In This Election Year I Wish

… that there was some kind of secret high-sign or signal that we could give to other conservative-libertarian-Tea Party adherents in casual social situations. Even in Texas, a mostly red-state and stronghold of prickly independent free-marketers, there is enough of a leavening of blue-state Dems and Obama worshippers that one need be constrained in discussing politics … by good manners, if nothing else. Especially in the neighborhood where one lives; there are, I know, at least a few Democrats sufficiently enthused about the One to actually display bumper-stickers and yard signs. One of them is a very sweet and cordial gentlemen dog aficionado; he and his wife always adore and pet our dogs when they see us, and we recently mourned together when they had to put one of their own dogs to sleep. He and his wife are nice people, decent people; good neighbors, home-owners who keep their place beautifully – they fly the Texas and American flags, and a military service flag with two stars upon it – but… But on the back of his truck he has a home-made magnetic bumper sticker implying that the Tea Party in combination with the GOP equals the screwing of America.

So there is one thing that we can never talk about, not without risking neighborly amity, and I just don’t want to take the risk. He had an Obama-Biden yard sign the last time out, anyway, so we can’t say we weren’t warned. The nice older couple with the lovely garden just down the street from them were precinct-walking for a Dem candidate this year, so any casual conversation with them also must avoid politics. My own next-door neighbor, an irreproachably middle-class retired civil servant of African-American heritage has an Obama tee-shirt that she has worn now and again, so there again … a careful avoidance of my Tea Party sympathies.

But now and again we have stumbled into a potential political minefield in conversation, most often when the other person ventures an opinion to do with the economy, race-relations, or the upcoming campaign, and then hesitates, looking at us nervously until we assure them of our own libertarian/conservative Tea Party leanings. This happened most recently last weekend, during a venture into the Hill Country, and a stop in a small shop featuring vintage Americana. The place was empty, and the owner was probably very bored, when Blondie and I wandered in. Soon we were comparing our favorite episodes of American Restoration, mutual in our wish that they would show more of the actual nuts and bolts of the restoral job, instead of the manufactured interpersonal drama. Then Blondie mentioned a similar show – Abandoned, which features a couple of guys spelunking through abandoned buildings, looking for stuff they can refurbish, refinish, or repair and sell at a profit. I said how I thought it was just tragic, these factories and churches like the early 19th century neo-gothic monument in Philadelphia featured on a recent show were just left to ruin, where once they had been the pride of the cities and towns where they were located. In the 19th century and early 20th, people had spent good money to build solidly and well, had manufactured good and useful things, paid wages … and now, it was all left to rack and ruin, and the rag-pickers, raking through the ruins looking for something to sell. The shop owner sympathized, and made a remark about eastern and rust-belt cities which the political leadership had essentially trashed … and then he got a very nervous look on his face, obviously fearing that he had said too much and possibly to the wrong people. Until we assured him that we were Tea Partiers from way back. And then we had a nice conversation, speculating on the eventual outcome of the various campaigns … and really, that is why I wish there were some kind of secret handshake or signal that we could give, so we know right off the bat when it is OK to risk being open about political leanings.

(Cross posted at

23 thoughts on “In This Election Year I Wish”

  1. Wait, you’re not one of those crazy, tea bagger haters, are you? ha ha ha

    Actually, the feeling you describe has a clinical name: Jewish Republican Family-Reunion Syndrome (JRFRS)


  2. Here in South Dakota we hum “Tea for Two”. Sometimes we attract some scruffy hippy types who alway turn out to be heavily armed DEA agents.

    Friends of mine who managed to leave Russia say that it was like this in Russia, too.

  3. Sgt – you enjoy history – and we all see things relevant to the prism of our own experience – do you think this country is as polarized as Vietnam? The Civil War?

    Personally I think it is somewhere between the 2.

    In both cases it would be unusual for one to change his side after hearing a reasoned argument.

  4. I remember the Vietnam era pretty well; the polarization today is much worse – on bad days when I go snorkling around places like my old Open Salon digs, I am convinced we are getting real close to Civil War levels of polarization. I read such vile comments from people whom I thought would have known better, or at least extended some shreds of courtesy, and all I can do is shake my head. I don’t want to argue with those people any more … and I certainly don’t want to get into it with neighbors.

    There is an increasing number of people who are just a thin whisker from getting seriously violent now. There already has been an undercurrent of violence in the last year or so. Look at the stories reported here and there of flash-mobs and feral inner-city youths beating up random white people. Those so-called anarchists at an Army base in Georgia, who collected arms and bomb components – they actually killed another former soldier and the soldier’s girlfriend, so they were taking their plot pretty seriously. I think the hurricane roaring through pretty well dampened a lot of plans to disrupt the GOP convention, which is a good thing.

  5. I understand your point – I don’t want to argue and I don’t want to pretend. And I remember ’68 in Chciago and it wasn’t pretty.

    It is beginning to resemble the way Eastern Europeans described their lives but that’s pretty weak of me – I am less afraid of the government than confrontation. (Of course, my husband & I are at the end of our careers; we might not be so sanguine if we weren’t. And the next election may lead to greater fears – Gibson’s and other examples don’t bode well.)

    But when we aren’t honest, ideas aren’t aired. I do not want to become a society that enjoys the deadly irony of those middle Europeans all that much. The fact my children are attracted to it bothers me sometimes – it is a despairing cynicism and an irony only uttered when you are safe that dominated their art before 1990 – and to some extent it had seeped into the bones of their aesthetic and remains today. I really don’t like it. But I’ve narrowed our circle; I look around and say, do I need that hassle?

    Once, people complained about Joe McCarthy and my parents’ friend, a Cuban refugee psychiatrist, spoke to a gathering in our house about the problems with communism as did the Latvian in the dorm. We were about as tiny and backwater as you could imagine – but my parents’ acquaintances included a John Bircher and friends included a guy who thought of himself as anarchist (the first wasn’t completely sane and the latter seldom sober). My parents were a bit more expansive than most but, well, that was what people often describe as the narrow 50’s. Civility, respect for one another prevailed. What I think the left doesn’t realize was that it was also a time when people were interested in big ideas – and their consequences. We lost that easy merging of the mundane and the philosophical, we also lost the ability to negotiate moments of disagreement.

    Our country has always been like this to some extent, but now I feel the vitriol is one-sided. We went to D’Souza’s film last weekend and the audience was muted; the response appears to be sadness – at his childhood, the emptiness of his vision. That he is a disaster and that these beliefs were a disaster waiting to happen is one thing. But I don’t see the violent images, the vitriol that seems to come from the left & is personal – its unhinged inability to understand, let alone respect, a mind, an accent, a value system different from theirs. Haidt quantifies it; my mind can understand, but the poverty of the left’s current vision is more sad than enraging. Of course, if another four years means that that vision has won the minds and hearts of this country, I think despair is in order.

  6. You are so polarized you cannot talk? Perhaps a well armed confrontational society is not the best way forward.

    Cooperation is communism now so I guess there is no hope.

    Excellent. Now we will have a nice economic crash just to sweeten the experience.

  7. Sgt – I see what you are saying – but then people are just more vulgar these days (well some) – look at random YouTube comments. Still when the Dept of Homeland “Security” is conducting exercises to deal with civil insurrection – something’s going on out there.

  8. Just a look at Mia Love’s Wikipedia page is enough to see where the hate is. She is the black, Mormon mayor of a Utah city and Congressional candidate. All mortal sins for one party.

  9. PenGun, I think Sgt. Mom is afraid to talk with some neighbours because of the perceived polarization of political positions, not because of herself. She isn’t saying she’s not ready to talk about different opinions: she’s scared by the supposed lack of will to comprehend and accept different ideas, values etc.
    Something I find way more scary as it would be the sign of a decisive tear in the – can’t say if you use this words in English – social fabric.

  10. “But on the back of his truck he has a home-made magnetic bumper sticker implying that the Tea Party in combination with the GOP equals the screwing of America.

    So there is one thing that we can never talk about, not without risking neighborly amity, and I just don’t want to take the risk.”

    But he has no such fear. And because of our civility and silence, we get painted as the haters who refuse to compromise.

    If we don’t fight back with words, bullets will be inevitable.

  11. That’s the thing, B Moe, Sejo and all. I have seen on line how otherwise reasonable and thoughtful people (at least I thought they were reasonable, thoughtful people) suddenly went rabidly, bats**t crazy at the sudden exposure of an opinion differing from theirs on certain matters. They went completely nasty, in the blink of an eye, and there was never any way to reason with them, or for me to retrieve the formerly good opinion I had of them.

    Confronting neighbors in the here and now and possibly having them go bats**t crazy on me is just something I can’t risk.

    So, yes – it is a little like Russia in the old days – carefully feeling out in conversation who it is safe to speak frankly with. Never thought it would come to this. My business partner is in her 80ies, and she says she has never had the feeling of having to walk on eggshells with friends and kin that she does now.

  12. The trouble is, as some have said, the “civility” only goes one way.

    Liberals/Leftists feel free to express the most vile opinions in the most rabid way.

    If a Conservative mildly mentions some small disagreement, the L/L turns on him/her, with passionate invective and personal scorn.

    It’s sad – some of those L/L are in one’s own family, even married to us.

    Kind of takes away the sharing of thoughts – ALL thoughts by a Conservative are NOT to be spoken.

    Or else.

  13. It is worthwhile thinking about what psychological reasons could be behind these extreme behaviors.

    I think in many cases, it’s about status anxiety. There are a lot of people who think their educational credentials (and in some cases also their family backgrounds) should entitle them to a much higher position in life than they have actually been able to achieve. They may use their “progressive” belief systems as psychological armor, helping to convince themselves of their superiority to the vast majority of other Americans.

  14. LindaF: Civility is expected from the weak and rare from the powerful. I see the one-way road from lefties to righties. But also the righties tend to be jerks to the libertarians. The true libertarians do tend to be jerks in their own right. What I have seen of the treatment of the Ron Paul faction by the GOP establishment is well beyond civil.

    Much of the RP faction is/was Republican. Just not mainstream enough, or in violation of one of those mysterious ideas that bring out an inner Mr Hyde.

    The only thing we have in abundance these days is anger. Civil war is coming.

  15. Some emails received by Glenn Reynolds contain the following lines:

    “I would ask that if you do anything with this, you do not associate my name with anything. It would pretty much destroy me professionally.”

    “You are so right to highlight this most disgusting fact of life in a country built on freedom. If you are Black, Hispanic, work in Hollywood, Journalism, Law or Academia you must hide your true beliefs or your life/job will be targeted. This is the real battle for the future.”

    “Identifying with conservative issues, and I’m not even talking social issues, is professional death in the non-profit world. So, please, if you use this, don’t use my name.”

    “I never saw any of my fellow conservatives berate, threaten or ridicule the liberals. No one was ever called names. We respect them, even though we disagree with them. My wife, on the other hand, works in a liberal profession. The few times she’s let her true feelings show, she’s been met with disdain, antipathy and outright disgust. She’s afraid to put a Romney sticker on her car for fear of it being vandalized in the employee parking lot.”

  16. It is worthwhile thinking about what psychological reasons could be behind these extreme behaviors.

    Intriguing question David – and related to that “political correctness” – an invention of the Left.

    One would think if the ideas have strong foundations they would be open to review.

    Maybe I just answered my question.

  17. Bill..”One would think if the ideas have strong foundations they would be open to review.”

    I think part of it is that many of these people have never had to seriously defend their ideas before, since they have interacted mainly with like-thinking people.

  18. David – which explains their nastiness and hostility (My best guess) – the New media, talk Radio – the speed of communications – these days a junior high school student can record a buffoonish teacher – put it up on YouTube or send it to Sean Hannidy – and the world knows.

  19. it is a little like Russia in the old days

    Two STASI agents are on overnight duty listening to the bugs in some enemy-of-the-people’s flat. But it’s night, the gentlemen is asleep so there’s nothing to do, really–and so they fall into conversation.

    Eventually talk turns to the government.

    Agent 1: “What do you think of our government?”

    Agent 2: “Well, the same as you, of course!”

    Agent 1: “Oh, then I’m sorry to say: it is my duty to arrest you!!”

  20. Depends on the approach you want. I figure that we are already in the Cold Civil War, and may well be in a hot one soon. I make my own political T-Shirts, and when seeing me you have to be pretty dense not to figure out which side I am on. Right now, I am wearing the classic red and black picture of Che Guevara, but Che is wearing an Obama “HOPE” T-shirt. The caption is “What would Che wear?”.

    The reason I do it is to make the concept of resistance to oppression common again. People see the shirts, and want to talk with someone on their side. Seeing public resistance to what the thought police would impose on us, emboldens others. And I realize that in the chaotic phase that will be the prelude to things going hot, my odds of survival are not good. But everyone has to do what they have to do.

    Subotai Bahadur

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