I have heard the phrase repeated to me a few times by stunned liberals…”I don’t understand it, you’re a Conservative, but I still find I like you…”
Last week my best pal, who works within the public school system, encountered the same remark from a Social Studies teacher – “I shouldn’t like you; you’re a conservative. And yet, I do like you a lot.”
My pal was taken aback. “He ‘shouldn’t’ like me because I’m a conservative? What sort of bigotry is that? No one would ever dream of saying, ‘I shouldn’t like you; you’re black, or I shouldn’t like you, you’re French’- what a sad way to live. Whatever happened to judging people on the content of their character, not on the externals of gender, race, or IDEOLOGY? ‘I like you even though you’re a conservative!‘” she fumed, “that’s like saying, ‘if the fascists ever come for you, I’ll hide you in my attic because you’re one of the good ones – you know, just like Archie Bunker occassionally liked a ‘good’ black person!”
After the rant she calmed down a bit and got philosophical. “I was glad I made his list of admirable people, but I was also a little annoyed that the folks who never stop preaching about ‘tolerance’ are so embedded in their bigotry they cannot even see how they come off. But I guess it’s the same on both sides, when it comes to the extremists. I’m sure there are conservatives out there who would be stunned to find themselves actually ‘liking’ a liberal. But, you know, I blame the Clintons for this. Things were never this bad until they got into office.”
My pal is more of a centrist than I am, and she is usually quicker to give someone the benefit of a doubt, but I thought her rant was justified, and her conclusion right-on. I’d been a Democrat and a liberal all my life and never heard Republicans described, in my family or in my neighborhood, or by my fellow Dems as “evil” until the Clinton campaign of 1992, where all of a sudden right and left no longer denoted differences of opinion, but became absolute, moral judgments. Suddenly, if one did not believe what you believed one was not simply in disagreement, one was “evil.”
I remember the exact moment I knew I could not vote for Al Gore in the 2000 campaign. Beyond his annoying personal manner during all three debates (I still laugh to think of how he seemed to approach Bush threateningly at the “townhall” debate and Dubya just looked at him, said “how ya doin’?’ and walked on) I knew I could not pull the lever for him when he, working a crowd, sweating up a shirt and panting cried out, “this is not just an election, this is a battle between good and evil!”
As time has past, I have come to think perhaps Gore was on to something. But his idea of what defines evil is very different from mine. At the time I was simply appalled at his mad over-the-top rhetoric, and the Democrat party to which I devoted years of money and service has simply seemed, since that time, ever more mad.
I’m no fan of Ann Coulter, I find her just too abrasive – so much so that she undercuts her own points – but just because she’s not my cuppa doesn’t mean she should be subjected to a shutting down of her right to free speech and the hysteria and venom we see unleashed toward her in this video. Funny, I never see the Bushhitler-supporting “nazis” on the right do this to people, but on the left we’re constantly seeing people throw pies (or salad dressing) at a conservative who is trying to speak. A black conservative will have Oreos thrown at him for daring to be a Republican. In the 2004 election, Democrats slashed Republican tires to keep people from voting, or invaded local Republican election offices. It is in the “liberal” districts that we find 105% turnouts, or polls opened “late” or graveyards full of voters. Good heavens, in Washington State, the sitting Democrat Governor got there via a close election during which recount after recount of “found votes” after “found votes” were performed.
To be clear – there are extremists and bigots on both sides, and it is easy to fall into the trap of simply seeing people as “liberals” or “conservatives” and then judging them against the reigning template – but it is never pretty to see folks succumb to it (and I admit, I’ve fallen, too, from time to time). And when you’ve reached the point where you cannot conceive of possibly liking someone simply because of their ideology – then you have reached the danger point, the point where you have stopped seeing someone as a human being worthy of respect and regard and basic liberties. You have reached what another friend once called “The Clintonian Core of Certitude.” The one that says that politically, there is only one correct way to think, dissenting thought is “evil.”
My friend and I should not have to put up with being condescended to as “the rare, ‘good’ Conservatives” any more than any black person should have to tolerate being told he or she is a “good” black. Any more than any woman should have to hear she is smart, “for a woman.” Any more than any gay guy should have to hear he’s a good person, “for a queer.” Any more than any liberal should have to hear they are likable “for a liberal.”
And no one should have to put up with feeling unsafe because they are working on a political campaign. And no one invited to speak at a college – especially at college – those so-called bastions of “free thought” only to be shouted down.
And you should not become a pariah in your party simply because you agree with the president. That’s not how “free thinking” people are supposed to behave. At least not as I was taught it.
Really, it’s pretty basic. We’re supposed to treat others as we would like to be treated.
See also: Cooper’s kids are alright – are Roves?