How to survive your minority viewpoint
May 5, 2010 —
I can understand there’s some anger and disappointment out there from Eagle County’s right, and it’s not surprising that the more extreme the right-winger, the greater the spitfire and vitriol.
After all, Democrats have taken over the White House, both houses of Congress, the Colorado State Assembly, the state governorship, both of Colorado’s U.S. senate seats, the Eagle County board of commissioners, and all of Eagle County’s state and U.S. Congressional seats.
Eagle County is purple, but it’s got nearly all-blue representation, and it’s seriously grating on some of my good friends and family members. I see tremendous, seething frustration. In a very literal sense, I see red-faced anger, hunched shoulders, red-veined eyes, fists clenched so tight they look like they’re going to burst.
Not every right-minded individual is in this state, but there are a few wing-nuts out there who are have lost the ability to listen to counter-points, gather information, or provide sensible retorts to their opposition. They read the first paragraph of a column on a website and prematurely fire off a comment labeling the author (and sometimes the entire publication) as left-wing, as if that statement alone defies the facts and reason which supported the author’s point.
Now, before these very self-same, angrified righties fire off a comment in disgust, let me make a critical point: the blind rage happens on the left, too. It happens on the left, right, up, down and center of America and right here in our mountain towns. It happens in politics, it happens in life. It’s happened to me before, and I bet it’s happened to you, the reader, somewhere along the line.
It’s not a good feeling. It raises blood pressure, is generally unhealthy, and it’s annoying to the people around you and the community you live in. No one wants you around when you’re acting like that.
Our community isn’t getting angrier, but the angry are getting louder. Red-faced shout-downs are the order of the day. The fine art of discussion is completely lost. Interlocution, the dialectic, whatever you like to call it – the process of exchanging information, or learning from one another, which I believe is critical for a functioning democracy, is fatally undermined.
Especially in a small town (are we still a small town?) we need to learn to listen to one another – even if we disagree.
To kick it off, I’ll be the first to say that the so-called right has some valid points. They’re not crazy. There is a belief system at work here which can appear logical and cohesive, even though in my view it’s largely wrong.
Take, for example, the movement afoot to impose federal regulation on our diets. Salty or fatty foods would be prohibited, or highly taxed. This is an absurd proposal from the left, out of step with other developments in the food and drug arena. Is it really the case that people can legally sell marijuana, but not deep-fried chicken wings?
It’s this kind of over-regulation that puts a bad taste in a right-wing mouth (and all sensible mouths, I should think). But there are some who take this kind of news and go overboard with it.
I have been told, for example, that Obama and the Democrats are going to effectively kill small business, raise taxes for all, expand the deficit, cripple the economy with regulation, destroy health care, grow the size and power of the federal government, interfere with our lives in general, take our money and give it to the poor, and ruin America’s status internationally. Our children, I am told, will have to move to other countries to find work.
If all that is true, it’s no wonder people are upset.
However it’s not all true, and it’s not all that simple. There are some interesting debates and discussions to have about any of the topics above. Unfortunately, there’s usually a red-faced numbskull shouting everyone down, so no decent conversation can take place.
Again, it comes from the left and right, up down and center. I have friends who were apoplectic with anti-American fervor when we invaded Iraq. Others were outraged at the Supreme Court’s recent decision that corporations have some of the same rights as individuals.
All of us have felt it before: in politics, at work, in family relations – you name it. Some have learned to get over it. Those who haven’t need to chillax. Yes, I said it: CHILLAX. Move past the red-hot blinding anger, learn to listen, and you’re likely going to learn something from the opposition. This will make you a wiser, more well informed person and, if you like, better prepared for your next political debate.
There’s no such thing as someone who’s always wrong, and there’s no such thing as someone who’s always right – and that includes all of us. It even – no, especially – includes the political parties.
So, take a deep breath, steel your courage, and next time you find yourself in an argument with someone, find one thing (ONE thing!) that you can agree with them on, and I guarantee it’ll make you feel better, cool down the jets a bit.
If you’re up for it, try to admit there is one thing (ONE thing!) you’re wrong about, or that you don’t positively know the answer to.
From there you ought to be able to have a much more civil conversation, and in the meantime you’ll spare us all the lamentable experience of watching you self-destruct from the inside out, often times in public.
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