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Ask Auntie Pinko

August 11, 2005
By Auntie Pinko

Dear Auntie Pinko,

My name is John, and I'm a corporal in the USMC. I am currently serving nine months at Ali-Al-Salem, Kuwait and have two months left. My main mission is to efficiently deploy marines and sailors to Iraq, and to efficiently send the ones returning home back to the states. We also deal with emergency leaves, cargo for Iraq, and sometimes civilians getting to different places in the AOE. It's a really easy job, and we don't get attacked or anything, so it's no big deal.

I'm a Republican. I vote conservatively, all the time. I'm more conservative than mainstream Republicans, but not as extreme as the libertarians. I am very politically active.

I live in Davis, CA... which is home to UC Davis. I am an Electrical Engineer major there, and am a Junior at the moment... it's on hold until I get home though. While there, I enlist in the College Republicans. I help out in all their events, but I don't do screaming. I just video tape the events, because to be honest, every time I don't one of our members gets arrested or charged. I decided that's it's BS, and just tape events.

I get approached by A LOT of liberals. They call me a warmonger, baby killer, and a lot of different names. When I argue with them, I can't get sense out of them. I get some sympathetic liberals to discuss ideas with me a lot, but it always degenerates to one of us being wrong.

After a long time, I'm starting to realize that maybe both sides aren't wrong... how can two people come to totally different conclusions with different rationales and both be right? It doesn't make sense to me.

So here's the point. I love your writing. You're the only person I know of that helps me understand how liberals get their ideas, where they come from, and what rationale they have. I read every one of your articles, and it helps me present my case to other liberals, so they understand where I'm coming from.

My question is, Auntie Pinko, what is the best way to try to calm down a screaming liberal, and help to present your side so that they can make a rational decision on whether I'm just another idiot, or a person that has put a lot of thought into his beliefs?

Thanks for your time, and please keep up the good work.

John
Ali Al-Salem, Kuwait


Dear John,

Thank you for the kind words! Flattery will get you - well, not anywhere, but certainly a long way. And thank you also for your commitment as a Marine, to serving our country and your fellow-citizens. However (comparatively) easy your current mission may be, you have made that commitment and it's an important contribution.

Now, how do you calm down a screaming liberal? Well, Auntie hasn't had much luck calming down screaming conservatives, so I don't know how helpful I can really be. When passion overcomes both good manners and common sense (because, after all, common sense will tell anyone that screaming at a person is an awfully unlikely way to get them to change their mind) there isn't much anyone can do except apologize for upsetting someone, and move on. Not only are neither of you going to change the other's mind, but you're most unlikely to learn anything that will increase your understanding of one another.

I would make one suggestion to you, John, and to my liberal friends as well. I hear a good deal about how sick, how outraged, how appalling liberals find conservative ideals, and vice versa. If you find liberal ideals sickening, or conservative ideals sickening, it's probably a good indication that you don't yet have a very good understanding of those ideals. Auntie disagrees with some conservative ideals, but they don't make me sick. There is a considerable difference between the substance underlying the basic viewpoints of liberalism and conservatism, and the manifestations and attributions of people who align themselves with particular partisan goals.

It is the social and political ideals expressed by some of these people - conservative and liberal - that distress me, for a number of reasons. This is mainly true of individuals who are utterly certain that they are correct - even when I agree with them. The problem with that kind of utter certainty is that when you know you are absolutely right, it is often too easy to decide that you don't need to know any more than you already know. It leads you to ignore, rationalize, or deny experiences and information that is contrary to what you "know."

Like most people, I am pretty sure that the political opinions I hold are reasonable, based on quality information and experience. Many of them are the direct outgrowth of my Christian beliefs and convictions. But I was sure of the very same thing thirty years ago. And yet, looking back on those opinions I am aware of how much has changed and how differently I might have looked at things then if I knew all that I know now. I can tell others about my experiences and the conclusions they have evoked, but how relevant are my experiences to you? It's not very persuasive, no matter how eloquent I might be.

How can we effectively influence others, then, if screaming at them or even talking reasonably to them won't do the trick? I certainly haven't been effectively influenced by people talking at me - especially strangers, or people I don't know well. So how have I been influenced?

If a picture is worth a thousand words, an action is worth a million. The people who have influenced me are people whose actions show them to be the kind of person I want to be. They live the values I hold, and their actions and words are consistent with those values. I value what Jesus said about "When you did these things for the least among you, you did them for me." When I see people whose lives reflect a commitment to easing human misery, protecting the vulnerable, exalting the spark of Divine fire within each human soul, valuing the individuality and the gloriously infinite variety of my fellow-creatures, those are the ones I listen to. Those are the ones I learn from.

While I don't necessarily want to understand what makes every person who voted for Mr. Bush tick, or what they believe or why (any more than I want to know those things about everyone who voted for Mr. Kerry or Mr. Gore), I will often ask questions and listen with real interest to those whose actions have shown me that they value the things I value. Even after listening, I may not agree with them, but sometimes I do feel that I understand them better, and that may help us establish some common ground. Then perhaps I can reciprocate. It won't make us sit around the campfire and sing "Kum-ba-yah", but it might help us put aside some of our differences, establish some common ground, and accomplish some small useful progress toward a more livable world.

I hope this is helpful, John, and thanks for asking Auntie Pinko!


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