Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Bullheaded and Stupid

"Conservatives are bullheaded and stupid!" screeched M at the top of her lungs, from across the pub table, splashing her amber-coloured beer all over the freshly-fried calamari and nacho chips. Having just declared that D was the most conservative at the table, M realized her faux pas moments too late, and by then, we had already broken into nervous giggles and quickly tried to change the subject. How often have we liberals heard these words uttered during what we imagine are insider conversations, perhaps even uttered from our own lips? Frustrated at the Bush re-election, flabberghasted at the illogic of conservative standings on issues of domestic security, abortion, gay marriage and other charged issues, I think many of us have resorted to the kind of blanket condemnation that M voiced late last Friday evening. But it is exactly this kind of thinking that destroys the concept of free thinking and political choice in America. In politics, each side is convinced of its own unerring correctness. And though it is tempting to believe that one's own position is the only "right" position, statements like the one made by M are actually more harmful to the common good than one might originally imagine. M's words suggest that not only are all conservatives "bullheaded and stupid", but that conservatism itself is "bullheaded and stupid", i.e. that any rational human being would immediately realize that the liberal perspective was the "intelligent" perspective (and before you think I'm descending into hyperbole, M went on to explain just this point moments after she made her inflammatory statement). This is troublesome to me, because it suggests not only that liberals are infallible in our perspectives, but that conservatives aren't worth engaging in dialogue because of their inherent "bullheadedness and stupidity". In other words, if conservatives are stupid, then they cannot possibly have any ideas worth adding to the table and shouldn't be listened to under any circumstances. I'm sure we can think of several "bullheaded and stupid" conservatives in contemporary politics. Several of them probably populate the White House west wing as I type this. However, I can think of equal numbers of "bullheaded and stupid" liberals -- Cynthia McKinney being only one (you really can't throw cellphones at cops and imagine that you're not crossing the line into stupidity at some point). As many conservatives are inflammatory, racist, ignorant and rude, there are as many liberals who are dumb, jackasses, pompous and bigoted. In politics, there is no "right answer" because "right" is completely subjective. Whose to say that my pro-choice stance is more correct than the stance of a pro-lifer? Or my stance on terrorism is any better than anyone else's? The beauty of a democracy is that "correctness" is found not on one side or another, but in the compromise found by recognizing the complexity of an issue that affects millions differently. We find "correctness" in advocating for all sides, and navigating a middle ground that benefits no one exclusively and everyone mutually. I find such language nothing short of bigotry, for blanket stereotyping of the other side as ignorant and uneducated deliberately ignores the diversity of backgrounds, perspectives and opinions that people may experience that might lead them to willfully adopt opposing sides of an issue. Crazy as it might sound, I refuse to believe that human existence is really so monotonous that different races, religions and creeds might foster unique political perspectives that deserve to not only be heard from, but to clash together to form a more perfect union. As flagrantly liberal as I am, I cannot condone the increasingly inflammatory rhetoric used by the Far Left to villainize anyone who stands to their right. These are the leftists who would use blackface to caricature Joe Lieberman, who would draw analogies between Bush and nazis, and who would call conservativism the idealogy of the bullheaded and stupid. Sure, the Other Side employs such tactics, but that hardly justifies the bloodthirsty degradation of political dialogue by our own party. M and people like her (and I can think of several in the politicized blogosphere) might enjoy the kind of inflammatory hatespeech that revels in calling the other side names, but only the bullheaded and stupid (on both sides of the aisle) would imagine that these tactics, in any way, help to shape political debate. I may be unflinchingly liberal, but I think it's crucial that all liberals learn to respect conservatism and listen to its ideas, just as we would hope that they would listen to us, even if it's only to know what ideas we have to defeat in order to shape our own ideology into one that is stronger and more logical. And hey, you never know what what good ideas a highly intelligent "bullheaded and stupid" right-winger might actually have until you hear them out.


Blogger Cocacy said...

I completely agree Jenn. As unabashedly liberal as I am, I find that liberals can be just as racist, in fact in a lot of instances, more than conservatives. I find a great deal of liberals to be liberals in theory, espousing ideals not actions. I also find a great deal of white liberals who don't think the dictates of whiteness apply to them. Ad hominem attacks like the one you mentions do nothing but disparage the speaker.

8/15/2006 09:30:00 PM  
Anonymous philly jay said...

No complaints from me.What you say is very true.But I think most people, right or left wing, don't think that way.Everything is black and white with them.Right or wrong.Which is why I get really annoyed with politics these days.

8/16/2006 10:25:00 AM  
Anonymous James Cape said...

You may want to pick up a copy of John Dean's Conservatives Without Conscience, and while reading it, remember that his model for a "non-fascist conservative" was a man who made campaign promises to invade Vietnam. Some additional things are available via Mrs. Robinson's recent substitute blogging at Orcinus.

It's certainly true that shrillness lowers the left's discourse in tangable ways. Of course, "conservative" policies include making local police enforce immigration law [racial profiling, anyone?], and contracts with Halliburton to build "detention facilities" in case of an "immigration emergency." [Possibly the only legitimate use of scare quotes, ever.] Think about how long those estimated twelve million people would languish in a detention center while their immigration status is worked out, keeping in mind that those who would be rounded up are here without documentation. Oh yeah, and the son of the above "non-facist conservative" said that immigrants should be rounded up and put into labor camps to build the wall between Arizona and Mexico -- while campaigning for the Republican nomination for Governor of Arizona.

White liberals may (as a group) be ignorant, hypocritical, racist pricks, but they aren't actively working to have brown people herded into concentration camps. I suppose that is the price of living in the rural midwest: it makes real, live, self-described "conservatives" that much less theoretical, and that much more loathesome.

8/17/2006 09:02:00 PM  

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