A couple of friends swung by on Sunday, responding to the wife's invitation that they get a few tips from me on how to deal with rightwing relatives during the holidays. Now, it's true that I have years of experience on this front -- save for some centrist Perrins, I'm pretty much alone on my political fringe. So I've learned how to bob and parry, knowing when to strike and when to smile, say "whatever," and pop open another beer. I would never presume to coach others on How It's Done, but the wife, who's seen me in the family thick, is impressed with how I've navigated thru some potentially hazardous waters, and suggested that I share my tactics with those who dread having to face their family trogs. (Thankfully, she missed this raucous gathering, where my pro-Bush Aunt pounded the war drums.)
Funny thing is, the concept of patiently dealing with political opposites has been pretty far from my thoughts of late. As I mentioned here yesterday, the white phosphorus revelations sent me cursing and stomping away from the blog for several days, as I had really nothing to say after attempting to humorously deal with my fury. Indeed, so fucking angry was I that when a certain Dr. Marko Attila Hoare (if that is his real name) crashed the LBO chat list to tell us all what horrid authoritarians we are, I went off on his sorry ass, though not to the degree that I wanted to (you shoulda seen the twisted invective I deleted). Instead of arguing with this academic dipshit, who takes great pleasure in imperial war and civilian deaths, I simply told him that he brought nothing to the table except buzzwords and insults, and that he could go fuck himself.
How's that for winning hearts & minds!
Later, after chiding myself for being so brutish, I read a couple of Attila the Hoare's pro-war essays, and went back to debate the "merits" of his arguments (actually, since his stuff is so simplistic and easily dismantled, I wanted to break off his sentences in his pinched crack and kick him all over the LBO list). But alas, Hoare left in a huff, dismayed that no LBOer (save one, who fairly fawns at the guy's feet) took him as seriously as he takes himself.
So, considering that I've been in no mood to reach across any political aisle, it seemed absurd for me to advise anyone on the subject. Yet when our friends arrived and we began to talk, I mellowed out (helped by a few brews) and shared my various experiences with relatives who found my politics either treasonous or bizarre.
The main thing you must remember is that most people aren't ideologues. Whatever political stance they take is usually a casual one, based on general ideas about America, patriotism, "freedom," and so on. Therefore, you needn't be too confrontational, simply because most people tune out extensive political arguments. (This also explains why our masters can get away with so much -- in order to effectively challenge them, one must be fully informed and ready to battle.) I've found that expressing shared sentiments smoothes the ground for the inevitable parting of ways, and when that point is reached, I usually go further, having read enough conservative viewpoints (classical, like Burke, mainstream, like Buckley Jr., and fascistic, like Coulter) to show that I'm familiar with whatever motivates them.
The main point I try to make is class-based, and I ask them why on earth they identify with or deify those with substantial political and/or economic power, people who don't give the lower orders a second's thought. What is the attraction? After acknowledging that, yeah, the Bushes and the Cheneys occupy a different societal plane that they'll probably never see, they still believe that, at some level, those up on high truly care about those below waving flags, or at least share their interests. And besides, they must know what they're doing, or they wouldn't be in power.
When the conversation gets to this point, nothing, and I mean NOTHING, will change their view. For you cannot offset fantasy with facts, at least not around those who sorely need such delusions. And then you're back to Square One, and it's time to freshen or perhaps stiffen your drink.
Then there are the relatives whose fear of everyone leads them to say, as one of mine did not long ago, that the rest of the world wants to rape us and take our stuff, so we have to fuck them over first and fuck them over good and hard. And I recall a demure female relative by way of marriage tell me that if she had her way, anyone who criticizes the US government would be deported. I asked if she felt this way when Clinton was in office. Of course not, she responded with a surprised expression. After all, Clinton was a communist!
Like I said, there's only so far you can get with these people.
Happily for me, the only family I'll be around this holiday season are my wife and kids. Call me hermetic if you must, but I've done my time in the extended family trenches, and have no desire to see more action any time soon. In other words, I wanna enjoy the holidays. I hope, regardless of surroundings, you all do the same.