Let’s Not Talk At All


What Nate and Rick are onto explains why a lot of us are going to have to strap on our dance shoes and tip-toe through the holiday season. Because anyone who has a “mixed” family (Democrats and Republican base voters) knows, conservatives in families usually have license to rant and carry on and even pick on liberals, but it’s considered impolite if not scandalous for liberals to push back.


Of course, a lot of the double standard depends on other patriarchal double standards—family conservatives tend to be older and more male than family liberals, and thus they are permitted to have the floor and even harangue other family members without being resisted.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve said, “Let’s not talk about politics” and had it met with evenmore offensive bullshit than whatever offensive bullshit provoked my demur in the first place. Far as I’m concerned, you get warned off the subject twice, and if you persist, you deserve the mental and verbal ass-kicking you receive. You’re a grownup, talking to another grownup, you want to be rude ain’t my place to stop you but you’d better bring your A-game.

And most of them don’t:

They can’t get around the fact that you’re right, but they can’t change their mind, either, so they’re stuck. It’s really evocative of being provoked to argue religion with a believer who wants to know why you’re an atheist. I far prefer to drag that battle into a forum that’s public, instead of in a personal, face-to-face conversation where your advantages make you feel like a show-off asshole.

Which position, while admirable and nicer than mine, assumes that being a show-off asshole is something you’re not assumed to be anyway by whatever rude mouthbreather you’re arguing with, by virtue of all that book-learning and reading and shit that you do. As usual, my position is that if you’re gonna get tarred you might as well slap some feathers on top because there’s no reason not to. I don’t know if it’s getting older or what but I’m finally starting to lose my patience with being talked to like I’m five, and my new’s years resolution is to stop feeling like I should apologize for living to assholes who cannot take a hint.

This is not a particularly new or newsworthy problem; the mystery to me is why on earth anybody still thinks it’s a good idea to taunt the liberal (or conservative, let’s be honest) at the party. At some point we have lost the concept of fucking polite behavior. We need to dig up Edith Wharton and have her zombie-fied so she can explain to us how this shit works in a society where we cut our food up before we eat it. She’d glove-slap half the people on this planet, I swear to God.

Sometimes I think we stray into these controversial topics is that we have a hard time communicating, people in general, and you might not know this from watching me here but I’m actually not in my element in a large loud party of people I only kinda know, so I resort to asking a billion questions so I don’t have to talk. I think in many cases all the years I spent reporting are a great help here, because that’s basically talking to strangers about the things they care about, so you learn very quickly how to make somebody feel comfortable and important and how to learn all about them, but that’s not something that comes naturally to everybody, andgod damn sometimes it is a lot of work. Which is how I spent Christmas afternoon last year watching Super Bad with Mr. A’s teenage cousins upstairs.


9 thoughts on “Let’s Not Talk At All

  1. I was going to have a nice, peaceful Thanksgiving, just me and Mr. L. Now, I’m gonna have a houseful – including my mainlines-Rush-and-O’Reilly father-in-law that I’m not sure is still speaking to me. It had to do with this e-mail I sent him in response to his upteenth chain mail spewing bullshit about Obama and democrats – where I basically told him, this is embarrassing. It’s so obviously false, and you pass it on, and it’s embarrassing and it makes you look foolish and don’t send them to me any longer, because it hurts me to see you looking this stupid. He stopped – but like I said, I don’t think he’s speaking to me.
    I was looking forward to it – now, I just want it over with.

  2. Athenae and I have had this conversation before. In 2005!
    It’s like seeing the video tapes of the Christmas movies from 1998. I’m doing the same jokes 10 years later! The same issues come up because some people haven’t learned.
    I too wrote about this topic in 2005. I gave some concrete tips, but to be honest I don’t like to “go there” either. This post assumes that we CAN argue and “win” the conversation. When I come across the one player who pushes all my buttons I lose all the strategies and arguments. It’s irrational, but with a word he can bring back 45 years of taunting and history.
    One thing that I realized before my Dad died was that I got mad at my parents because of them listening to Rush and believing in Bush. But they didn’t do it all on their own. They were subjected to highly sophisticated propaganda techniques. Now, granted, the often CHOOSE to listen, but not all of us are gifted with critical thinking skills. My parents paid for me to go to Star Fleet so that I could learn logic. They belonged to a Church where I learned ethics. And they exposed me to people who showed me both logic and ethics in the real world.
    I don’t want to be mad at my parents because they were parroting Rush.
    I want them to see that Rush was appealing to their WORST possible self, a self centered cruel person who cares little for their fellow man. That is not who they really are. Rush was giving them reasons to attack their fellow Americans who often happened to be their own children. By demonizing “the liberals” they were demonizing their own flesh and blood. And what were the “sins” of their own flesh and blood?

    That we cared for others?
    That we didn’t want people to be killed?
    That we wanted more people to have health care?
    That we believed in the constitution and thought it was a bad thing to support people who ignored it?

    They weren’t blameless, they could have sought out other information that was more in line with principles that actually matched true values of real Christians. Sadly crappy Christians and cruel conservatives were in their face as providers of “values” and “entertainment” 24/7.
    We talk a lot about how the media provide narratives, but regular people look to the church and entertainers like Rush to provide them with narratives of their own lives. Narratives where they are righteous, brave and “Great Americans”
    When they aren’t pulling themselves up from their bootstraps they are being held down with the burden of the government. “The Rich White Man’s Burden”
    What a great narrative! They are not cruel and mean and haters. Those OTHER people are. They are clean and hard working, not like those dirty smelly lazy hippies.
    Maybe this is all obvious to everyone and I’m just articulating this now, but when we listen to Rush and Hannity we mostly hear the second part, the “those hippies are bad” part. But with Rush there is also the “You are a GOOD person” part.
    With Hannity there is the “You are A GREAT American” part. That is the part that they like the best. They can feel good about themselves. Then they are also given permission to bring out their inner Archie Bunker. In real Christianity that part is challenged by Jesus.
    Jesus doesn’t say we are good and they are bad, he says, “Love that other person, like you love yourself.’ And, “It’s easy to love the person like you, but anyone can do that. Can you love the person who ISN’T like you? That is what you need to do. (Look at the Samaritan as compared to the others.)
    Anne Lamott says “You know you have created God in your own image when He hates all the same people you do.”
    I can perhaps see beyond the hate that Rush and his crowd has whipped up for them against the gays, liberals, hippies, democrats and people of other religions.
    I’m glad that I had this insight a month before my dad died. I just wish that THEY had also had this insight. Luckily my dad had a bit of it too. Does this mean that I’ll have to be the one who is looking for common ground? Yes. Will my annoyance and anger go away? No. I’m only (half)human. But I think that I’ll take my annoyance and anger and direct it to the people who consider it their JOB to turn Americans again Americans for sport and entertainment. They are crying now that the left will try and silence them. That isn’t going to happen because there is 24 percent of the people in the country who NEED them just like 24 percent of Americans are into other sick things.
    But Rush and their ilk don’t have to be rich, they don’t have to be respected. Just like we as a nation have moved beyond treating humans like slaves and racism is not acceptable by good people, so too do the beliefs of the RW Bush conservatives need to become discredited.
    The Republicans and conservatives had it all. 90 percent of Americans after 9/11 said, “Go. Do the right thing.” and they pissed it away because that wasn’t enough. They still had to attack us even after we said, “We trust you.” Why? Because they are cruel and insecure. They saw our trust as weakness and they didn’t know how to handle the trust so they mocked us for it. And then they fraked it all up. And now after it is all fraked up they still can’t accept that they broke the toy. They have to say someone else broke the toy. And now we need to fix the toy fast or they are going to cry and tell mom.

  3. Aw, leinie, I’m sorry. I hope your FiL has the good sense to put family before politics, at least for a day. Elections come and go, but we still have to live with each other.
    We’re going to be at my Republican aunt’s. I was really working on her before the election, because I know she’s not happy about the fundie wing of the party. But her husband (he’s not my freakin’ uncle, okay? My uncle died, and I miss him. I tolerate this guy because my aunt loves him, and I love her.) is a cast-iron Rushbot, and I’m going to have a very hard time if he brings up politics. I’m not good about confrontation–I tend to sputter, then yell incomprehensible expletives like the dad in Christmas Story, and then (god help me) burst into tears. I really, really hate getting mad for that reason.
    And I really relate to your big crowds thing, A. I’m mildly claustrophobic, so close quarters stress me out. Meeting new people brings out the innate shyness in me, and I’ve never been particularly good at making conversation. So in big, strange groups, I tend to clam up and develop an intense interest in the potted plants. Mr. BuggyQ thrives in those situations–they feed him, where they drain me. I’ve gotten better at it over the years, but it still leaves me tired by the end, and I just want to go home and sit quietly for a long time.

  4. I am lucky in that the wingnuts in his party finally pushed my FIL into becoming a registered Independent that thinks like a conservative dem. He used to get great joy out of baiting me at family gatherings, but now we just get to enjoy each other’s company.
    It’s a great relief because I spent many years like Buggy – especially at gatherings with my side of the family – examining the houseplants and the china for fear of speaking up, and then when I finally did speak up I was the turd in the punchbowl: I was the one being uncivil for pointing out that my Dad making fun of the transgender attorney at the office was cruel, or that my brother’s outrage at having to share bathrooms with teh gays in his office (they might have AIDS!) was just thoughtless, hateful paranoia.
    What upsets me most is that politics affects all of us (especially now), the governmentis all of us, and yet somehow it’s impolite to discuss it when you’re with the people who matter most to you and who you would most hope would have your back if the chips were down.

  5. [[We need to dig up Edith Wharton and have her zombie-fied so she can explain to us how this shit works in a society where we cut our food up before we eat it. She’d glove-slap half the people on this planet]]
    Of course, Zombie Edith Wharton would then eat everybody’s brains instead of the turkey. Still: glove-slapping.

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