Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take this any more!

I think I'm losing my ability to stay on the sidelines in political discussions and put up with bullshit.

I go to a networking group breakfast meeting every Wednesday and have done so for 9 years. It consists of small business owners, a realtor, an insurance agent, etc. Early on in my business, it was very useful for increasing my client base. I'd already decided to leave the group for several reasons nothing to do with politics. My son is starting back up to school soon and with my wife using the scooter to commute, there is no way she can take him to school. Our meetings happen right when I would be taking him to school. So, I get the job of taking him. That's OK. My son is a lot more important that a networking meeting. Besides, my business is so self-sustaining, that I've really outgrown the need for such a group. But, with the way recent discussions seem to be leaning, and with a contentious election impending, I feel more and more possible political conflicts will happen during the meeting and I'm not anxious for that to happen. While it's not my reason for exiting, it's something that cinches my decision.

The mortgage lady in our group was giving a talk today and had started to broach that line into political advocacy instead of giving us information about her business. She said that it was really important who we voted for. It was about to go to the next level when another person in the group asked her which candidate would be the best, in her opinion, on a mortgage issue she was talking about. At that point, I saw things going downhill quick and I feared we would hit a point of no return, so I said, "Don't even go there." And, thankfully, she didn't. I have been in this group for 9 years and we've coexisted great because we are all enthusiastic about our businesses and do our businesses well. And because we had never discussed politics, save some oblique references. If that hadn't been the case, I would not have stayed in, as I know that I'm probably one of only 2 or 3 progressives in the group (of 16).

I was beginning to sense a change last week when I had given a talk on the sustainability of computers. The presentation was relevant in both a business and topical sense (see the main thrust of my talk here). The aforementioned mortgage lady had twice given smart remarks during my talk disparaging Al Gore (whom I had not mentioned), and "carbon footprint" (something else that I hadn't mentioned). My talk was not political. I didn't say where I got the quiz from. I didn't talk about candidates or who to vote for. I didn't criticize existing politicians. I merely talked about ways in which each of us could save energy and money. But, as most Republicans do, she made it into one by assuming anything to do with the environment implied "liberals". I didn't choose to engage her in a discussion then, but after this week's comments, I decided it was time to either tell her to stop or get into a full-on, knock-down, drag-out, discussion. Since I'm leaving in a week or so, I chose the former. But, believe me, if she goes there again next week, I'll go ahead and choose the latter. She works for Bank of America (who just acquired Countrywide) and she's worked for three mortgage companies of dubious origins before that. Add on to that the fact that she is advocating for a candidate whose main economic adviser, Phil Gramm, "wrote the Gramm-Bliley bill, an act broadly deregulating the financial industry -- and now blamed by many economists for the epidemic of speculation and fraud that has shaken the global economy." Many are calling him the architect of the mortgage crisis we are mired in.

Now I don't want to paint the whole group with the brush represented by this one lady. But from subtler comments over the years by others, I could discern their leanings. Too much of a push by a more vocal member might be enough to make each meeting into a right-wing talking point run-through. Not my idea of fun.

Another occasion happened at my first client after my meeting. It was an older gentleman and his wife. He's a retired police officer. They were kidding about the constant political e-mails that she was forwarding to him and was there a way he could block them. He commented how the two of them were going to be voting for different candidates for president. Being retired police, you would assume that he was the Republican, but actually, he's very liberal. He's been very active in committees that led to the light rail system now being built in Phoenix.

She started to say how she couldn't understand how anyone would vote for Obama, and I came back with, "I wouldn't vote for McCain for dog-catcher, let alone President". I continued saying I respected his service but he's an economic idiot, has no self control and is completely out of touch. And then, I immediately apologized saying that I was completely out of line and should never bring up politics inside someone's house when I was a guest (especially a client's house). Neither one of them was actually offended and the husband, I think, was actually very amused. I didn't actually bring up politics, I just responded.

I have no problem not bringing up politics in mixed environments. It's just that I'm slowly losing my ability to not respond in kind when others bring up politics and make fools of themselves.

I haven't really been talking about politics directly on my blog for awhile because the nomination process has very little to do with real issues like governance, the war, economics, etc. Besides, McCain is just much too easy of a target. I always thought W was a dream target, but he at least realizes how stupid he is and shields himself off from public speaking most of the time. McCain has no clue and puts his foot in his mouth on a daily basis.

I don't want to talk about politics. I want to talk about improving people's lives, improving the planet, studying the human condition. If I start talking about politics too much, it's because others make those issues into political ones. And I'm not doing anyone favors by not talking about it. As Plato said,

"Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber."


wunelle said...

Politics is one of those things--religion being the other--where unsolicited discussion (and even solicited) has such a high probability of going nowhere. It's a rare conversation where people really want to discuss and learn and have their views challenged. Most of us already know what we think, and someone's support of the candidate opposite to ours is incomprehensible to us.

Like you, I have more and more trouble keeping quiet when I hear these conservative rants; but I think it's because the people doing the indignant criticizing were never subjected to any liberal onslaught (contrary to the popular right wing view).

The political climate of the last decade--the time of Rush Limbaugh and Karl Rove and Dick Cheney and Newt Gingrich--has conservatives taking on a persecution complex where they see organized attempts to squelch their thinking in everything that doesn't advocate their narrow views. This is Fox Noise's idea of "balance": just let us tell our side of the story and we'll tell the other side with a snide spin and THAT's "balanced."

Well I've had enough of it.

Jewish Atheist said...

What happens to political minorities in communities with large political majorities?

"They shut up."

Laura said...

I honestly think that if Americans discussed politics and religion MORE in public that it would cease to be this big taboo. In Europe, people have political debates with perfect strangers for fun.

Our problem is that we take it too personally. Especially in this climate. Disagreement is painted as a personal attack rather than a differing opinion.

Sorry you're surrounded by these wonks.

dbackdad said...

Wunelle said, "... people doing the indignant criticizing were never subjected to any liberal onslaught." -- That's exactly it. Since AZ has been so prominently conservative for a long time, they seem genuinely surprised when someone has a contrary opinion. I do think the tide is turning here ... for several reasons: the influx of people moving in, especially from Cali; and from a disillusionment with the last 8 years by moderate Republicans.

Great article JA. I love this one, "... Surrounded by likeminded majorities, many Americans come to have inordinate confidence in their own opinions -- and a belief that their clear good sense is thwarted by ideological idiots who live...elsewhere."

Laura -- I agree. We should be able to discuss politics and religion without everybody taking so much offense. Europe has a distinct advantage in this department.

Jeff said...

I hate discussing politics with people unless I'm in a political science class. I majored in political science while in college, and whenever people hear that they want to get into a political discussion, asking what my views are and so on and so forth. I don't really like getting into it, because it always leads to useless conflict and arguments. I love learning about politics and the government, but I'd perfer not to discuss them with people, especially when it's not warranted.

CyberKitten said...

laura said: In Europe, people have political debates with perfect strangers for fun.

dbackdad said: We should be able to discuss politics and religion without everybody taking so much offense. Europe has a distinct advantage in this department.

True... Very true. We do tend to be very political over here. We're always arguing the toss over something or other. Of course on the Continent... Well, they're politics *mad* over there!

shrimplate said...

I'm fed up with all the right-wing bullshit and I can barely maintain my civility anymore, though under most circumstances I do.

Phoenix seems to have turned at least "purple," and AZ has at least a chance to pick up a couple House seats for the Dems this year. The Goldwater Republicans of course will hold their noses and vote Repub but their voter registrations lag Democratic ones. Reality may yet prevail electorily, but I am cautiously pessimistic as usual.

dbackdad said...

"cautiously pessimistic" -- I know the feeling. The last time I was cautiously optimistic was in 2004. I didn't think there was any possible way that people would be so stupid to reelect Bush ... and I was proven wrong. I have no reason to think people are any smarter now, but I hope to be proven wrong.