I was recently asked how I can live surrounded by conservatives when I am obviously liberal-minded. I hardly have to think about it to give an answer.
You have to realize that conservatives are people too. To begin with, I hope you didn’t look at the picture I started with and think, “He must think all conservatives are stupid and look like that.” The picture of Doofy Fuddbugg I used here is not about them. It is about me. This is the comedy face I wear when I am talking politics. You live a life filled with economic, physical, and emotional pain like I have, you have a tendency to wear a mask that makes you, at the very least, happy on the outside. People talk to me all the time, but not because I seek them out. In social situations, I am not a bee, I’m a flower. And because of my sense of humor, people feel comfortable seeking me out and telling me about their pain and anger and hurt to the point that they eventually reach the totally mistaken conclusion that I have wisdom to share.
I hear lots of detailed complaints from my conservative friends in both Iowa and Texas. I know what they fear and what makes them angry. Here are a few of the key things;
- The world is no longer very much like the world I grew up in, and the changes make me afraid.
- I have worked hard all my life. I’m still working hard. For my father and mother that led to success and fulfillment. For me it leads to a debt burden that’s hard to manage, and I am having to work hard for the rest of my life because of it.
- I’m not getting what I deserve out of life, and someone is to blame for that. But who? Minorities and immigrants seem to be getting ahead and getting whatever they want more than they ever used to. It must be them.
- Liberals are all alike. They want to tax and spend. They don’t care about the consequences of trying out their high-fallutin’ ideas. And they want me to pay for it all while they laugh at me and call me stupid and call me a racist.
- I am angry now, as angry as I have ever been in my life. And someone has to hear me and feel my wrath. Who better than these danged liberals? And I can do that by voting in Trump. Sure, I know how miserable he is as a human being, but he will make them suffer and pay.
I have always understood these feelings because I began hearing them repeatedly since the 1980’s. They are like a fire-cracker with a very short fuse, these ideas conservatives live with. And certain words you say to them are like matches. They will set off, not just one, but all of the fireworks.
So, here is how I talk to conservatives.
- Never treat them as stupid people. Conservatives are sometimes just as smart as I am, if not smarter. I complement them on what they say that I think is a really good idea. I point out areas of agreement whenever possible, even if they are rare sometimes.
- I defend what I believe in, but I try to understand what they believe and why.
- I am open about the doubts and questioning I have about my own positions on things, encouraging them to do the same.
- I always try to remember that we really have more in common than we have differences. I try to point that out frequently too. This point in particular helps them to think of me as being smarter than I really am.
- And if I haven’t convinced them that I am right, which, admittedly is impossible, that doesn’t mean I have lost the argument. In fact, if I have made them feel good about actually listening calmly to a liberal point of view and then rejecting it as total liberal claptrap, I win, because I have been listened to.