Level-Headed Conservatives, Your Country Needs You

You know how you’re at a church function, probably a potluck, and some old guy starts ranting about The War! (Meaning, probably, the Korean War, but Vietnam War veterans are now quickly reaching the age where some of them could be this guy) and how “they” are ruining the America that he fought for and his daughter tries to calm him down and he’s having none of it and some young guy who thinks he knows better is trying to argue with him and the whole thing is escalating in a way that’s backing up the line going around the table leaving you stuck right in front of the one salad that kid of smells like marshmallows and cabbage?  And there’s a huge scene and no one gets to eat and we’re all a little afraid he’s going to pull out his gun and shoot the water heater and then Mrs. Yoder is going to jump on his back and stab him because there is no way she’s going to do all these dishes in cold water, not only because of her arthritis but also because you need hot water to kill germs and she’s not using germy plates next time to feed the children in the church?

So, everyone is tense, waiting to see if this will be the Sunday that Mrs. Yoder finally goes to jail?

And you know how it’s got to be another vet who stands up and walks over to the guy and puts his arm around him and leads him outside and has a little talk with him and we all eat and then the guy comes back in and he looks a little embarrassed and mutters that he’s sorry and your grandpa sits back down with you and says nothing about what he said outside?

But not only is the crisis over, it doesn’t happen again?

Level-headed conservatives, please, be that grandpa. Please, if you know some fool who is clearly in the middle of some public melt-down–maybe he’s insisting at some townhall meeting that we all go to Washington to kill the President, or he’s convinced that he needs to see the President’s penis in order to know that he’s an American, or she’s talking about how the Republicans need to find themselves a “great white hope,” edited to add: or wanting to install a Christian theocracy in Tennessee–whatever it is, it’s holding up the line at the metaphorical American potluck, that person is not listening to the rest of us.

Please, for the sake of your country and your fellow citizens, take these fools aside and speak some calming wisdom to them.

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39 thoughts on “Level-Headed Conservatives, Your Country Needs You

  1. Pingback: Be That Grandpa : Post Politics: Political News and Views in Tennessee

  2. I don’t know if I count anymore. I’m either not levelheaded enough to do any good or I’m not conservative enough for the Hewasborninkenyanmightbetheantichrist crowd. But I do my best when I can.

  3. I’m afraid Coble is on to something. I myself recall expostulating with (? to?) some of the early “9/11 truthers” about facts and reality and all that and being dismissed as a dupe of … I’m not sure what or whom, but I guess “the establishment” generally. The paranoid fringes do tend to dismiss reality-based thinkers as insufficiently pure. OTOH, even paranoids can sometimes be persuaded not to ruin the potluck even so.

  4. I e-mailed my senator, Olympia Snowe (who is supposed to be level-headed) about this, asking her to step up and talk some sense, but I don’t think she’s done much in that regard; I think she’s just keeping to the sidelines with her mouth shut. Not pouring gasoline on the flames is what passes for “moderate” these days.

  5. When Carthage must be destroyed, one mustn’t let irrelevancies like empirical data and stuff get in the way.

  6. Oh and by the way, when I did my office visit to Lamar Alexander’s at the height of the death panel brouhaha I DID ask them to tell Alexander to “be that grandpa,” as you put it. I thought he was the kind of Republican elder statesman who could sit the young’uns down and tell them this nonsense about Hitler and Socialism and Death Panels wasn’t helping anyone.

    That was 2 weeks ago. Haven’t seen it happen yet so I’m guessing right now the Republican Party feels like it has more to gain by letting the angry fringe drive the car than take the wheel itself…

  7. I think we could use some level headedness on both sides – conservative & liberal. Or perhaps the loudest voices in matters seem to be the extreme ones.

    I recall the age old wisdom: “the person who is most wrong in an argument is normally the one talking the most and the loudest.”

  8. The PETA People (see DREAM act conversation) just really don’t want to listen to the rest of us on health care.

    When I tried to talk some sense (albeit angrily) to the PETA People of the HC conversation, I was the recepient of two blog posts, 10 phone calls, 8 twitter DMs and one heated discussion at my parents’ sunday dinner whereby I was denounced for not being conservative, bowing to peer pressure, trying to curry favour with the liberals, probably losing my way as a Christian, and accused of being rendered nearly mentally incompetent by pain medication.

    Right now the crazies have full control of the discusson and no matter how hard we all try it’s almost impossible to wrest control from them. I’m damned frustrated about it, too. Because now is the exact best time to have a reasoned conversation and this environment is far too noxious for such a thing.

  9. SB, that was a general statement on the state of things as a whole.
    Being a moderate, I try to see both sides of an issue. But since the whole realm of political discussions became so filled with venom, I have a hard time even paying attention anymore — or joining the discussion — because if, God forbid, I stand on the side of conservatism in regards to my view on the 2nd amendment, I’m labeled a “gun-nut” by the left side. On the other hand, if I go back to MS – where people are generally conservative – and get into a discussion about the fact that women should be in control of their bodies in regards to women’s health issues and abortion, I’m labeled a pinko liberal.

    I’m just tired of people screaming over each other and being disrespectful in general. We all are the product of our experiences. And just because my experience doesn’t jibe with someone elses, it doesn’t make me wrong. It makes me, well, me.

  10. And where exactly are the voices on the left getting any coverage or legislative traction, except as booga-booga boogeymen like so many zombies in a horror movie? I am actively seeking an effective left on this issue and I don’t see it at all. CCA was not even put on the table except as something to immediately take off, the public option (sich as it was) is now gone, and most of what is most urgently necessary for low-income, elderly, and disabled populations is gutted. Unless you’re mistaking “any movement whatsoever” for a progressive goal, I think you’re overestimating the efficacy of progressives on this.

  11. Reason # 675 I will not be voting for Zack Wamp.

    Of course while all of the “crazies” and “fringe elements” are driving media revenues and ratings through the roof, most of the quiet politicians are busy meeting with the Healthcare Industry, taking donations and hammering out the real business without a lot of oversight or reporting. Don’t be distracted by the salad and miss the mashed potatoes.

  12. Okeedoke. We’ve got more than our share of PETA people on every issue (including, sadly, animal rights…which should have a less bombastic and more actually effective public face) but not on this particular issue right now.

  13. Southern Beale, it looks to me like there are quite a few Democrats who find the right-wing screaming useful. That might even include Obama, whose fealty to the insurance and pharmaceutical companies means he wants no viable public option (much less single payer). The Dems might be thinking that the right wing outpouring of misguided rage gives them political cover that can make their sellout look like an honest failure.

    That said, I second your questioning of the false equivalence between left and right wing vitriol. There is no heavily funded and organized campaign of misinformation coming from the left. All I’m hearing is well-thought and passionate advocation for single-payer (or anything that might help us get there, like a viable public option). The criticism from the left is aimed at both parties, too.

  14. I’m just tired of people screaming over each other and being disrespectful in general.

    Yes I agree. My post about some of the awful things said about Ted Kennedy since his passing gives a good sampling of “disrespectful.” Which prompted a conservative to comment about how “seriously flawed” Kennedy was. Please, the body isn’t even in the ground yet, people.

    Sam, I’m unsure that this screaming, shouting, lies and distortions by the right wing is useful to Democrats. I would expect it to turn off independents and moderates and further reinforce the idea that the Republican Party has become extreme. But I don’t actually know if that’s happening.

    And just to be clear, I didn’t intend to accuse Beth of making a false equivalency between left and right wing. I really wanted to know if she’s seen something on the left that I’ve missed. But she’s 100% right: the bitterness and vitriol does turn people off. Hell, it turns ME off. I just want to turn off the TV and radio and listen to smooth jazz right now.

    This right/left divide is something that’s been coming for a few years now, and I have to wonder how it will end.

  15. I always ask “Whose interest does it serve to promote screaming lunacy, a demobilizing and demoralizing affront to public discourse, and a general erosion of participation in policy-making and agenda-setting?”

    Doesn’t take a genius (luckily) to figure out which groups are agitating the discord. When you lack ideas, generate heat and scream real loud and maybe you can drive most people back into passivity, despair, and cynicism about political process.

  16. My post about some of the awful things said about Ted Kennedy since his passing gives a good sampling of “disrespectful.” Which prompted a conservative to comment about how “seriously flawed” Kennedy was. Please, the body isn’t even in the ground yet, people.

    This would be why I stayed away from the Internet as much as possible yesterday. I had nothing constructive to add to the discussion and still don’t. I can’t spend my whole life getting up in arms over every second tweet Bill Hobbs sends around. While they do aggravate me, I’m trying very hard to live at peace with all mankind and to say positive things. I get so tired of being the only one to say outloud “why do you, a purported Christian, say such things?”

  17. And just to be clear, I didn’t intend to accuse Beth of making a false equivalency between left and right wing. I really wanted to know if she’s seen something on the left that I’ve missed.

    It isn’t there now; but what folks on the left–as the ‘side’ currently in greater power–with regard to vocal fringe agitprop is what folks on the right saw during the years of the Bush administrations. It’s why I’ve been shaking my head at all of the leftward cries of “how awful the Obama Hitler posters are” and how terroristic and offensive other tactics are.

    Because I didn’t see (and granted maybe I wasn’t looking in the correct places) a lot of folks on the left denouncing those fringe agitprop elements during those eight years.

    All of this then begs the question of whether or not it is in one’s best interest to denounce agitprop and thereby bring greater notice to it.

  18. I agree that the right-wing noise is detrimental to Democrats, SB, but I don’t believe many of them see it that way. They are gambling that they can screw over their constituency and blame it on Republican intransigence. It isn’t going to work this time. They shove through ‘reform’ that gives us nothing but more solidly entrenched wealthy interests and they’re going to lose voters and seats (I hope). If Afghanistan keeps going pear-shaped, they might even lose the White House in 2012.

    Also, I share yours and Beth’s distaste for the vitriol, but as an unapologetic leftist I’ve learned that when your opponent would just as soon see you dead, it’s better to plant your feet and raise your fists than to turn the other cheek. I’ll be civil when they stop praying for my demise.

    The right/left divide has been with us at least since the 60s, and in some ways since before the New Deal was passed. The right wing is well-funded, and it’s base has proven that it will tolerate and condone eliminationist violence. The left in this country is sparsely organized and has very little official or institutional support. The ostensible haven for the left, the Democratic Party, bends over backward to cater to the some of the same corporate interests that bankroll the worst of the right wing’s excesses.

    I have a good idea how it might end.

  19. It isn’t there now; but what folks on the left–as the ’side’ currently in greater power–with regard to vocal fringe agitprop is what folks on the right saw during the years of the Bush administrations. It’s why I’ve been shaking my head at all of the leftward cries of “how awful the Obama Hitler posters are” and how terroristic and offensive other tactics are.

    exactly.

    And I hate to open this can of worms, but I will say this. On twitter yesterday, when I took time to glance at it there were people lauding Teddy’s accomplishments and others degrading him. (Like Coble, I stayed out of it.)

    But I couldn’t help but wonder if the same people who were pouncing on the people who were pointing out Teddy’s flaws (and past transgressions) would be able to stand back and not dance in glee had it been GWB.

    I think everyone would benefit from the Golden Rule right about now – myself included.

  20. Katherine Coble, if you’re referring to some people on the left comparing the Bush administration and the Republican Party to the Third Reich, that might have had something to do with the blatant encroachments on the Constitution, the illegal wars of aggression, and the generally expressed and executed antipathy for the public welfare. A little over the top at times? To be sure*. But as baseless and ridiculous (and racist) as some of the stuff being aimed at Obama? Not even close.

    Furthermore, I don’t think I’m splitting hairs when I point out that very few among the elected Democrats– as many votes as they might regularly receive from the putative ‘left’– can be considered liberals, much less leftists. But for the color of his skin, Obama himself would have been a Republican before the Goldwater/Nixon era.

    *And there were ‘moderates’ and ‘centrists’ among the Democrats who regularly disassociated themselves from or even condemned the occasional anti-Bush agitprop (and sometimes even threw less colorful criticism under the bus); Obama’s denouncing of Jeremiah Wright during the campaign comes to mind.

  21. To put a finer point on it, most criticism– even the most vitriolic– of Bush was directed at things that his administration was actually doing (or not doing). Most of the vitriol currently aimed at Obama has little to do with reality. I harp on this because I think there is danger in pretending that there is an equivalence between the two situations.

    Obama and the Democrats need to be criticized for the shortcomings and errors of their policies, not for fantastical bullshit that is pulled from the racist id of the right wing. If we step away from the debate simply because it’s ugly, and pretend that no heated criticism is valid, then we risk missing chances to address problems that really need fixing.

    Someone needs to clean up these messes, and I don’t think it’s going to be anyone standing in some mushy, opaque, imaginary ‘center.’ Right now there’s a war on, and it has two sides that don’t follow party lines: those who know that we’re all in this together, and those who think they can do better for themselves while a whole lot of others get f–ked. Which side are you on?

  22. Sam,

    I respect that you want to have this argument. Please know that while I am not at this time or in this space wanting to discuss these things with you that I do disagree with some of your premises. I realise that may be fundamentally unfair of me to say and I apologise. But having read many of your comments over the past few months I honestly don’t believe that you and I could have any form of constructive discussion on these matters–mostly due to a failing within my own personality.

    I know from having read you that these are your views and that you have good reason for holding them and I have good reason for disagreeing with them. Because I like to honour B’s stated dictum about Frith in her blog comments I’m going to have to choose to table any further discussion. I’m sorry for appearing to blow you off, but I don’t wish to dishonour the spirit of community here and fear my inability to have any conversation with you which would not directly do so.

    Thank you for understanding.

  23. But I couldn’t help but wonder if the same people who were pouncing on the people who were pointing out Teddy’s flaws (and past transgressions) would be able to stand back and not dance in glee had it been GWB.

    I can only speak fo rme, but I feel confident that if GWB died this afternoon, I wouldn’t be dancing in glee. Immediately after somebody’s death (when their loved ones are suffering) just isn’t a good time to pile on criticism (and frankly I can’t imagine being happy about someone’s death). If GWB died this afternoon, this is one liberal who would most likely post condolences to his family and then keep my mouth shut.

  24. I really love what Melissa McEwan said about Kennedy. For me, that’s really a good way of talking about a complicated figure without lessening his complications and acknowledging that he had tremendous privilege that he wielded for good and for bad.

    http://shakespearessister.blogspot.com/2009/08/teddy.html

    I just think that’s so nicely done. No one is all hero nor all villain and being able to talk smartly and with nuance about them is often the best way to honor them.

  25. I agree 100%, dolphin. I’m no fan of Bush or Teddy Kennedy, but B. is right. Both are very complicated figures. My impression of Kennedy is pretty close to what Melissa McEwan says.

    As far as Dubya is concerned, though, dancing on his grave would be irrelevant. I would prefer to see him brought to justice for his role in crimes against humanity. Even if that means he gets a suspended sentence or gets immunity for ratting out others, it would be satisfying to see him (and those others) officially held to account for their misdeeds. It isn’t even about Dubya, or Cheney, or Karl Rove, or any of them personally. It’s about holding our leaders accountable when they so egregiously violate both law and human decency. It may not be as viscerally satisfying as screaming “Chappaquiddick, you shitbag!” at Teddy’s picture on the front page of the daily paper*, but it would be far more constructive to what’s left of our democracy.

    *I actually witnessed this yesterday morning at work. I asked the Teddy-hater if he knew the drowning victim’s name. He rattled off “Mary Jo Kopechne” as though she were his own daughter. I thought of pushing the envelope and asking him the names and designated districts of all his elected representatives, but that would have been mean.

  26. Because I didn’t see (and granted maybe I wasn’t looking in the correct places) a lot of folks on the left denouncing those fringe agitprop elements during those eight years.

    Really? You must not have been watching when MoveOn issued an apology for the Bush-Hitler video entered in its OPEN competition. The ad wasn’t even theirs, ANYONE could submit an entry, one was deemed tasteless and they immediately yanked it and apologized. But right wingers are STILL having hissy fits over that one, as if that somehow justifies every Obama-Hitler sign at a Tea Party we see now.

    How about when a union apologized to serial victim Phil Parlock for a Bush-Cheney sign allegedly torn from Parlock’s daughter’s hand, although said “union thug” bore a strong resemblance to Parlock’s eldest son? They apologized anyway.

    Or when Randi Rhodes apologized to Bush and the Secret Service for her on-air Bush “gunshot” skit, even though right wingers are bringing ACTUAL GUNS to rallies now?

    Or when Dan Rather apologized for the Bush National Guard-AWOL story:

    “RATHER: The failure of CBS News to do just that, to properly, fully, scrutinize the documents and their source, led to our airing the documents when we should not have done so. It was a mistake. CBS News deeply regrets it. Also I want to say personally and directly, I’m sorry.”

    Or when John Kerry apologized to the troops for a botched joke, and Dick Cheney snarkily observed that Kerry must have been “for the troops before he was against them.”

    Hell, we apologize to anyone and everyone, and we get punished for it every time. We’re constantly apologizing. Richard Clarke even apologized for 9/11, and got attacked for it by the right. Our own Bill Frist went on the Senate floor and had a hissy fit, calling it “an act of supreme arrogance and manipulation.”

    Conservatives consider it a sign of weakness to apologize and so they rarely do so. Liberals apologize even when they don’t do anything wrong, like when Obama apologized for his comment that the Cambridge police officers acted “stupidly” in handcuffing a Harvard prof.

    And every time we apologize we are made to pay the price by leaders of the Republican Party. Maybe we should just quit apologizing all the time, since no one seems to remember when we do.

  27. “And there’s a huge scene and no one gets to eat and we’re all a little afraid he’s going to pull out his gun and shoot the water heater and then Mrs. Yoder is going to jump on his back and stab him because there is no way she’s going to do all these dishes in cold water, not only because of her arthritis but also because you need hot water to kill germs and she’s not using germy plates next time to feed the children in the church?”

    I actually choked on my own spit at this! It’s just so perfectly reminiscent of the folks in the area of rural Maine where I lived for a decade. I’m just tickled to see it captured so well.

  28. Really? You must not have been watching when…

    No, I wasn’t. That’s specifically why I stated it that way. I’ve more and more made it a point to steer farther and farther away from agitprop and it’s eventual fallout. Because when I don’t (and I’m sure everyone here can point to times when I didn’t) I become the worst possible version of myself, foaming at the mouth and forgetting not only my own dignity but that of everyone else’s as well.

    It’s been my experience from years on the internet in the various political trenches from UseNet forward that everyone has a much kinder view toward their fellows, corresponding with a much baser view toward their opponents. It’s why I don’t listen to conservative talk radio, read tennesseefree, etc.

    When I first started hanging around blogs I spent a lot of time at Instapundit, Lileks, Little Green Footballs, FrankJ and some other places. It became increasingly obvious to me that while there are a few reasonably level-headed commentators, the far-larger percentage likes to get in high lather over every slight–many of which they intentionally misunderstand or fail to research in order to maintain a certain level of dudgeon. I can’t keep pretending that some country-music-singing-twit’s latest verbal fart is as much a danger to society as the nuclear armament of Iran.

    So when those events that you sourced (and thank you, as always, for providing source documentation) happened, I hadn’t even paid attention to the events which preceded them.

  29. Sam, I think you’re the firefighter from Chicago. What did u used to call yourself here?

    It’s driving me nuts that I can’t remember.

  30. There is no heavily funded and organized campaign of misinformation coming from the left.

    Once you ignore the unions, the heavily funded (taxpayer) campaigns put forth by the politicians themselves, the puppy-love coverage given by an hour long network special with the president (only several million in free advertising) and the Soros-backed lefty blog initiatives….yeah, I guess if don’t count when the left does it, the right is worse (they’re always worse, aren’t they?). Of course, you ignore all the times he strikes out, A-Rod is the best contact hitter in baseball, as well.

    Hell, we apologize to anyone and everyone

    Yes, you guys are just too darn nice. Sarah Palin, Joe the Plummer, Linda Tripp and Robert Bork had no comment about the overflow of congeniality from the left.

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