Sunday, August 28, 2011

I spent a few days away with family and friends. Needless to say, many are Republicans and worse yet, Tea Baggers.

I'm sure many of you can sympathize (empathize?) with this situation, looking to spend some R&R time away, visiting loved ones, catching up with old acquaintances, and yet knowing all the while the political leanings of those you will meet and that there's always the chance of something being said -- whether it be by them or you -- where if not handled delicately could domino into a full-blown squabble. On the one hand, you simply want to meet/greet/converse and keep things light, not because you want to but rather because you have to. Been there, done that, and past occurrences have dictated that's the way it has to be (unfortunately).

On the other hand, if something is said politically, you do not want to just let things go with a nod and grin, wanting instead to respond to whatever was said. Odds are it was something about Obama, or the deficit, or the woeful economy. Whatever was said, you know it was likely something paraphrased from FOX News and is either based on fiction or incorrect assumptions, or both.

Do you dare say something that undoubtedly will be perceived as "elitist" (code word for factually correct AND liberal-leaning)? Or do you just suck-it up, not wanting to risk having a brief statement mushroom into an ugly scene?

You never know which way things will go. Republicans and esp. Tea Baggers seemingly by nature harbor much inner-anger and are quick to jump all over you if they sense they're not discussing something with like-minded-thinking folks.

I have a tendency to try and go half way, perhaps injecting some facts into the dialogue (without mentioning sources up front since too often if you say NY Times or the like, it's immediately dismissed as leftist dogma), but stopping well short of giving a fleshed-out basis for my thoughts on the matter. I must say though that at times even this brief attempt at introducing something other that what Rush or Hannity might say does ignite some sparks. I must then make a quick decision: do I look to change the subject, if not for anyone else than for the sake of the kids if an argument ensued, or do I gingerly but forcefully rebuff the stoked-up incitement? Do I want to be another wet noodle? Another spineless liberal ala Harry Reid? Or do I do what Republicans and Tea Baggers do best, meet their intimidation and anger head-on with a dose of my own??

Again, for the sake of the kids, you want to avoid what could easily become an embarrassing spectacle. But also I am frequently outnumbered by this crowd and they appear to be fully aware of this and use it to full advantage, pressing their views while knowing they have numbers in bodies and can bully thanks to children being present.

Fortunately this time around, I was able to make some brief comments unscathed, deftly side-stepping any openings or possibilities for eruptions. Whew.

A relief, yes. But still it never ceases to amaze me the things I hear uttered by someone only to later hear something else said by the same person that contradicts or conflicts with what he or she said just a short time earlier.

For example, someone mentioned an article in the latest National Geographic magazine that informs of the women in Brazil having fewer babies thanks to their educating themselves about birth control alternatives. This person felt the article was very interesting and understood that in part Brazil's success over the last several years is due to their population becoming more developed and progressive in their thinking. However, this person is very much against abortion, actually he's against all forms of birth control, and also has a personal situation involving a teen pregnancy -- will leave at that, but I don't believe it was lost on him that education and birth control could have prevented that teen pregnancy.

Conflicting logic and dare I say hypocrisy is the norm when one is with Republicans and Tea Baggers. Yet as I mentioned, it's always amazing to observe their lack of realizing or acknowledging these many conflicts, that they live their day-to-day lives with so much incongruence, denial and (willful?) blindness.

Some other examples of topics that surfaced which I either elected to briefly offer comments and keep fingers crossed heated debate didn't follow, or I just let it go without comment (have to conserve energy, can't risk entanglement at every turn):
* Weather. Irene was obviously a subject of discussion, but so also was the torrential rains this summer coupled with parts of the country experiencing consecutive days of excruciating heat (e.g. Austin had 70 straight days of 100+ degree heat). You'd think maybe climate change would receive a mention as a possible factor in all of this -- nope. Instead, the usual babble about how weather is cyclical, this admittedly strange weather is no different than times in the past, it's just Mother Nature "getting angry", etc. Please. I did state that in fact the trends are not cyclical, that the charts all show the direction of heat and CO2 heading in one direction: up. Cyclical infers an up/down pattern -- over time, it's just not there. I also asked my favorite question, "where do you think the CO2 and pollutants go, into outer space?" and as per usual, never received a response.

* Riots in Philadelphia. I heard accolades given to the mayor of Philly, saying finally that city gets a good mayor, tough on "hoodlums" and enforcing curfews. I didn't think establishing something close to martial law in a U.S. city was a good thing, and was certainly a worrisome development to say the least, not so much warranting congrats to one individual but rather demanding analysis. Why is this happening? What are the root causes and how can those be addressed? I had to remind it's not likely just a coincidence that similar riots had been occurring elsewhere in the world (London, Chile, Egypt, Libya, etc.). The non-rich and non-elite are growing increasingly weary and frustrated with the state of things, whether it be high unemployment, rising food prices, ballooning wealth disparity, entrenched corruption, to name a few. People are getting pissed. Extending unemployment insurance is not just the right thing to do, it may also help to prevent further civil unrest -- but the GOP and Tea Baggers are too short-sighted to recognize such an act as a wise "investment."

* Stock portfolios. There was much chatter about the stock market. Will it go up from here or continue to go down? Do I have too much in stocks? Should I buy gold? Any advice?? No mention about how the stock market began its descent right after the Tea Party debt ceiling victory, effectively initiating a massive austerity program which leaves the economy sputtering on its own, with the government in a fiscal straight-jacket, not able to help. The stock market decline simply reflected the fragile state of the economy but more so it being sent out alone on the high-wire with no balance pole, no net, no nothing. S&P literally stated their downgrade was due largely to the Tea Party hostage-taking maneuver, and according to Sen. Mitch McConnell it will be used repeatedly in future. Heck, even Bernanke strongly hinted that the economy could use more help than just what the Fed could offer in monetary cures. But all of this was lost on this Tea Party crowd, who simply wanted to blame Obama, period.

* Libya/Gaddafi. Much grousing about why are we there at all. Oh boy. So it's OK for GW/Cheney to invade another oil-rich country that had nothing to do with 9/11, spending over $1 trillion to do so, using "shock and awe" methods to both scare and impress the world, and heavily reward a company called Halliburton -- and yet it's not OK for Obama to spend very little regarding Libya, doing so quietly, and obviously getting good results...? Gads, I just let this one go....
You get the point. It went on and on over several days. Some retired folks who were proud government workers for many years (decades), and yet recited more than a few anti-government GOP talking points. Mind you these same people had stated they loved their Medicare (when I asked) and even enrolled their name/address/phone# on a government website to receive robo-calls about Irene. I even heard one person seemingly slip up and tell me that in his town children attending a Catholic school receive busing to that school on the town's dime, via the public school bus system. I asked how could this be, why should the local public there pay for transportation to a non-public school -- never received a coherent answer.

As much as I love vacations and seeing family and friends, this aspect of the visit never changes and serves to spoil what should be an enjoyable time. I have no problem with differences of opinions, as long as the arguments involved are based on facts, reason, logic and non-conflicting beliefs. As you can see, rarely do I encounter any of this. A shame.


Moe said...

Condolences,I've been there. Mine is/was a family that loved boistrous roiling political argument. It was something of a hobby and we had a wondeful time with it - for decades. I have one brother who was always odd man out as he was somewhat conservative, but that made it all the more fun.

And then came Rush Limbaugh and he taught my brother that we are the 'enemy'. Everything changed. Tensions appeared. It got personal. And finally we had to watch ever word and it just wasn't fun any more hanging out together.

Indeed, it was a tragedy. A morbidly obese, four times married college dropout broke up our happy times. And he's proud of it no doubt.

I blame Rush for a great deal of today's 'tribalism.'

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