., “banking domination of the world,” referring to “Rothschild Zionists,” and asserting that Jews “always profit from war” despite the fact that if anyone “profits,” it is defense contractors whose ranks are not “dominated” by Jews).
(3) When they use a double standard, criticizing Israel for actions they never question in other countries (e.g., when they attack Israel for self-defense, while ignoring rocket attacks from Gaza aimed at Israeli civilians, or ship-borne “peace brigades” from Turkey, with armed men on board ready to kill Israeli officers patrolling Israeli waters).
Bigotry is, unfortunately, rampant among Israel’s Arab neighbors, in part thanks to the bombardment of printed pamphlets of anti-Semitic propaganda and short-wave radio broadcasts in Arab lands by the Nazis during World War II. Since then, anti-Israeli hostility has been encouraged by the incompetent, oppressive authoritarian dictators who seek to deflect the anger of those they govern away from themselves.
Anti-Semitism is also making a vigorous comeback in its ancestral home of Europe, where for more than a millennium it was comfortably ensconced, reaching its apex in the Holocaust.
The current wave of virulent European anti-Semitism has caused an exodus to Israel from Sweden, France, the UK, The Netherlands, Germany and Austria, and other countries by Jews whose families have lived in Europe and the UK for centuries.
The main cause? Criminal assaults on Jews by the fast-growing young Muslim populations. The governments in these countries are scandalously lax in protecting their Jewish citizens.
There’s one place, however, where criticism of Israeli isn’t fueled by anti-Semitism, and that’s Israel, whose boisterous democracy regularly generates debate and criticism so robust that they can make relations between American Democrats and Republicans seem positively chummy by comparison.
Unlike anti-Israeli sentiment based on ignorance of history, though, you don’t stand a chance of persuading bigots by using facts, logic, or reasoning, because their attitudes are irrational, deep-seated, and often unconscious.
Education may help with the factually-ignorant. With the deep-seated anti-Semite, nothing will succeed.
When you encounter such a person, I recommend minimizing contact—indeed, if you can, cutting off contact entirely.
Life is too short to subject yourself to an unrepentant bigot, no matter how charming or attractive he or she may appear to be in other respects. I’m with Moses Seixas and George Washington on this: “Give bigotry no sanction.” None.
I’m a 77-year-old conservative grandmother living, for family reasons, in a very blue state. It’s only March and already the Obama 2012 bumper stickers are everywhere. The parking lots are filled with them. They’re irksome, especially when combined on the same bumper, with the 2008 version. It appears that the driver has learned exactly nothing in the past four years.
Is there anything I can do that will avoid direct confrontation, won’t get me in trouble with the law, but that will satisfy my urge to communicate my disagreement with the Obama-supporting owners of these cars?
Frustrated Near ‘Frisco
Yes, yes, and yes!
Placing an anti-Obama bumper sticker on top of a pro-Obama bumper sticker is tampering with property, also known as criminal mischief. This can be a felony or a misdemeanor. You don’t want to go there, tempting as it certainly is.
What you may do that’s perfectly legal is what many pizza chains and other businesses do in parking lots: gently lift the windshield wiper and place a written message to the driver where he or she cannot avoid seeing it.
I have three suggestions:
A POLITE PIECE OF YOUR MIND
It’s devilishly simple.
You type two sentences and print out as many as you like. Keep them in your car at all times. Here’s a little inspiration:
Some unknown socialist put an Obama bumper sticker on your car. I’m letting you know so that you can remove it before it causes you any further embarrassment.
That’s it. Simple, friendly, concerned, considerate. What’s not to like?
It’s also guaranteed to be very annoying.
BUY ANTI-OBAMA BUMPER STICKERS AND PLACE THEM UNDER THE WINDSHIELD WIPERS OF THE PRO-OBAMA CAR
Happily, your choices are many and, while not inexpensive, if some of your like-minded friends chip in, it might be worthwhile to spend some money for such upbeat messages as:
The bumper stickers come in packs of 50 for $190 ($3.80 each), or bought singly cost $5 each. If you were to park your (un-bumper-stickered) car and watch what the pro-Obama drivers do after noticing your kind gift, my prediction is that you’d observe them throwing your valuable bumper sticker on the ground. Littering! As soon as they drive away, retrieve your abandoned bumper sticker and place it on the windshield of the next pro-Obama car you see.
After all, an anti-Obama bumper sticker is a terrible thing to waste.
Given your age and desire to avoid direct confrontation, I’d recommend being as subtle as possible as you go about your activities. Perhaps you have a big, strong young male family member or friend who feels as strongly about Obama as you do who’d like to spend some quality time with you.
If you’d like to spend less than the prices noted above, I suggest the following third option:
A BIGGER PIECE OF YOUR MIND
In the immortal words of New Orleans chef, restaurateur, and entrepreneur Emeril Lagasse, a letter such as the one below is guaranteed to kick it up a notch. A note of caution: the first option takes only a few seconds to read. The one below will do more to express your thoughts, but it runs the risk of not being read in entirety by an avowed Obamaphile. That said, here’s an example of how you could purvey a generous piece of your mind.
Dear Fellow Citizen:
I note with stunned incredulity that the rear bumper of your vehicle is festooned with both an Obama 2008 and an Obama 2012 one. This is troubling indeed. It suggests to your fellow citizens that you’ve spent the last three years in the sort of place Vice President Cheney was said to have inhabited during the George W. Bush years: a secure, undisclosed location — but unlike Mr. Cheney, however, without access to news from the outside world.
If, on the other hand, you’ve been living openly and freely, I must inquire whether you’ve noticed the lack of respect for the U.S. Constitution by the president and the Department of Justice, with “Attorney General” Eric Holder’s refusal to prosecute such blatant law-breakers as the New Black Panther Party and ACORN? Does the phrase “Fast and Furious” mean nothing to you?
Have you not watched in horror as the unemployment rate has soared perilously close to 9% among your fellow citizens?
Are you not outraged by every single element of ObamaCare and the fact that a growing number of physicians in fields such as cardiology are considering becoming “life coaches” to their patients because the tests they routinely order to monitor their health will be over-ridden by computerized regulations, and, indeed, forbidden entirely by green eye-shaded federal government employees who’ve never seen the inside of a medical school classroom? Or by social engineers or clueless politicians such as Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of Health and “Human Services”?
Are you not horrified that your country is now more than $14 trillion in debt? Does this not concern you if you have children or grandchildren, or even if you don’t?
Can you honestly say that none of these outrages causes you to reconsider your original, ill-founded enthusiasm for Barack Obama?
If you’re as pro-Obama in 2012 as you were in 2008, you can be only one of two things: (1) a Democratic loyalist who gives not a moment’s thought to the actual positions and hazardous consequences of voting like a lemming, or (2) a blinkered, clueless cave-dweller cut off from all news of the United States and the world for the past four years. If that’s the case, I urge you to read news analysis on PJM.com during that period to see exactly what you’ve missed.
Just how much drek can you allow yourself to ignore?
Finally, I suggest you buy yourself a giant sized GOO GONE, a liquid that comes in a spray can. Apply it to your bumper stickers. Scrape with all your might until you’ve succeeded in removing that embarrassing pair from your rear bumper. Once they’re gone, you can drive with your head held high because, at long last, you’ll have come face to face with the harsh, cold breath of reality and will have understood the perilous error of your ways.
A concerned fellow citizen
IT’S YOUR CHOICE
There you have them: three distinct approaches, any one of which should help cope with some of the frustration you feel, and may even shed a little light of reality on your state’s Obama-besotted residents.
When the unremitting uniformity of their political views gets you down, return to this webpage and feast your eyes on the artistic creations below, brought to you by our distinguished colleagues at MAD magazine, one of the most reliably great magazines of the 20th and 21st centuries, the obvious fountainhead of The Onion:
— Belladonna Rogers
Send your questions about personal, political or any other matters to Belladonna Rogers at email@example.com. All correspondence with her is confidential, and all names, locations, places of employment and ages of the parties will be changed to protect the privacy of the readers who write to contribute questions.
How do you behave or talk in a workplace of liberals who monitor every behavior for political and social correctness?
While my colleagues are hard-working, the general setting of my workplace is extraordinarily liberal. It is expected that you will be just as liberal as the socialist working next to you. Worse: in 2008 we had meetings where the managers talked openly about who had donated to Obama’s campaign. They regularly went online to see who had — and who had not. The head of the company — loyal and generous Obama supporter that he was — did nothing to discourage this outrageous behavior and so, in 2007, I began to feel as if I were living in the People’s Republic of China. I still feel that way, now more than ever. I’ve never said a thing about my conservative views, but believe me, it isn’t easy.
What should I do?
Sleepless in Seattle
This is a serious problem and one that particularly afflicts those who work in academic settings, in the media, and in the entertainment industry. It’s also likely to affect any conservative or libertarian working in a blue state. I’ll give you my advice on your best options for dealing with this, but first I’ll say why the situation you’ve described has become a widespread phenomenon in workplaces across the country.
The problem you’ve described stems from a convergence of four factors that are far more prevalent today than at any time in the past seven decades, possibly since the Civil War (although I can’t speak personally of that era: I don’t go back that far).
They are (1) the increasingly high concentration of liberals in certain sectors of the economy; (2) the militant intolerance displayed by liberals; (3) the steep decline in civility everywhere, including the workplace; and (4) the lowering of barriers to discussions of topics that were, in the not-so-distant past, deemed off-limits, especially in the workplace, but even at social gatherings in general: politics, sex, one’s earnings, and one’s religious beliefs. This is a toxic confluence of trends that afflicts our professional and social lives and results in a less tolerant environment in which one’s “zone of privacy” is far narrower than ever before.
(1) Types of work that attract more liberals than conservatives:
Your email address tells me that you work in a university. I’ve long wondered why academia is so strongly skewed toward liberals (by some estimates 90% liberal versus 10% conservative, except at explicitly Christian universities and colleges). Last week, I heard an explanation that rings true. It comes from Tim Groseclose, professor of American politics at the University of California at Los Angeles, who explained, in a fascinating interview with The Daily Caller’s Jamie Weinstein, that liberals want to direct the lives of others whereas conservatives don’t. A person whose goal is to direct the lives of others, according to Professor Groseclose, will be drawn to academia, the media and the entertainment industry, the last of which — at least as much as teaching and the media — has an enormous impact on how and what people think. A single film can powerfully shape opinions and points of view, and epitomize an entire era.
Conservatives tend to be less interested in proselytizing and prefer to be guided by the maxim “live and let live,” as they focus their lives on family and work. They favor less government intrusion and prefer to be left alone. Liberals, particularly in academia, he said, are willing to forgo higher incomes for the chance to have a direct impact on the lives of others.
Furthermore, Professor Groseclose added, once an overwhelming liberal majority takes over a particular occupation or individual workplace, it becomes increasingly uncomfortable to be the sole conservative, or one of a small minority, amid a sometimes belligerent, often nastily self-righteous majority. So conservatives begin leaving these environments, which they find increasingly hostile and intolerant of them and their views. (To see the full interview click here.)
In an economy as dire as ours, few employees, no matter how uncomfortable they are in their present workplaces, feel free to leave a secure position in hopes of finding more congenial colleagues elsewhere, especially if they live in a blue state or work in a sector of the economy in which liberals predominate.
Even if the economy were more robust than it is, if you work in any of the sectors that attract liberals in droves, or if you work in deep blue America, changing jobs is unlikely to help. It will change the names and faces of your colleagues, but not the underlying problem.
(2) The fact that you’re the lone conservative in a department or office of liberal Democrats would not be the problem you describe if liberals were more tolerant — or indeed, if they were tolerant at all — of other political perspectives. As I’ve discussed here and here, the current incarnation of the Democratic Party is not the big, welcoming tent it was in the days of FDR. Today, it represents big unions, including the strident teachers’ unions, academia, some minority groups, and social and political liberals.
In the wake of the budget deal, we’ve seen a dramatic rise in vitriolic Democrat attacks on the Tea Party, and by extension, on the Republican Party of which they form an influential part. Rather than merely express contrary views, the Democrats at the highest levels of the party have turned up their attacks on a scale of 1 to 10, to at least 11, thus deepening the already sharp schism between the two parties.
[YouTube video, BBC blocked on Copyright grounds]
As PJMedia’s Bryan Preston noted last Friday, Sen. John Kerry (D.-Mass), a former nominee for the presidency, explicitly called on the nation’s media to refrain from reporting and broadcasting the views of members of the Tea Party — at all. John F. Kerry said,
And I have to tell you, I say this to you politely. [Let’s hear it for good manners as we descend ever further into the netherworld of extreme intolerance.] The media in America has a bigger responsibility than it’s exercising today. The media has got to begin to not give equal time or equal balance to an absolutely absurd notion just because somebody asserts it or simply because somebody says something which everybody knows is not factual.
Presumably, Sen. Kerry’s idea of an “absurd notion” is one with which he disagrees, while his definition of “everybody” is the fellow members of his windsurfing club.
This arrogance, this hubris, and this unembarrassed sense of entitlement are relatively recent additions to the traditional arrows in the Democrats’ quivers. Unlike in the past, actual political positions are secondary to extreme expressions of political passion. Vitriol overwhelms content.
After the debt ceiling talks ended and the president signed the bill, the Democratic Caucus met and a new phrase of attack began being bruited about by increasingly desperate Democrats. Suddenly, liberals from Vice President Biden to Rep. Michael F. Doyle (D-Pa) appeared on TV accusing Tea Partiers of being terrorists. TheWashington Times’ Jeffrey T. Kuhner noted that “MSNBC host Chris Matthews likened Tea Partyers to ‘terrorists’ and ‘hostage-takers.’ Newsweek’s Tina Brown called them ‘suicide bombers.’ In short, for the Democratic left, the Tea Party is evil incarnate.”
As Commentary’s luminous Jonathan S. Tobin wrote at the Contentions blog,“Indeed, with the abuse escalating to a point where liberals now feel no shame about accusing Tea Partiers of being ‘terrorists,’” it is unsurprising that the group’s negative polling numbers have risen. He also notes:
From its beginnings, liberal papers such as the Times slammed the Tea Party as a dangerous form of populism. It was smeared with unsubstantiated charges of racism on the false premise opposition to President Obama’s signature health care plan was a sign of prejudice. Though it was one of the most broad-based popular protest movements in modern American political history with a reach that extended across the country, it was still treated by most of the mainstream media as a slightly more respectable version of the Ku Klux Klan. Indeed, when Tea Partiers vocally expressed their dismay to members of Congress and senators at town hall meetings, liberals reacted as if public dissent against politicians was the thin edge of the wedge of a new wave of fascism.
That line held until November 2010 when it turned out the only poll that counts — the ballot box — showed the Tea Party was a mainstream force in American politics. While the Republican victory put a damper on talk of Tea Party extremism, the theme was rediscovered this year as some members of Congress decided to act as if their campaign rhetoric about debt, spending and taxes wasn’t just hot air but a pledge of honor.
This is an important reason that political discourse among our fellow citizens has moved — in the immortal phrase of Abba Eban, Israel’s eloquent foreign minister, in his address to the UN Security Council on June 8, 1967 — “backwards to belligerency.” It has descended into the unchecked aggression of gang warfare — or the Pleistocene Era. And citizens take their lead from the political class. When Americans see the president, the vice president and the Solons of Congress and their media allies attacking Tea Party members and Republicans in general — all with identical epithets — can there be any doubt that such unacceptable conduct will trickle down to all Democrat partisans, including those in your Seattle workplace?
Decades ago, I lived in a deep blue bastion of the country where I observed that while conservatives were viewed by liberals as rare, exotic birds (“That’s interesting. I wonder what makes him think that?”), there didn’t exist the reflexive derision, hostility, and shunning that passes for enlightened behavior today. Republicans and libertarians were considered socially acceptable, if eccentric, human beings, not pond scum lacking a conscience or intellectual honesty.
(3) The public mockery of the Tea Party and Republicans in general dovetails with a even larger societal problem: the slow but clear coarsening of discourse and a descent into a jungle of inter-party disrespect veering into loutish contempt. Unfortunately, this tendency is not confined to liberals.
Those who thought they were alone in sensing a rising tide of rudeness can find confirmation of their impressions from a recent Rasmussen poll, which found 76% of adults believing that Americans are becoming more rude and less civilized. According to the poll,
Seventy percent (70%) say Americans are more rude to sales personnel or people waiting on them than they were 10 years ago, up eight points from last year….Conversely, 61% say sales and service personnel are ruder to customers than they were 10 years ago….Fifty-eight percent (58%) of Americans say they’ve confronted someone over their rude behavior in public, up seven points from the previous survey. Thirty-eight percent (38%) have never confronted someone about their rude behavior. Sixty-four percent (64%) of men have confronted someone in public about their rude behavior, while 52% of women have done the same.
The confrontations arise when people are so deeply offended by the rude conduct of others that they cannot help but push back and say something. Recently, I found myself behind a man in a supermarket line who didn’t realize the high price of the cellophane-wrapped cheese he planned to buy. When the young, pregnant Hispanic cashier rang up his intended purchase and he discovered how expensive it was, he became angry at her and hurled a pound of Cheddar at her face. I raced to the store manager and asked him to confront the assailant. He did, telling the man never to set foot in the store again, or he would call the police.
This rudeness and decline in basic courtesy that infects our relations with others — be it at work, in public settings such as supermarkets, or at social gatherings — is a malignant and powerful new force in our lives combined as it is with the extreme polarization of the two parties. The confluence of these developments makes for some vexing experiences, such as those you’ve experienced in Seattle.
(4) The final reason that workplaces such as yours have become toxic is the free, online information available to all, revealing your political contributions, personal data, and even — have they no shame? — your age. Whatever organizations you support — from the Audubon Society, to your place of worship (if you’ve donated to it), to charities to which you’ve contributed — are all easily accessible on the Internet. Aspects of your life that were 100% private in 1980 are 100% public in 2011.
These inroads into the personal areas of your life that you could have protected by your silence or discretion then are out in the open now, and are grist for your colleagues’ inappropriate and shameful conduct in 2008. The easy availability of your personal information places you in a more vulnerable position when it comes to office politics: your Obama-supporting manager and colleagues can easily discover, without a word from you, that unlike them, you contributed exactly zip to Obama’s 2008 election, and if my speculation is correct, that you’re unlikely to contribute to his 2012 re-election campaign (just a wild guess).
What to do?
My answer depends on two variables: the first is how secure you are in your job. For example, in a university, do you have tenure? Professor Groseclose explicitly stated in his interview that he would not have published his most recent book, Turning Left: How Liberal Media Distorts the American Mind, if he didn’t have tenure. It would have provided ammunition to a liberal political science department that would have used it to prevent him from being granted tenure. With tenure, he can now publish whatever he likes.
If you feel that your job is a secure one, you have the options discussed below. If not, you have to judge for yourself how perilous it would be for you to speak your mind freely when you know in advance that your colleagues and manager are staunch, Obama-contributing liberal Democrats. In a recent advice column in July, about dealing with liberals in social settings, two commenters wrote as follows:
I’m a guns and religion-clinging, slurpee-drinking, pea-eating conservative who happens to work in the entertainment industry. I think it would be folly for me to follow the advice in this column. I think I’d become nearly unemployable.“Don’t ask, don’t tell” has been my best policy. Meaning, I never ask a colleague what his or her politics are; I never reveal my own; and I keep my job and professional relationships.It’s sad, but it’s harder to come out of the closet as a conservative than as a gay communist necrophiliac serial killer.
I think if you read the question and the answer one more time you’ll see that the column is intended for social situations, not the workplace. I can’t speak for Belladonna but it looks to me as if she’d agree with you when it comes to the workplace. She doesn’t seem like a person who would want to see one more American added to the country’s already 9.2% unemployment.
Actually, Nim, although my post was a bit opaque, that was the point I was trying to make; i.e., that although Belladonna’s advice may be good for social settings, I didn’t think it would apply very well to the work setting. It would be very interesting to know her take on that question.
JPL17, I’m glad you raised this question. And Mr. Goldberg, you correctly stated my position. This column was, indeed, intended to apply to social gatherings and not to the workplace. When at your place of employment, unless it’s at the Republican National Committee, the Democratic National Committee or anything of that sort—like a political campaign—my advice is not to talk politics. Not at the water cooler, not anywhere in the workplace. If a social situation includes colleagues from your workplace or industry, the workplace rule of not discussing your politics would supersede the social gathering rule.
So, I’m on record as agreeing with anyone whose own antennae and judgment suggest that a “don’t tell” strategy at work is the best job-protecting policy — as excruciating as that can be. It has one substantial advantage: it guarantees a paycheck.
The second variable is your level of tolerance for conflict compared with your tolerance for the inner turmoil that prompted your email to me. Coming out with your candid political views in a department or office that includes, by your own description, the expectation that “that you will be just as liberal as the socialist working next to you” will exchange one form of discomfort for another. Now, you are suffering in silence.
If, on the other hand, you make your views known in what I gather is a close-knit, even gossipy environment, then the insults will likely be intentional. You can expect anything from under-the-breath negative mumbles to highly audible, heated expressions of intolerance and derision.
Unfortunately, either course — whether you choose silence or speaking out — will result in your discomfort.
The question then becomes whether you want to turn every lunch hour or working hour into a potentially unpleasant argument session or, what may be even worse, subject yourself to being shunned. Revealing your true political views can cause your coworkers to cease treating you as a colleague.
What you decide to do depends upon how much you relish a good fight, and equally, how great your tolerance is to being treated as a pariah. If you speak your mind, you may experience some temporary relief and discover that you can now spend your time in the cafeteria reading a book rather than interacting with colleagues. But there are advantages to collegiality, even faux collegiality, one of them being that if you ever need help, someone will be there to offer it. Being an outcast is not an unmixed blessing at work.
My sense, based on your email, is that if you enjoyed arguments, you would have openly declared your antipathy to Obama in 2007 and by now your colleagues would be accustomed to your difference of opinion.
Even if you’re not a natural-born verbal mud-wrestler, four years of silence compounded by the same four years of working among Obamaphiles may finally have tried your patience to the point that the unremitting enthusiasm for the president has become more than you can bear in silence.
If, after weighing the pros and cons of speaking out, you decide you want to do so, I’d suggest three rules:
(1) Don’t initiate the encounter;
(2) Be calm, matter-of-fact, reasonable, and good-natured, as if you were saying you enjoy six-foot snowfalls, knowing full well that your interlocutor would prefer to live in Longboat Key, Florida; and most importantly,
(3) Try to make the issue not the other person’s views versus yours, but rather the virtue of tolerance for a variety of approaches — not whose view is correct. You could certainly mention that, historically, one of the core values of liberalism was toleration of minority views. That is, in fact, one of the hallmarks of democracy: the rights of minorities are as fully protected as those of the majority. You could even extend your hand and say, in a friendly way, “Why don’t we agree to disagree? We have so much here at work in common that we don’t have to get into who thinks what about which candidate. That’s not as important as getting our work done as well as we can — together.”
This doesn’t mean that you won’t find one of these stuck to your locker door or on the rear bumper of your car:
Or, you could beat them to the punch and preemptively display President Lincoln’s wise words on your locker and bumper first.
Whatever you decide to do, the most important thing to remember is that, in my grandmother’s words: this, too, shall pass. Since FDR, no president has been elected to four consecutive terms. This one has been fortunate to have been granted one term. If only the same could be said for the country.
Do you have questions? Belladonna Rogers has answers. Send your questions about politics, personal matters, or any other matter that’s on your mind and Belladonna will answer as many as possible. The names and email addresses of all advice-seekers will remain anonymous and confidential. Send your questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org
I live in deep blue America and am a conservative. When I see old friends after a long absence, or meet new people, they assume I’m a liberal Democrat, in part because they are, and also because I live in a blue city in a blue state. I don’t like to argue in social settings, so normally I don’t reveal my political views. I can deal with differences of opinion, but what I find increasingly unpleasant is how smug and nasty liberal Democrats are when referring to conservatives, Republicans, or even independents. I’d like to remain close to old friends and form new friendships, too. How do you suggest I deal with the demeaning attitudes and intense anger that so many liberals express toward conservatives these days?
— Adrift in San Francisco
(1) It is unpleasant to be treated as a moron, or criminally insane, a traitor to all that’s good and true, and, of course, a pariah, just because of your politics. It’s even more than unpleasant to incur wrath because you don’t want to dive head first into the blue seas of the liberal Democrats around you. In regions like yours it’s easy to be blindsided — stunned, really — by the unanimity of idolatry toward the current president. It’s galling to be presented with this uncongenial Venti, topped off as it invariably is by the latte of condescension. Disdainful liberals are unable to hide their contempt for those who differ with them. You begin what seems like an enjoyable conversation, but as soon you declare your political perspective, you go from being an attractive object of interest to the objectionable equivalent of a social leper.
(2) As soon as you realize that you’ve been presumed to be a liberal, nip it in the bud. Say that you’re a conservative. And say it as calmly as you can, not as if it’s a challenge to a duel. You may have to practice while you’re doing the dishes, but get to a point where you can say it with the same nonchalance as if you’re saying, “I’m from Nebraska.” No big deal. If you don’t reveal your politics as soon as you realize that the other person presumes you’re a liberal, you’ll become increasingly restless in the political closet as you mutely endure the slings and arrows of outrageous insults heaped on you and your fellow conservatives. You’ll also find yourself annoyed, not least at yourself, as you suffer through the predictable barrage of liberal arrogance. However conflict-averse you may be, not revealing your true colors is like trying to pass as something you’re not. Silence implies assent, and your silence won’t serve you well.
If you don’t disclose where you stand early on, you’ll become ever more irritated by how your liberal friends — having assumed you were one of them — refer to conservatives, and by the time you do tell them the truth, you’ll be far more exasperated than if you’d spoken up immediately. By the same token, your liberal friends will be equally irritated at you. They’ll feel that you deceived them which, by your silence, is exactly what you did.
(3) Your tone matters. Don’t be defensive, condescending, or aggressive with others, even when, or especially when, they address you in these ways. Be clear and friendly — and give them a chance to continue the conversation or let it drop.
(4) Your implied fear that expressing your political perspective may drive a wedge between you and your new and old friends is justified. It will put some distance between you and them, but in this case good fences make good neighbors by clearly demarcating the potentially toxic territory between you and them.
Think of it this way: if relationships are structures, revealing your political views will ensure that yours are built on firm ground and not on the quicksand of implicit deceit.
Even without a heated argument, a calm discussion is difficult to have with many liberals because they limit themselves to so few sources of information. An interesting exchange is foreclosed by their willful ignorance. It can be like talking with a cult member whose involvement forbids contact with anything that isn’t cult-approved.
When your interlocutor reads the New York Times and The New Yorker, listens to National Public Radio, and watches The Rachel Maddow Show — all uncritically and in the mistaken belief that these are objective sources of accurate information, what you’re dealing with is a person with an extremely restricted understanding of the country and the world. These parochial news sources reinforce one another. And even worse, the liberal will usually refuse to expose him-or-herself to a wider variety of sources. I, myself, had the experience of emailing a liberal acquaintance a link to an insightful op-ed piece that appeared in a newspaper that is, apparently, on the liberal “do not read” list. In reply, he wrote, “The Wall Street Journal? Please take me off your distribution list, Belladonna.” Wouldn’t even read it. He saw the source, knew it wasn’t approved, and that was that.
(5) What not to do: Don’t think you can convert a liberal to your views. Political affiliation has become a matter of tribal and personal identification with a group. Although it may appear to be rational, it isn’t, entirely. It’s emotional. The desire to remain a liberal, even in the face of all the evidence of its failures, is born of humanity’s — and all living creatures’ — deepest instincts to affiliate with others and to retain that affiliation regardless of logic or facts. Not everyone has either the desire or the need to think analytically about political realities. Many base their politics on a yearning to be part of a movement larger than themselves.
By revealing that you’re a conservative, what the liberal will hear is this: “I could have chosen to be a member of your tribe, but I’ve decided your tribe doesn’t represent my understanding of the world.” What this, in turn, conveys to the liberal is, “I’ve rejected the premises that undergird your entire world view. The foundations of your understanding of the world are not mine.”
While people can and do change, they don’t turn around on a dime because of a single powerful conversation over drinks or dinner. Change occurs, if at all, over years or decades, through the slow accretion of new or newly-understood information and newly-formed impressions, as well as through the gradual accumulation of experiences and observations.
(6) Adult friends cannot and do not agree on everything. You can try in an amicable way to agree to disagree on politics. You can look for other areas of commonality. You may or may not succeed in your search.
It’s also possible that your differing political views are too powerful to sustain a close friendship, even if you succeed in finding other areas of mutual interest. The enormity of your political differences may always be the rogue elephant looming in the corner, ready to trample on discussions of a wide variety of other topics.
(7) When revealing that they’re not liberals, some conservatives will add, “I’m a fiscal conservative and a foreign policy hawk, but on domestic social issues such as abortion, gun control and gay marriage, I think you and I would agree.” Of course, if that’s not true of you, that option isn’t available.
(8) Many conservative women, in particular, encounter liberal men in social settings who become uncontrollably loud and abusive when a conservative woman fails to nod pleasantly and express respectful agreement with his political views. When this happens, remain as cool as you can. Hold your ground. Let the liberal become apoplectic while you calmly say, “I disagree with your characterization” or “I don’t share your contempt,” “I don’t accept your premises,” or “I see things differently.”
You be the rational one, while the liberal is driven around the bend not only by your views and your knowledgeable statement of facts, but also by your composure and your refusal to be bullied.
Don’t be surprised or stunned into silence or submission when this happens. And it will happen. Expect it. Trust me.
(9) Try to be patient with your liberal friends. Their unexamined premises and their overwhelming desire for affiliation with their tribe are understandable, and not everyone has the temperament or inclination to think for him-or-herself. They’re like prisoners trapped in a dungeon, unable to escape.
(10) You could approach the challenge this way: try to show the liberals in your life what a thoughtful conservative is really like — as distinct from the demented fiend on the lunatic fringe conjured by their fevered imaginations.
— By Belladonna Rogers
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