Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Slow Propaganda

It's amazing to consider that the only damned thing in the world that everyone agrees on is that none of us can do each other any good.

Sometimes I wonder what I am doing here.  I could put a slogan on it:  Fighting the Good Fight.  But I don't go around looking for fights, and when I see one, I find somewhere else to be.  This is more like waking up on the other team's bench, in their uniform, and just hoping like hell that the coach doesn't put you in the game.

"I'm not even on your team, guys."
"Everyone over here is on our team."

I kind of live right in the middle of it now.  I hear the things people say when they think I'm out of earshot. They're talking about me, and saying everything about themselves.  "Conservatives." Said as though you should already know every horrible thing it means, because everyone does.  In this place it is common for people to assume that there are no conservatives within earshot, and commonly they are correct.  It's just a numbers thing.  But I live here, and my kids play with their kids, and they know what I am, and I'm not going anywhere.  Although I find it nearly impossible to understand people without becoming incredibly cynical, it is entirely too defeatist to think that there isn't something better that I can do.

The fact is that I don't think it is horrible that they don't like conservatives. All these people, by the way, who are walking around, living cavalierly under the most insouciantly stupid internet tenet on planet Earth - that you can insult someone's ideas without insulting the person - would do well to grab a handful of honesty and admit that they simply do not like each other.  But to the point:  No, I don't think it is horrible that they don't like conservatives (and of course vice versa, but for simplicity...).  I think it is very  unfortunate and completely unnecessary, and I'd like to work on that a little bit.  But in a world where half the population sees a gun shop not simply as a place that sells something they don't want to buy, but as a congregation for the culturally retarded; or that sees a Church not simply as a place that also sells something they don't want to buy, but as a congregation for child molesters and bigots, working on the relationship is a stentorian undertaking.

So many wrong things are embraced for the sake of a little acceptance.

Of course I have an internet, so I know the obvious response from anyone in my position:  Fight. Don't let them get away with it.  Speak up.  Fight, fight, fight.  Wonderful.  You keep taking the easy way out.  I don't want to beat any of these people. They aren't my enemies. Besides, one thing that I and the internet completely agree on is that you cannot talk about it.  Once your core disagreement has been put out in the open, you're marked in each other's consciences.  You can pretend that civility equals friendliness - or in the most gloriously circular condescension, that friendliness equals friendship - but you know the earth is salted there now.  Which is why I need to do something different.  And not just for me, but for my children.  They could fix everything someday, as I wrote before:

 I can’t imagine a life with my daughter if, even after these scant four years, she had a dour, bitter, angry father. Would she ever smile at anything other than someone else’s misfortune? I count myself as blessed that I do not know. We laugh and we make light of injury, but we are honest, too, about unpleasant things when they come up. They come up rarely with a four year old. Most of them are still of her own making, and it is the unfortunate mark of mankind that she will eventually become collateral damage to the world’s unsavory appetites. She is still Eve, but she’s grasping the apple now, and using it to change the channel.

So if they don't get a second option, apart from this mocking devil of planted flags, battle lines, and no quarter for anything but the wishing well, they are lost.  They are condemned to personal exiles, flights towards either geographical isolation or social homogeneity.  I'm doggie-paddling around in the muck of some second option right now, and if I can't figure it out enough to get the handbook written before I die, I don't know who they'll be left to.

It's certainly a challenging situation.  I try to have faith in the good work of a slow propaganda.  It's accidental, and works the way all the best things work - because it is naturally good.  I never intended it, and that's why it should have a better chance.  For years now I've been what I think is a good person in the midst of all these people who despise my kind. Or at least say they do when they're comfortably together.   I would expect a little affinity with the enemy to erase some faulty suppositions - it has worked for me - but it doesn't seem to.  I can see why - if a shark swims around with seals for years on end without eating any of them, I wouldn't fault the seals for remaining skeptical:

"Sure, this guy is ok, but you know the rest of them still want to have you for breakfast."

But the problem here is that it's more like a seal who finds himself swimming frightened in the middle of a shiver of sharks, lucky for the time being that for some damn reason, they think you're the dangerous one. Nobody's killed you yet, but the whole society is going to die where that denial of reality exists.  The intellectual food chain is in complete disarray, leaving the prospect of honest education somewhere in the chum bucket. Just about the only thing you can hope for is that when everyone comes around to realizing what's going on, you all feel so damn silly about it that you try to make things right.  If you just devour the seal, you haven't gotten anywhere new.

A lot of the counsel out there would say that if there are friends that you could lose over something like this, then they're friends that you don't need anyway.  That's absurd. That's the effluvium of the reality TV shows and contests. The culture that is dead to the irony of pronouncing that "I'm not here to make friends" in order to make just the right ones.  It's in our entertainment, it's in our workplaces, and it's in our political conventions.  I'd rather not find it in our dinner parties and picnics, but it's there, too.  How do you keep from being one of the friends they're not here to make, without giving up?  How do you help everyone? Because nobody should be losing any friends over this.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting and thought-provoking take on the situation, Andy. I have liberal friends, mostly those folks who knew-me-when... "when" being when I was left of center myself. They're accepting of my conversion, and my ideas, for the most part. And then there's the case of my ex-wife, who went the other way. She's a former conservative Catholic woman who's morphed into a stereotypical academic liberal and I DO mean stereotypical. That woman and I just cannot get along and I really have no idea how much of our disagreement is philosophical and how much is baggage from Former Happy Days. I've tried to meet the woman half way, really, rilly TRIED, but everything I know, do, and say is wrong. I've given up.

    As you've noted: it's a sad state of affairs. I keep hoping things will get better but in my heart I'm almost certain they will not.