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kesmarn On September - 1 - 2011

Admit it. I'm right.

Why did I ever get started with re-connecting with old school  mates? It seemed like a good idea at the time…

Recently one of my old high school chums, a confirmed RWer, who had taken note of the flaming lib nature of my posts and tweets, came up with an unexpected request. Could we engage in a dialogue? Now we all know how rare this is, coming from a FOX news devotee. So I felt obliged to respond to this (actually rather nice) person who still lingers in my memory as a 17 year old wearing a Catholic girls’ academy uniform. (Haven’t seen her in person since we graduated.) We exchanged email addresses and she immediately fired off round one.

To my disappointment, she didn’t write her own 95 Theses and nail them to the virtual cathedral door. She sent an article by John Hall (a very generic RW lament over the way everything is going to hell in a handbasket) and asked me to respond.

I suddenly realized how hard this was going to be. We were starting from square one. How do you summarize everything you find problematic with “them” in something short of a tome that will take days to download? And how do you do it in a way that won’t be completely alienating and off-putting?

I came up with the following, but was full of more questions when I was done than when I started. Was it obnoxious? Arrogant? Sanctimonious? Weak-kneed? Did it sound paranoid? Did it stand a snowball’s chance of opening her mind to a different point of view? Is engaging with the right even possible? Does anyone ever change anyone’s mind? What are your thoughts?

I’ll try to go through as many points as I can in the Hall article, starting at the top. I sense the fatigue, the frustration of the author, of course, right from the beginning.  Who among us is not a little tired and a little frustrated? I suppose — to me — the question is where we go from there.

It seems to me that we can go in one of two major directions: we can veer toward fear and anger, or we can try to look at the world through the lens of faith, hope and love.

I think Mr. Hall is leaning dangerously toward the fear and anger option. He seems to perceive threat all around him. He’s afraid of poor people, Hispanics, Muslims, latte liberals, addicts… There seems to be no end to it. Huge numbers of folks fall into the category of “The Other.” The “Not Like Me.”

I think Jesus would say: These are not alien beings. These are our brothers and sisters. I saw it recently written: “There are two groups of people in the world: our friends, whom Jesus wants us to love. And our enemies, whom Jesus wants us to love.”

Mr. Hall mentions how hard he has worked to get all the material goods he has now, and how scared he is that someone is going to take them away from him. But haven’t we all worked hard? I know you have! And I know I have, too. Starting with babysitting at age 13 (besides plenty of house and yard work at home from a much earlier age!), to cleaning toilets and rat cages at a medical lab when I was in high school, to waiting tables at Dave’s Drive-In (THAT was a dilly) and on and on, throughout my whole life.

The people who have never had to really work hard a day in their lives are much more likely to be way at the top of the income scale (despite the claims of so many that they have earned every cent of their billions). These are people who were very likely born into a comfortable life, attended Ivy League universities and had contacts who shoe-horned them into positions of privilege. There are the rare exceptions, like John Boehner, who apparently really did have some unpleasant jobs in his youth, but they are few and far between.

So just having worked hard doesn’t really qualify anyone to claim they’re entitled to “pull up the ladder” — so to speak — after themselves, once they “have theirs.” I think we have an obligation to help those who are struggling. Always. Jesus didn’t turn his back on people because they weren’t of his faith, or they were poor, or dirty or diseased or held disgusting jobs like collecting taxes.

I sense that Mr. Hall feels more comfortable when he can sort things and people into clearly defined categories. For him, all Muslims are suspect. All poor people are either lazy, addicted or more likely both. And potentially violent. Complexity and gray areas are hard for him to grapple with. Taking people one at a time on an individual basis is challenging.

He says that neither party has a monopoly on virtue (and I agree). But then adds that he’s tired of people telling him we need bipartisanship. But what are we supposed to do then? If both parties are corrupt, but cooperation is out of the question, do we just give up and not even try to come up with anything like workable, realistic, pragmatic methods of dealing with problems? Just stay locked in futile combat that results in endless gridlock forever?

I think what Mr. Hall is not seeing is that there is a block of society that really is seeking to “re-distribute wealth.” But it’s not the current government of which he is so wary. It is the major world-wide corporations and a handful of extremely wealthy persons who want to eliminate the one entity that stands between them and world/wealth domination. That being government regulation. Taxation. And the elimination of corruption in banking and corporate practices. These would be corporations like Exxon and people like the Koch brothers who have poured untold millions into financing groups like Americans for Prosperity and the the Tea Party. They are able to buy politicians, elections, legislation and even Supreme Court justices. They are the most profound threat to real democracy that we’ve seen in a long time.

They have already channeled considerable amounts of wealth the the very top 1-2% of American society. Our unequal distribution of wealth in America is the same as in many third world societies. The top 400 individuals in the U.S. own more wealth than the bottom 150,000,000. This is not just. Despite claims to the contrary, many corporations pay nothing at all in taxes and the ultra wealthy pay at an extremely low rate. On the income that they have not hidden off-shore, that is.

People are suffering enormously because of this problem of greed. The culture of greed is contrary to Christian, and to Catholic, values and historic teaching. The people at the very top are extremely adept at getting the common person to identify his/her fortunes with theirs. Consequently they have a large army of middle and working class folks defending the very people who are exploiting them — paradoxically! But they use buzzwords like “patriotism” to motivate, and “socialist” to intimidate. They own media outlets like FOX and Clear Channel and then claim there’s a “liberal bias” in the media. They sell fear and paranoia because they know that frightened people can be manipulated more easily.

So I come back to the beginning. We must resist fear. We must resist anger. We must have the courage to love our brothers and sisters, even when they look or believe differently than we do. We must be willing to share and to compromise. That’s not weakness. That’s what Jesus taught. And he was anything but weak.

OK! I’m off my soapbox now. Forgive the length of this tome! (You can see why I had to find time before I could start to write…. :-) )

Hope to hear from you soon. Take care and thanks again for being willing to engage.

Written by kesmarn

History major "back when," who recently retired from having been an RN for a bazillion years. Political junkie. Warren, Sanders and Reich fan. Happy to have been a Planeteer for more than five years now!

109 Responses so far.

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  1. Chernynkaya says:

    Kes, I’ve been thinking about your post ever since you posted. I know this is not the point of your excellent piece, but I think--speaking for myself--the difficulty in having opposing viewpoints and trying to discuss them applies to almost anyone, regardless of their political position. Good grief, look what just happened at Kos. And that was among people supposedly on the same end of the political spectrum.

    I can remember when I could have a discussion with someone with whom I disagreed politically and remain friends. For me, that is no longer the case (if that person is a Republican or a Firebagger). It used to be that no matter how heated the discussion it could be easily put in a box at the end of the evening, as if it was merely a disagreement of no more urgency than whether the movie was as good as the book. Those days are long gone. Everything has become passionate and feels like a matter of life and death--because in most cases they really are. Oh, not every policy debate, or every single vote, but I feel there is a heightened sense of anger and fear about our politics. I feel as though I have to choose between fighting relentlessly or letting no responding at all--there seems no middle ground.

    • kesmarn says:

      Cher, I’ve been at that point, too. It has almost seemed as though the discussion moved way beyond politics into our deepest, most visceral places — the places where deeply-held convictions about good and evil reside.

      Have we come to the point at which each side suspects that the other is not only misguided, but actually morally corrupt? I mean morally corrupt in a very serious sense here, of course. Because once that determination has been set in one’s mind it’s awfully hard to go back.

      And yet — to me — there actually is an element of evil in the positions this woman takes. I’m not saying she’s an evil person. But the opinions she holds and the way she votes — in my view of things — help cause evil to happen in this country.

      How do you ever find common ground with someone like that? And the worst part is, I think she feels the same way about me! I think she honestly believes that people who think the way I do are going to destroy the country.

      If there isn’t a way to be found — a way to bridge this vast divide, we’re headed for a cultural civil war. I don’t know if there’s a way to head it off.

      But it could have many powerful consequences down the road.

  2. kesmarn says:

    Forgive the length of this, but I finally got a return email from my RW chum. They memorize their talking points very well don’t they? Remember the dolls with the pull string who could recite 18 different phrases?

    If you have any thoughts on how to address the brain-washed, I’d appreciate them. :-( But my sense is that this could be futile.

    Here are my thoughts to your reply. I didn’t get a sense that he was afraid of anything really, especially the poor. In my mind there are two categories of poor: by design and by accident.

    By design are those who never attempted to make anything of themselves or their families. They are generational welfare recipients who cringe at the thought of actually doing something in return for what they receive. I came from humble stock. My maternal grandmother came from Poland at 16 to live with her uncle. She spoke no English, but was eager to not only learn the language but also to earn her own way. I remember Mom talking about how she and Grandma would clean homes to get money. Grandpa worked at the Autolite. On very little they raised 4 kids and bought and paid off a house. BTW, neither of my parents attended high school. Dad was a punch press operator. Mom bartended, waitressed, sold shoes -- whatever she could to make some money. She improved her grammar and language skills by doing crossword puzzles. The thought of taking anything from the government was not a possibility. That’s how I was raised. You stand on your own two feet and take RESPONSIBILITY for your life. That’s not how society, in many cases, views life today. I am more than willing to help the truly helpless, but not the totally useless. If you’re on welfare you should be doing something in return -- picking up trash along the roadways, cleaning up the parks and recreation areas -- whatever you can do. I do not subscribe to the “it’s bad for their self esteem”. In my family if you were on welfare, you were considered to have no self esteem. I saw it first hand with my daughter’s dad’s family. They were generational welfare people who never cared for anything that welfare couldn’t buy. You can’t help where/how you grew up, but once you are an adult, you are responsible for how you live your life.

    Jesus did say to help the poor, but in Matthew 25, He clearly illustrates that one’s talents must be used. I do not believe Jesus wants people to just sit back, do nothing, and live off others. Revise the welfare system to force people to work and there’ll be plenty of money for SS and Medicare.

    Now I’ll move on to illegal aliens. The are in this country illegally and their are alien to the U.S. They are not immigrants. They are illegal aliens. I don’t believe we should return them as long as they take all the necessary steps to become citizens and quit demanding equal rights. They have no rights. They are illegal. Their children should be treated at hospitals, but adults should be on their own. Children born in this country to illegals should not be considered citizens. We need to revise that portion of the constitution at once and we need to seal the borders and take whatever military action is required to keep the borders sealed. It’s not just Mexicans taking advantage of our laziness at the borders, it’s all kinds of aliens, many of whom do not have our best interest at heart. And if you’re here illegally and commit any type of crime -- misdemeanor or felony -- you should be deported whether your family is here or not. You made the choice to bring your family here illegally and you made the choice to commit a crime. Sorry, sadly my heart isn’t as kind as yours. Americans come first. I’m sick of hearing the Mexicans do jobs Americans won’t. Take the Americans off welfare and they’ll do the jobs or starve.

    And if Americans turn to crime rather than work, they need to be in a real penal system and not with TV’s, basketball courts, weight rooms, etc. Sorry, I’m pretty tough on criminals as stats prove that a hugh percentage return to their lives of crime once released.

    As far as Muslims go, even liberal Juan Williams, who was fired from NPR because of his comments, clearly stated when he sees Muslims in garb at an airport it makes him uneasy. I’ve known Muslims who seem to be very nice people, and maybe they are, but there just aren’t enough “good” Muslims who will openly condemn the bad ones. We’re getting far too many homegrown terrorist lone wolves who subscribe to Islam to justify the havoc they wreak. A huge and frightening number of Islamic institutions in this country preach Sharia law. That scares the hell out of me. The media jumps on the “beat up the Christian” bandwagon, but you rarely hear any journalist address the Muslim extremist situation in this country. I don’t hate either aliens or Muslims, but I think we shouldn’t just turn a blind eye to either of those situations.

    I have a serious problem with some of our major corporations -- take GE for instance. They paid no taxes whatsoever by stashing money internationally. But then Jeffery Immelt sends a hugh portion of their manufacturing to China after Obama names him a jobs czar. What the hell is up with that? I also have a huge problem with CEOs making the vast fortunes they make. I’ve given it great thought and I guess if I were still at a stage in my life where I were interested in investing in the stock market, I’d avoid those companies that pay out the huge bonuses and salaries to management who have mismanaged the company into bancruptcy. But in no way do I feel this country should change from capitalism. It’s been proven over and over that there are great opportunities for people who are willing to get an education, work endless hours to make something of themselves and risk time and money to build an empire. To the victor goes the spoils.

    Politicians are very susceptible to trading for votes with their colleagues. We need public officials who truly are interested in what their constituency wants, and not just what they think the public should have. Like the Tea Party or not, I believe those folks are a direct result of generations of crooked politicians getting bought off by corporate greed. Lobbyists need to be banned. But when we start to talk about being bought, the name George Soros comes to mind and we can save that for another time.

    I believe megawealthy sports figures, movie stars and recording stars are so far overpaid. But it’s the general public who will spend ridiculous amounts to see them or to go to a pro game. That won’t change.

    The megawealthy, in some cases, came to it through the family. The most apparent would be the Kennedys in my mind. Of course, Joe came to wealth through unscrupulous methods, but nonetheless, the family has given vast amounts to charities. So has Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. I know Buffet votes for higher taxes for the megawealthy, but if he had such faith in how the government spends money, he’d give it directly to the IRS and not through the Bill Gates Foundation. Your stat that the top 400 in this country have more wealth than the bottom 150,000,000 is very interesting. But it’s that top 400 that contribute over 40% of the total tax revenue and cover the 50% in this country who pay nothing. This will probably make you want to hurl, but what’s fair is a flat tax system so that everybody pays something. If you get everything for free you typically don’t appreciate it.

    Wow, I guess I’m pretty windy here. I’m certain we’ll probably never meet right in the middle, although I did find great value in your position. I’m not a “stats” person as a rule, I just go with my gut feelings.

    This is really fun. Wish our leaders would take this same approach.

    • labyris13 says:

      Someone was posting on FB about the Republican debate and this issue of how they see poor people in general. I think my reply is applicable here:

      I love how they rail at lazy poor people but lazy rich people who don’t do anything are just fine, even when their money came from mommy and daddy. Actually, being poor was hard work. When I was in poverty with my kids I cooked everything from scratch, had no car so walked and carried groceries with a stroller and one kid on my back, often washed diapers and clothes by hand*, and cooked without the various fancy tools and machines foodnetwork seems to think is necessary. I’ve never worked harder in my life. I was happy to later go to work and sit at a desk all day.

      *when we didn’t have funds for the laundromat and later, when someone stole my diapers out of an apartment laundry facility and I had to just constantly wash the few I had left. Gosh, those were the days. Gee I wish I could be carefree and on welfare again--NOT. Even now that we’re down to one middle class salary from my disability--my second husband’s, bless his heart--we are light years better off than any welfare family and have three times the income.

      I’ll shut up now; I do realize I’m being long-winded. Who knows why the people she observed had no power or water and no trash removal. Dire poverty and depression is my guess. :(

      • kesmarn says:

        Labyris, I just got home from work and discovered your amazing, beautifully written posts. First on the agenda: a plea to PLEASE, please stay here on the Planet and continue to write!

        I’m so glad you were doing that search and stumbled upon my article. It was meant to be.

        What you write is the God’s truth and it needs to be gotten out there.

        So yes, an article from you would be a real gift. You’re a terrific writer and you have a story to tell. Your life story resonates with so many. (I also had a mom who suffered terribly with depression after a hysterectomy, but the difference was I was already in college by that time. And my dad was in the home to try to help her get through it. She eventually recovered, too. Had I been solely responsible for her as a teen, I know things might have turned out very differently. Which demonstrates that, as you say, poverty is not usually a choice. It can happen to nearly anyone.)

        Welcome! And please make yourself at home.

        • labyris13 says:

          I’m glad you liked it.

          I was musing with some other people I know with poverty backgrounds (and I must recommend here the powerful book Without a Net: The Female Experience of Growing Up Working Class (Live Girls) edited by
          Michelle Tea, through which I met Fran Varian online) how little people seem to know about our lives directly. Liberals and conservatives talk a lot about us but few seem to actually know many of us. Nor do we know much about rich people’s lives although I stumbled upon a book once where rich people were writing about how guilty they felt for being born into wealth and having luxuries and how at a loss they felt to really be effective at alleviating poverty. It occurred to me that a series of discussions between people from various levels of the socioeconomic strata would be incredibly valuable right now.

          One of my FB friends posted about how we need another War on Poverty along with a link about the dramatic increase in poverty right now. (Sure it’s just a coincidence that jobs are nowhere to be found since us poor people never want to work--although many poor people are working full time for poverty wages.) I wrote the following:

          I think that so far, there hasn’t been sufficient understanding of the root causes of poverty (lack of a good education being one important one, nutrition coming second, and learned helplessness and despair when surrounded by poverty being a third of a long list) and the function poor people serve in our society (endless supply of cheap labor).

          As long as some powerful interests profit from there being poverty we won’t make any progress, we’ll just nibble at the edges of it and a few lucky people like me will escape--leading people to conclude that everyone can if they just want to. [The fact that I grew up with books and a decent school system in a small town where rich kids went to the same school, had better nutrition when I was very young and a slightly higher than normal IQ is disregarded.] Can we start by getting the minimum wage to be something above poverty level?

          I try not to give in to the burning rage I feel when people talk about poor people like we are animals, the same rage that has fueled riots. How can anyone going to an inner city school without working toilets, sufficient up-to-date textbooks, good teachers (one principal says he’s just lucky to get someone breathing), decent sports/gym facilities or a safe atmosphere and watching tv shows of beautiful schools with healthy, well fed students and not be filled with rage? They start out young and full of hope but by the teen years are sufficiently aware to be bitter at being thrown away. It’s hard to value yourself when society makes it so very clear how little it values you.

          ***I know that I have white privilege and that my poverty could have been much, much worse.***

          As to this person’s assertion that the government help should never be resorted to, well, I chose to feed and house my children. I could not have afforded housing if I were working for minimum wage at the time and trying to pay for childcare which would have been nearly all of my pay.

          I was reading “The Glass Castle” and their parents did refuse to apply even for school lunches. The children were starving. The author resorted to going through the trash for discards of other students’ lunches. I’d rather swallow my pride and make sure my children had decent nutrition. I’d rather contribute to Social Security and not have our elderly people on the streets. [I was happy to pay taxes and always envisioned my check feeding some kids somewhere.]

          As you can see, wind me up on this topic and let me go. The more Republicans whip up class resentments aimed at poor people the angrier I get.

          I probably will write something here but I want to take my time and put in research.

          • kesmarn says:

            labyris, please do write that article here. We’d all be grateful, and articles here really do reach a wider audience, too.

            Sometimes I think people like you are the ones Republicans fear the most. Armed with experience, intelligence, hope and the ability to communicate, you’re the type of woman who wakes people up.

            With your words you — in concert with others — could awaken the proverbial sleeping giant in America. And they really, really don’t want that.

            Unions? They want the poor to think those are “socialist,” corrupt entities that will “take your money and do nothing for you.”

            Voting? They want the poor to think their votes don’t count, won’t matter. And they don’t want the poor to figure out how to get past the hurdles they’re trying to put up to prevent their being able to vote.

            Community cooperation? No — so much better for them when minorities are fighting against each other rather than coming to the realization that the real enemy is not their next-door neighbor.

            The list could go on and on. And it’s people like you, who have one foot in each — what would you call it? — in each world, whom they fear.

            You know both languages — the language of the forgotten poor and of the educated middle class — and they really don’t like that.

            So — let’s hope we can both keep on being angry. Keep on writing. Stay in their faces. I believe it will — sooner or later — make a difference.

            Final note: thanks so much for the recommendations on books to read and sites to visit. Always so very welcome.

            Your kids are grandkids are sure lucky to have you in their lives.

      • SueInCa says:

        Welcome Labyris13, I second Kalima’s suggestion. A post about your prospective would be very welcome. You experienced it like others have not.

      • Kalima says:

        Not long winded at all labyris13, maybe you might consider writing a post/article for us when you have settled in a bit, we are here to help you with it if you ask. It would a be a great addition to our site to have your first hand experiences and opinions. Hope you will consider it, I’m sure many members here would like to read it too.

        • labyris13 says:

          I probably will, though my time is divided between a few different writing venues already. I have been serializing a part of my memoir for No Longer Quivering (although I wasn’t in the Quiverfull movement but a group very like it based on Eastern religion) and I contribute to Synchronized Chaos as well as continue to run my own blog at Livejournal and work on my memoir. My memoir does go into more depth about a lot of these issues.

        • SueInCa says:

          I think it is a great idea Kalima

          • Kalima says:

            We have touched on this issue often here, I think a first hand account can only bring poverty into the forefront more, and judging by the recent survey by the census bureau, poverty in the U.S. is on the increase. An article would be very welcome here, people need to know the facts, or at least be reminded of them.

            As labyris13 so clearly and rightly stated, no one chooses to be poor, and no one chooses to be sick either.

    • labyris13 says:

      I was one of those inter-generational welfare moms she is writing about. I stumbled on this page doing a search to track down the source of the B Lester quote about hoarding money. :)

      My mom worked most of her life as a single parent. I often stayed with family during the summer when school was out and before I was school aged. She was lucky to have a large extended family who could offer free room and board like that.

      Later on she became severely depressed following her hysterectomy. I don’t know if the trigger was psychological, physical, or both. She became immobilized by depression in a way that I could not understand, being a teenager at the time. No one explained clinical depression to me. We went on welfare. This was in the early 70s and we got $139. a month and foodstamps that did not last us until the end of the month. I recall the final ten days of each month we lived on some form of starch--rice, potatoes, etc. But when my mom was so depressed that she couldn’t cook at all, I lived on school lunches and ketchup-and-pickle sandwiches. I was trying to lose weight anyway so I considered this a good incentive.

      She finally began to lighten up out of her depression with therapy and a round of different drugs and went to school to become a nurse. We eventually got off welfare.

      I ended up leaving home early, however, as her depression took its toll on our relationship. I tried to invoke social services but there were no foster homes available. As a result, I married too early and when abuse forced me to end that marriage I also resorted to welfare and went back to school. This was before welfare reform. (I find that a lot of right wing people don’t know about welfare reform and still believe there are lifelong welfare recipients.) While on welfare I and my two children lived on amounts ranging from 7K to 11K in the mid-to-late 80s. The only way to really make foodstamps work was to make nearly everything from scratch. That takes a lot of time.

      Also love the phrase “poor by design.” I don’t know anyone who ever decided to be poor. There are people who feel defeated by poverty and have given up trying to escape it. But no one who had any money or a decent paying job ever said one day, “You know what? Working and having a middle class lifestyle sucks. I think I’ll become poor and try to get money from the government instead.” I suspect that people who argue this think that welfare provides a decent standard of living.

      I once saw a flyer being circulated (found it on a bus) that claimed welfare recipients got everything given to them and listed things like TVs. TVs? Really? No, if you are on welfare you scrape together your meager funds and find a used tv or get caught in one of those rent-to-own high interest but low monthly payment scams. There are a lot of vultures lined up to pick the bones of poor people.

      Poverty is stressful. It’s depressing. It weighs on you and crushes your spirit. There are so many obstacles in the way of getting out of poverty it is amazing that anyone ever escapes it. If you have little or no education (don’t get me started on inner city schools vs. schools in the suburbs) and nothing to put on your resume, no decent clothes for job interviews and no marketable skills, you won’t get out of poverty. You’ll simply get to do hard labor all day and STILL be in poverty. Next to that, welfare looks pretty good. Poor people on welfare aren’t choosing between a good paying middle class job and welfare. They are choosing between a low wage job that won’t pay for childcare and welfare. Give them better choices.

      I got my college degree and I make it a point to write and try to educate people about what poverty is like. As long as we are nameless and faceless people are free to project their fears and ignorance onto us. They think they would make better choices because they have no idea what choices we were offered and what resources we had to make those choices.

      If any of this is useful feel free to quote me.

      • Kalima says:

        Hello labyris13 and thank you so much for sharing your story with us, you made so many good points.

        I’ve removed your name from the end of your comment for privacy concerns.

        Thank you again, and a warm welcome to The Planet, we hope you will enjoy it here.

        • labyris13 says:

          Thanks.

          I use my name all over the internet, though. I do try to be careful not to give exact location away after I got some internet threats. But googling my real name brings up a lot of things with my political point of view and life story (I’m sharing excerpts of my memoir at my website) and I am presently disabled so am not worried about future employers.

          • Kalima says:

            Hi labyris13, for the sake of protecting your privacy, we don’t publish real names or valid email addresses here. We have over 70, 000 readers from 132 different countries, and we can’t control what any of them do with the information, so it’s just a precaution.

            Thanks once again for sharing your story here, everyone should read it, maybe many more will now.

            • Kalima says:

              Hello bito, we are just doing our job, right?. 😀 *doffs invisible hat in your general direction*

              Yes, it has caused us many hours of extra work in the past.

            • bito says:

              Excellent Ms. Kalima! Missing some personal information has caused us many hours of work. Good job!

      • bito says:

        Welcome to the Planet labyris13 and what an excellent debut comment! You brought a some very valuable personal insight in your POV. Again welcome.

        • labyris13 says:

          Thanks. I joined just so I could comment. I’ve had these kinds of discussions with old classmates on Facebook. I had one lady who always posted anti-illegal immigrant stuff and if I posted anything positive or contrary on my own status would try to have long debates.

          My two grandsons are half Mexican and yes, their dad came here illegally, so I’m hardly objective about the issue. I finally had to tell her that my posts on the issue weren’t for her and if she couldn’t agree to disagree, I’d be forced to unfriend her. She was really crossing the line of civility in her comments. She finally dropped it.

          I didn’t know about PlanetPOV before today so I’m glad I stumbled upon it. :)

    • Sabreen60 says:

      Geez. How CAN your response be compassionate? Others have given you great responses. Others here have given you great responses, IMO.

      People who are on “public assistance” (welfare) have to meet certain criteria. Last I heard you have to prove you are not working for specific reasons. I don’t think everyone who is not working is entitled to public assistance.

      If Juan Williams is considered a “liberal” than I’d say your friend is so far to the right she’s just about ready to fall off that cliff.

      • kesmarn says:

        Sabreen, c’lady said it so much more beautifully than I ever could have, all I can do is say a heartfelt “Amen” to her comment below.

        And yes, Juan Williams? Liberal? I don’t think so!

        And how can a response to this be compassionate, is the question indeed. I’ve been thinking for days of a charitable way to say: “How did you ever turn into such a mean-spirited, materialistic, narrow-minded bigot?”

        I don’t think there is one. 😯

      • choicelady says:

        And NO one is on welfare permanently. The disabled receive under $900 per month and no food stamps. Welfare changed in 1996 to a five year lifetime maximum for which you were supposed to get training and work that would lift your skills. Today it’s just work -- and it pay so little for the cash grants it’s BELOW minimum wage. So you go in poor and ignorant and come out poor and ignorant. No usable skills were developed in this current program.

        Illegal aliens so called, come here EXACTLY as our forebears did. WE took away Ellis Island. No one prior to 1952 had to prove anything -- they just showed up. The need has not changed. The method of entry has. We now demand up to 20 years wait. Why is what was good for her Polish grandmother NOT good for her?

        And where ARE those jobs her grandmother had? Gone. Just TRY to find enough entry-level positions for everyone. Business’ efforts to take even the service out of a service economy means her grandmother would not be able to work today.

        The assumption that all is as it was is magical thinking. Telling people who are homeless ‘get a job’ is fraught with stupidity when there are no jobs. We who lived through the boom times ought to be able to see that we were privileged -- those WERE better times. Bring them back. During Eisenhower’s administration the upper rates on taxes was 90%. Buffet is accurate that the wealthy pay lower rates than those who work. Since when do we value UNEARNED income more highly than earned? Why is Paris Hilton, living off her stock income to be taxed less than a young woman her age working as a nurse, a teacher, a construction worker -- what is Paris’ value to our society? Taxes are NOT paid on money used to invest -- it’s on money you have AFTER the huge deductions you get FOR investing in real jobs. It’s on PROFITS not on capital. So why should we tolerate the middle class paying more than the wealthy?

        And the poor pay a LOT in payroll taxes and sales taxes including property taxes diverted into rent costs. NO one pays NO taxes other than the rich who have the means to dodge them, elude them, defraud them. What people don’t realize is that many people at the bottom end of the income strata pay income tax by default -- they know they make too little to pay more then do not file because they forget they CAN get what was withheld BACK. Why should they pay if they’ve been living on less than poverty level wages?

        Wal-Mart pays minimum wage which is LESS than the federal poverty level. They put employees on Medicaid and food stamps. Yet they reap billions that go to a handful of family members who do nothing at all but collect their inherited riches but who have jerry-rigged “investment” deductions to save them huge tax payments. Whom does that benefit? It’s a ridiculous system, and to blame the lower income people for it -- claiming they have a free ride -- is absurd. Wal-Mart gets the free ride!

        Your friend just wants the usual people to blame -- her neighbors. It’s sooo much easier than blaming the real rip off artists. We secretly want to BE the Walton family, the ueber rich, the people of leisure.

        We lost our admiration for people such as her grandmother -- people who are replicated in today’s undocumented immigrants who work their butts off -- so I’d have to say if she were not looking at her grandmother, here without documentation but legally OK with that, through rose colored lenses, she would NOT respect her grandmother either. We do not value hard work. We do NOT value pulling ourselves up by bootstraps, and we DO value the corporate CEOs who cut off the bootstraps and sent them to China.

        She may decry the outsourcing -- but she is not linking it to everything else that makes her upset. With no jobs we either let people just like her grandmother die in the gutter (remember the 1890s) or we help sustain them until they can get back on their feet. You cannot simultaneously permit the decimation of jobs and urge self sufficiency. They are inimical.

        She needs to stop pretending what she wants makes sense. It is magical thinking. She has to figure out who really cares about people, about a system of creating self sufficiency. Then she needs to ask the bottom line question: why do the rich need “incentives” but the poor need desperation?

        If we believe people should support themselves and their families -- why continue to make policies that make that impossible?

        • kesmarn says:

          c’lady, you never fail to amaze me. Beautifully done. Wonderfully written.

          I’ve never been more grateful for my fellow Planeteers.

          Today I posted the following on a social networking site she and I are both on:

          “If a man has an apartment stacked to the ceiling with newspapers we call him crazy. If a woman has a trailer house full of cats we call her nuts. But when people pathologically hoard so much cash that they impoverish the entire nation, we put them on the cover of Fortune magazine and pretend that they are role models.” -- B. Lester

          And she took umbrage and posted this:

          “I think the comment “impoverish the entire nation” is a little over the top, K—-. I can tell you from living in WV, there are alot of poor people here. People who never cared to work or have anything. Yards are full of trash, no plumbing or electricity by their own choosing. You would have to see it to believe it. Do I feel sorry for them? Of course not. The mega-wealthy in this country contribute millions to charitable causes every year. Like them I am willing to help the truly helpless, but not the totally useless.”

          And then I responded:
          “I suspect that there maybe something unhealthy going on at both extremes of the scale, D—-. Wealthy people who fly their children to and from summer camp aboard private jets and who build playhouses in their back yards that can cost $250,000 are conveying the same warped values that folks who disdain work model for their children. Everyone who is able needs to work and contribute to society. Although I would not want to give up on anyone and label him/her “useless,” “Sweet 16″ parties at which children are given Mercedes Benz cars, help to create folks who are very close to it. You don’t appreciate what you don’t have to work for.”

          I figured I would toss her words right back at her.

          • choicelady says:

            kes -- that is brilliant! I can forgive, though not necessarily LIKE, people at the bottom who are messy and dirty -- they are depressed, scared, and often -- too often -- really ignorant of alternatives.

            But how do we forgive the indolent rich kids who, like Paris, do nothing but take take take and give nothing back? They’re useless, too. They suck waaay more out of the system since their wants are HUGE. Do I begrudge a trailer park single Mom her WIC support and Medicaid or Paris’s write offs to lower her taxes?

            To me it’s clear.

            GREAT analogy -- and one that needs to be shared widely and often that there are many ways to be dependent on society. Some are a whole lot more understandable than others.

    • M Cubed says:

      Kes--I loved your initial response to this woman, but her reply covered the same old tired talking points we have all seen hundreds of times over at HP and other places. Your letter was lively and heart-felt, with many beautiful turns of phrase and original thoughts. Her response? Copy and paste. Does she think she is going to inculcate you to her way of thinking--which is obviously someone else’s thoughts she has stolen? Will you be one more tick on her tally board? Is she sharing her heart, or is she looking for a victory?
      I would take anonymous trolls over this sort of personal angst any day. With the trolls, at least I can log off without any emotional trauma.

      • kesmarn says:

        M Cubed, first off thank you for your very kind words. And, yes, I had the same reaction that you did when I read her “response” (could it even really be called that?).

        I’ve heard every talking point she regurgitated many, many times. In fact, I still haven’t gotten to answering her yet, since it’s so difficult to feel motivated to put any effort into something that she just blows off by reciting her scripted messages back to me.

        Excellent observation about preferring anonymous trolls to this “personal angst” (exactly!). Many of us came — as she did — from immigrant stock who suffered and worked long hours at difficult jobs. But it didn’t turn all of us into hard, materialistic people. I found that a sorry excuse for a lack of compassion.

        Now…how do I say that tactfully? 😀

    • AdLib says:

      Fascinating, Kes.

      So what would Jesus do about welfare? Cut it when no jobs are available. Yep, sounds like Jesus to me.

      Military action to seal the borders, also a big principle for Jesus and stripping adults who are illegal immigrants of any health care but being compassionate enough to let their kids have health care means parents can be left to die and leave their children helpless. Jesus says, “You read my mind!”

      And deport parents even for misdemeanors, leaving their kids abandoned? Jesus gives a big thumbs up on that one!

      Take Americans off welfare and force them to do the jobs Mexicans do or starve. Another 10 on the Jesusometer.

      And only Americans have rights in America? They need a link to The Constitution.

      The whole anti-Muslim bigotry is just nasty stuff.

      And the hypocrisy of moaning about the corruption of capitalism then reverting to programming, “But I love capitalism!” “To the victor goes the spoils!”

      What planet is this person living on? Victor? Many of these people are born into their wealth and the people they oppress aren’t even on the playing field, the wealthy are just playing with themselves (double entendre intended).

      Heh! The Tea Party, funded by the corrupt Koch Brothers and FreedomWorks…is the result of people being fed up with corruption. And those same people once elected take money from the same corrupt lobbyists their predecessors did. Reality just isn’t such people’s strong suit.

      And the answer to the wealthiest robbing the rest of America of their jobs and wealth…tax the poor because they won’t appreciate what they have left until it’s taken away.

      Sorry Kes but such people are so blindly hateful and selfish, cloaking it under “self-reliance”, if Jesus came back, they’d be best running for the hills.

      • kesmarn says:

        AdLib, I’ve been meaning for the longest time to thank you for the excellent rebuttal to this woman’s hurricane of talking points. I hope you don’t mind if I use some of those comments! (I really do need to force myself to respond to her…argh!)

        I agree: if Jesus suddenly popped up in her elegant living room, his reaction would probably be: “WTF are you thinking?” (But maybe phrased in somewhat a more King Jamesie style? Since that’s all they seem to understand.)

        Thanks again. Terrific points.

    • Khirad says:

      It started off like, oh, this might be halfway reasonable, and then it just got racist. She doesn’t think the author was afraid of anyone and then she goes on a tirade against generational welfare (I don’t know what the fuck that’s supposed to mean except black people), Mexicans (did you see the article I posted that arrests are at a 40 year low at the border? -- she’d just say that’s ’cause we aren’t trying), and then her outright BIGOTRY against Muslims. You know who else said, “I suppose some are good and all, but I just don’t trust ’em”?

      My RACIST ancestors in Georgia and South Carolina.

      It’s like she’s from another planet. Where the fuck has she gotten some of these ideas?

      Oh, wait, that’s rhetorical.

      You know who she reminds me of? Gretchen Carlson. She’s scared of everything just a smidge different than her and has the same imaginary persecution complex against Christians.

      If you need the list of all the Muslims condemning terrorism and more, I have them. In fact, according to a global poll of Muslims, more Americans thought sometimes killing civilians was okay than Muslims, etc.

      Others already nailed it. It’s not about facts, it’s all about perceived anxieties.

      Oh, if she wants to bring up Soros, remember, Iran hates Soros too. 😉 I’ve never had a rightie have an answer to that. Puts them in that ideological bind of Iran=Evil, Evil hates Soros, I like Evil?

      • kesmarn says:

        Thanks for your valuable insights, Khirad.

        And for the assistance in this “dialogue” — or maybe dueling monologues would be a better term? I did not know that about Soros. Excellent point.

        I still haven’t replied. Work intervened and then when you have downtime, it ends up being a bit depressing to deal with closet racists/semi-trolls like this.

        But I’ll get back to her. I promised I would.

        Merci…again!

        • Khirad says:

          Glenn Beck Sees George Soros as Iran Does
          http://thelede.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/12/glenn-beck-sees-george-soros-as-iran-does/

          Seriously, this really screws with them. Also, Russian media hates Soros too. As do far-left woo-woos.

          And as AdLib and you yourself noticed no doubt, how does one say the Tea Party is about ending corruption and big money when its biggest manifestations were groups like Freedom Works, etc? A wee bit of a blind spot there. Those fancy buses and stage sound systems didn’t pay for themselves.

          Somehow I suspect she may have gotten help crafting that, or if not, it was as you say, a bunch of talking points.

          Maybe you’d feel it was cheating, but I think the best thing to do is to just deal in facts and figures. And if you need help in that regard, if she spouts of talking points and FOX memes, it’s not unfair to run by something before us.

          Back the Muslim thing, I’m about to go on my own monologue, ’cause I watched a neat documentary last night on all this. I doubt this would register and it gets beyond the fact tact, but I’m almost tempted for you to ask her if she believes if FOX or any news would report it if Muslims did come out and condemn terrorism (knowing that they have and it hasn’t been covered). If she ever questions her sources with critical thinking, and their motives/audience (this last part requires self-awareness).

          In that same global poll of Muslims, they tabulated US news coverage and 57% of coverage of Muslims showed radical Muslims (only 57%?!). They make up, including those that will never bomb anybody, but share the same extreme views, 7% total (actual terrorists under 1%). What if you lived in a non-Christian country and the only images you saw of Christians were the KKK, that Norwegian guy, etc? What would your opinion be of Christians? This opens up the can of worms of equating the two, when there is more of a problem violence-wise with Islam right now -- and might as well concede it, but they found the difference between those who commit acts of violence and those who don’t has nothing to do with piety and everything to do with an extreme political worldview (anti-colonial, anti-Israeli). In other words, two people may have the same conservative Muslim beliefs. The indicator of who will commit or support the act of terrorism is politically ideological (but of course, they would say like Cain that Islam is a political system — as if Christianity never was). In this survey they would ask the 7% how they justified their beliefs in supporting violence against innocents. Unlike every other group they were the only ones that couldn’t cite the Qur’an. Hmm.

          Here’s the doc, btw

          http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/inside_islam_what_a_billion_muslims_really_think/

          • kesmarn says:

            Khirad, I’m sorry I’m so late in responding to your excellent, thoughtful comments. And a million thanks for the link to the documentary.

            As you suggested, I am going to raise the issue of the Muslim/Christian comparisons. E.g., if 57% of media representations of Christians were highly negative, what would she and others like her think peoples’ opinion of Christians would be?

            What would I do without the Planet for support in dealing with this drek? :-(

    • AlphaBitch says:

      Kes: Wow. I loved the “I’m not a “stats” person as a rule, I just go with my gut feelings.”

      Isn’t THAT the same comedy bit that Stephen Colbert uses? He doesn’t like facts, he just goes w/ his gut. Doesn’t listen to his head, just listens to his gut.

      So…try this: Lemon meringue pie. Fried chicken. Pot roast.

      BTW; It would be interesting to see her. Try to google her and see if she does indeed “go with her gut”.

      ‘Tis a pity. Sad, fearful, jealous -- so many images come to mind (aside from brainwashed or its less kind synonyms).

      So my advice to you: Tell her you will pray for her. She’ll probably hate it! -- AB

      • kesmarn says:

        😆 AB, you crack me up! I love your “gut menu”! (That actually sounds pretty good right now. Them stats is not mighty good eatin’.)

        In “real life” I gather she is practically perfect. From her account, that is. She lives in some rural area (not exactly sure where) and she and her husband are, apparently, some sort of very up-scale homesteader types.

        She cans and preserves and makes quilts and stuff. And he grows crops and slaughters their own meat and does the whole Little House on the Prairie Manly-Man schtick. In short, they could live perfectly well if the entire rest of the human race were vaporized. They think.

        They might get tripped up a little bit on that doing-open-heart-surgery-on-each-other problem. But other than that, they’ve got it nailed.

        I’ve seen pix of their house and it’s gorgeous. So there’s some sort of extra income and/or family money that I suspect we’re not hearing about.

        Anyhoo. They’ve made all the right decisions and done everything to perfection without any help from any other human, so the rest of us losers can go to hell.

        At least that’s their story and they’re stickin’ to it.

        • AlphaBitch says:

          Geez Louise, Kes. You nailed it. THEY are perfect, at least in their eyes (so much for that pesky Biblical Micah 6:8 -- “For what am I to do but do justice, love mercy and walk HUMBLY with my God?”
          (sorry -- this is from top of head B/4 coffee or MB -- might not be perfect, but it is the gist)

          I once had a similar encounter w/ a friend, and spent hours doing research -- nay, days -- and then calmly rebutted her with facts. She backed off, we stayed friends, and we DO share things now. I apologized before replying, but just wanted her to know that I would not back down, and would “fact” her to death if needed. Unfortunately, with our computer crash of April, I lost all the data. I tried to find it for you -- couldn’t. And as you know, don’t have time to reconstruct.

          But I think Ms. Probably Has a Cellar of The Emergency Food Glenn Beck Was Hawking would not listen.

          Love you, Kes, for your even trying. Let it go, walk away, and get back to the positive. You’ll see it when you go back to helping those who need help, not those who insist they don’t. -- AB

    • funksands says:

      Kes, if I may engage in some editing?

      “Here are my thoughts to your reply: Jesus did say to help the poor, but sadly my heart isn’t as kind as yours”.

      That’s what I got out of it. Much more concise.

    • bito says:

      Wow, where indeed do you start? Joe Kennedy, George Soros and Obama Czars,
      Oh, My, Oh my,
      Homegrown terror, some Muslims may be nice and Sharia Law,
      Frightening Fear,
      Mexicans,change the constitution, tax the poor and don’t tax the rich,
      Oh my, Oh My, Oh My!

      The frosting on the cake may be:

      I’m not a “stats” person as a rule, I just go with my gut feelings.

      Not one to let those pesky facts in the way.

      • kesmarn says:

        Maddening, isn’t it, b’ito?

        There’s a real Alice in Wonderland feel to engaging with these people. And the game they can really play like pros is the one called: “Yeah, but….”

        There’s no end to that one.

        • funksands says:

          The fact that she replied and said that she valued this is a good thing, right? :-)

          • kesmarn says:

            I hope so, funk.

            I always want to believe that staying in conversation with people who seem so alien (and vote so badly) is worth the effort.

            Hope I’m not wasting my (and everyone else’s) time… But the alternative seems to become more and more polarized.

            And that ain’t workin’!

    • SueInCa says:

      Kes
      Oh boy I don’t know what to say. She tries to justify every talking point by telling you at the end, I am not a stats person. In other words don’t ask me for any proof of my claims, just accept them. I guess what I would do is respond to each talking point with facts. I also don’t get what value she found in your position if all she did was use her talking points to try to discredit them.

      My gut tells me she is playing some kind of game and only she knows the end result, but it is not in your favor. You can also respond to her but use Republicans as the examples. See how she takes that.

      • kesmarn says:

        Yes, Sue! I was thinking of that: “I’ll see your George Soros and I’ll raise you two Koch brothers!” might be a tactic in this crazy game she seems to want to play.

        As I mentioned to Caru, this could wear anyone down quickly (like arguing with a 12 year old) and then when you throw your hands up in despair, she’s convinced she has slyly outwitted you. The Palin Syndrome.

        • kes, it does sound like your friend really believes those things she says. I don’t know if she is playing a game of one-up-manship. And I don’t know if you can ever change her way of thinking. It may be enough to just lay out the facts and have her make of them what she will. I know she said stats don’t mean anything to her and that seems to imply that she has no interest in scientific fact finding. That seems to be her armored shield against anything she doesn’t want to believe. People like her have been fed this nonsense most of their lives and that is reinforced everyday in RW media. I would ask her to carefully consider the facts behind these issues and suggest that she would be better off, in many ways, by knowing the truth instead of clinging to baseless talking points. Knowledge doesn’t come without change. Take the aspects of win/lose out of the equation altogether. The only thing to possibly lose is misapprehension.

          • kesmarn says:

            True, KT. If I fall into the trap of thinking the way they do (victory/annihilate the “enemy”) then there’s no point even continuing the dialogue. Win/lose really isn’t the point. Thanks for reminding me.

            Better to announce a disengagement, as Sue suggests, than go into battle-mode.

        • SueInCa says:

          Kes
          Then what I would do is posture your next reply as semi final reply. Let her know you are not interested in playing one-upmanship between the two points of view but that each side has their troublemakers and crazies. That could end it on a even note, not frustration. She won’t know what hit her. The article by the Congressional Aide might give you some ideas as well.

    • WOW, just WOW! Your friend has indeed learned her talking points well. She doesn’t seem to realize that today’s America is not the America it was for her grandparents. How does one work when there are no jobs? I think it’s a bit self defeating for people on welfare to do jobs that people would otherwise be paid to do. She doesn’t seem to understand the basic contractual workings of employer/employee. If people receiving welfare did the jobs she recommends they would be taking jobs away from other people. She also seems to think that living on a very limited budget, as is the result of being on welfare, is something to be envious of. Hence referring to these people as “useless” or implying that they are just lazy and want everything handed to them. Are there people who take advantage of welfare? Of course there are. But I have no doubt that the majority of people who find themselves dependent of welfare, would much rather work for a living. She also doesn’t seem to realize that there are far too many employers that will take advantage of the jobless situation in this country to exploit those that do work for them. And, many people who receive government assistance only do so for a limited time. She seems to view offering someone a “leg up” as giving them a “hand out.” This is so typical of those on the right. Yet they seem to have no qualms about CEOs making a thousand times more than their employees. It’s a slave mentality. I don’t say this to be insulting, I say it because it’s true. I will address the other issues she brings up in a few more replies.
      P.S. I think it’s hilarious that your friend thinks there is such a thing as being “poor by design.” How’s that for pretzel logic?

      • kesmarn says:

        KT, I had the same reaction to that “poor by design” designation. As if there were people who planned to live such a difficult life!

        And you’re right. I hadn’t thought about the fact that all the work done by welfare recipients (in her best of all possible worlds) would be work that was not being done by employees in the state roads or parks (or other) divisions for a decent wage.

        I’ve yet to answer her, partly because her message made me mad and I don’t want to write in that frame of mind. I am grateful for your insights — present and future!

    • Caru says:

      Quote:
      “I’m not a “stats” person as a rule, I just go with my gut feelings.”

      Well, there’s your problem. :(

      You could write out a list of her main points and then systematically de-construct each one you disagree with, while also saying that you understand why she thinks what she thinks, but that she’s perhaps being too narrow in her thinking. But that would take a while to write out and would be rather draining.

      • kesmarn says:

        Caru, you brilliantly zeroed in on exactly what is indeed her problem.

        “Don’t bother me with your pesky facts, just let me check my gut.”

        Well done, you clever one.

        And, yes, do I have the time/energy to spend with someone who will merely copy and paste some unrelated (but to her, comforting) generic rightie talking points and then be off to the country club?

        Well, at least when I decide that I have better things to do, she’ll have the consolation of telling people that she “won.” :-(

  3. Caru says:

    Well done, KM. Did it go well in the end?

  4. ADONAI says:

    I can’t make it past the part with the Catholic schoolgirl’s uniforms.

    Anymore stories from that time period? You know, some crazy catholic girls, experimenting, breaking the rules.

    O.K., so, how do we talk to those we disagree with? I would assume like adults. I try that. It’s difficult but it keeps me calm. Usually.

    I got terribly mad the other day arguing with some Republicans on HP, but I eventually got over it. If you stop being the adult in the conversation then you’re no better than them.

    I try to avoid the name-calling, the condescension, and the self assured arrogance that so many on HP cling to. But it’s hard. It’s really hard.

    But,like I said the other day, I’ve seen people “converted”. You start off by treating them as an equal. Listening and considering their ideas whether you agree or not. You find the middle ground. Then you move forward from there together.

    It can be done. They’re just like you. They’ve just been lied to for a very long time. We all have.

  5. Chernynkaya says:

    Kes, what a fabulous post! It is vintage Kes--thoughtful, compassionate, open-hearted and smart. While I honestly never debate people on the Right, I deeply admire you not just for doing so, but for the way you approached it. I feel that it is my personal weakness that makes me incapable of talking to those on the Right—especially this new and devolved group. For me it boils down to my belief that people on the right are a different species than I am, but with some caveats. There IS a continuum, and it’s not as though everyone is on that same place on that sliding scale. But being a Liberal, I find it against the grain to be so rigid and dismissive, so I do try to understand them and in rare instances I have found some semi-common ground.

    I think that the way in which you used that once-common ground (your shared religion) was just perfect! That is not to say that religious people on the Right don’t have a very different interpretation of the Bible than the rest of us—they have proven that they do! --but at least there is a shared reference point.

    Recently there has been a slew of new research showing that the brains of people on the Left and Right are wired differently. That is probably behind the reasons they have such completely different world views, have different takes on morality, and see themselves differently. Their goals for this country are diametrically opposed to mine. I could go on and on about this, but most of us have already read those studies and know the differences. (And I am considering writing a separate post about this so I’ll save my soapbox for that!) Suffice it to say that I see these folks as my enemy—as a dangerous, life-threatening enemy—and yet feel compelled to find understanding and whatever agreement I can.

    • lynettema says:

      “Recently there has been a slew of new research showing that the brains of people on the Left and Right are wired differently.”

      I have always said about the RW, “Garbage in, garbage out.” When the only thing these people listen to, when they may have grown up hearing their RW parents, I think we can expect nothing less from them. I think our only hope with them is to challenge them to listen to something else -- along with their rw media outlets -- and then challenge them to find out what is real. However, this would take some real effort on their part and it is just easier to go along with FAUX. I hope kesmarn’s old friend is open to hearing something other than rw talking points. So far my rw friends are not.

      • Chernynkaya says:

        Lyn, I agree! However, as you might know facts won’t change their minds-in fact paradoxically facts only make them dig into their wrong ideas further. For a large segment of these people there is absolutely no use discussing anything nor trying to educate them. But as I say, there is a continuum of crazy.

    • kesmarn says:

      Cher, I can’t wait to read that post you’re considering. In everything you’ve ever written, I’ve always sensed a consistent respect for your fellow humans, no matter how much you may disagree with some of them. You are just an intrinsically decent person and that shines through even in the times when you may be most provoked by their apparently idiotic and/or cruel behavior.

      There’s nothing wrong with being pissed off, as I see it. It’s whether it energizes you or eats you up that matters.

      And you are energized!

  6. AlphaBitch says:

    Oh kes! I am so proud to know you. You are truly, truly remarkable. I loved every word that you so rightly wrote. I haven’t read all the comments yet -- time is, as always, of the essence -- but my take is that you “fought” on your friend’s turf. I love debating the Christians who adhere to the prosperity “gospel” -- because it simply doesn’t exist. I had to spend a lot of time, reading not only the words of Jesus and the New Testament, but also countless books from religious scholars. I can thump the Bible back at them as hard or harder than they can thump at me. And I try and use ONLY the words of Jesus, as presented in the King James Bible, because they won’t argue with that.

    I love and respect my deeply committed evangelical friends -- there are not many I can truly call friends, but there are some. We sit calmly, and sweetly, and each one explains where we are coming from. I quit being invited to prayer meetings after quoting from Matthew, where Jesus gave the admonishment not to pray in public, but rather to go into a closet and pray in private. In return, when I felt the need to have someone pray WITH me, I turn to these people and we find a private place to hold hands, silently pray and I set them off on their prayer path because I know they are true and kind. I trust their intent when they pray FOR me.

    But whatever task you find -- be in Afghanistan, politics, religion -- you simply CANNOT just fight with cold hard facts. You have to KNOW their turf or you just don’t stand a ghost of a chance at “winning”. By learning about “them”, you see they are like “us”.

    I often told my host families that we all wanted the exact same thing for America; we just disagreed on how to get there, and that was OK. And many of these conservative, evangelicals made wonderful homes for my chibos. And they became and remain friends.

    So good luck, and GREAT job! -- AB

    • kesmarn says:

      AB, I think you always tend to see the best in everyone because you ARE the best! That’s the up side of “projection,” isn’t it? 😆

      Your words mean so much to me because I know you’re out there “walking the walk” every day. I’m honored to know you. And you’re “chilluns” are so fortunate to have you in their lives.

      Keep on doing what you’re doing, dear friend. The world is a better place because of you and the Blov.

  7. I have found that tempering emotions during a conversation about politics and religion is the only way to bring about a possible understanding between people of differing ideologies. And since politics and religion bring out strong emotions, this is not an easy thing to do. But it is necessary for a civil discussion. We have to ask ourselves certain questions such as, “what do I expect to achieve by entering into a dialog with someone with vastly different views than my own?” Could I possibly take away some truth that I hadn’t realized before? Is there any real aspect of common ground between us? (there almost always is) And listening intently to the other person is absolutely necessary. Listening takes a conscious effort and is just as important as talking. Asking the other person “why” they believe what they believe helps too. And honesty on the part of both individuals is also absolutely necessary. Truth cannot be arrived at by deception and lies. Am I seeking to understand the other’s viewpoint or am I trying to get them to change their thinking so it is more in line with my own?
    I think it takes a certain amount of skill and patience to engage someone with opposing beliefs in a civil conversation. It’s a sort of art form.
    Since I started blogging about 7 years ago, I think I have honed this skill to a better degree than ever before. I believe that tempering our emotions is the most important part in having a civil discussion. Strong emotions really tend to negate reason and logic.

    • kesmarn says:

      KT, I hear you. Emotions are so valuable, but they’re only part of what makes us human. (I think I heard someone once describe them as a “great sail, but a poor rudder.”)

      And conversations with RWers gets really complicated when they’re coming from an angry place and they’d (consciously or sub-consciously) love to get you to join them there. Some of them seem to have a genius for chain-pulling and cage-rattling, too. They know just what to say to get your blood pressure rising.

      That’s when it’s really helpful to know how to put on the brakes.

      • kes. when they start trying to provoke me and get me in the same angry place they are in, then the discussion is over. I will not dialogue with people like that. It’s almost always a waste of time. But if they are willing to meet me half way, then there is a good chance for a valuable discussion.

    • agrippa says:

      Strong emotions do tend to negate reason and logic. And, in politics and religion, reason and logic do not take you very far; you get back to the basic assumptions which are faith based pretty quickly. It dies not take long to exhaust the subject.

  8. agrippa says:

    Politics and religion are very similar in that both are based upon an act of faith. Thus, not very amenable to fact and logic. And, not having a lot of either. Both tend to be emotion laden. It is far easier to have heated argument than reasonable dialogue.

    Conservatives and liberals -- and liberalism is very diverse -- tend to have much different basic assumptions. If you get back to basics, you should find a fundamental disagreement.

    Essntially, I stay away from discussing politics and religion; most of the time I mention the fact that this is a free country and we political/religious diversity. Whether we want to have that diversity or not.

  9. AdLib says:

    Well done, Kes! It takes a lot more strength to exhibit that kind of patient reason than to simply and easily snap at someone about how wrong they are.

    If we’re ever going to profoundly reverse the acute division and partisanship in this country, it can only be by exemplifying respect for others and for reason.

    Great article Kes and a good start on a primer about how to truly have discussions with folks on the other side of the fence (and hopefully convince them to at least consider hopping over).

    • kesmarn says:

      Thanks so much AdLib. I’m really so much more like the “dame” in the photo illustration for the article: “Admit it. I’m right.” that I have to take everything I want to say (e.g., “WTF is the matter with you??”) and ratchet it down ten fold.

      It doesn’t come “natchurly,” to a old-school lib, that’s for sure.

      But I keep hoping that in spite of their reluctance to use calm reason themselves, they’ll respond to it anyway.

  10. funksands says:

    Kes, I really enjoyed reading this. This is something I wrestle with a lot because 99.9% of my in-laws are right-wing luna…conservatives.

    In retrospect how do feel about what you wrote?

    Something that has helped me in the past has been to preface my smackd….opinion with a “Please don’t take my passion for this subject in any way except for what it is…..”

    I honestly feel that deep down we are all very much alike. There is a thin but very powerful veneer that makes it difficult to communicate sometimes.

    One example is the different perspective about the world itself and how we all got here.

    Many conservatives seemingly have convinced themselves that the world had once been an orderly, predictable place full of God’s splendor. First came the garden of eden, then man logically and effortlessly moved through Plato and Aristotle then a side trip through the Holy Land to write down the mysteries of the Universe, and then ever since then things are falling apart at the seams

    Many liberals I think feel and see the world from the other side of the telescope in reverse. Slowly and painfully cobbling together bits of humanity and civilization in the middle of pain, struggle, hunger, war, terror, and hardship until we got enough of a toehold to build communities, and then learning, and then a society. We know how fragile it is and cherish it. We empathize with those of us who struggle to “make it” and survive because we know how hard it is, and we are only several generations removed from a far more brutal and cold world.

    Why do some of us see the world through one end of the telescope, and some through the other? Not sure.

    I think because we think the way we do, and see through the telescope like we do we will always be plagued by all sorts of complicated emotions and thoughts when we deal with others in this realm of conversation. Conservatives don’t seem troubled by this issue, and I think have an unfair advantage.

    • kesmarn says:

      funk, that is really a fascinating observation. The one about libs and conservatives viewing human history through opposite ends of the telescope. I had never really thought of it that way, but that seems so profoundly true.

      I think that before reading your insights, the major difference I sensed was that conservatives had a fundamental distrust of human nature. Even when they weren’t religious, they seemed to believe in the innate depravity of every individual. Hence, their perpetually guarded state. (And — hey — who’s to say that did not serve some sort of evolutionary purpose? I suppose if everyone went around happily and naively wanting to be pals with every critter on the planet…including sabre-toothed tigers and rattlesnakes…we might have had a small problem on our hands.)

      Libs, on the other hand, seem to be open to the notion that humans want to — and that they can — be/do better. And that they should be given every chance to do that. Also that they can be trusted to govern themselves and — in large groups — to eventually come round to making pretty wise choices. Conservatives see that as being pitifully gullible. They feel that if there aren’t strict rules and regs, enforced by people who have (at the bare minimum) clubs, baaaad things are going to happen.

      In retrospect, I think I might have done well to add the modifier that you said you usually use in situations like this. As much as I tried to temper my presentation, I think it’s still pretty “out there” (in their estimation) and she may be somewhat offended. But — in contrast with the way the right often states its case — I think I was fairly civilized! 😆

      • funksands says:

        Kes, I think any friend or former friend that gets such a thought-out reply like this should treasure it, whether or not they agree with it.

        If your old friend does appreciate the effort, then perhaps you’ve found someone worth re-connecting with.

      • Emerald1943 says:

        Kes, I think you did an excellent job, but then I am one of those libs with “flawed” thinking as far as the conservatives are concerned. This makes me wonder if this is a right brain/left brain thing! (No pun intended!)

        Perhaps your hesitancy in voicing your core political beliefs is partly due to your being younger and, I might add, a very kind and caring person. You certainly go out of your way NOT to offend. I wonder if your friend has the same angst about her comments to you.

        I, on the other hand, am older and have come to the conclusion that I will pretty much say what’s on my mind…if they don’t like it, then tough!!

        I’m sure that my way is not the best way to have a civil conversation, but I have grown so tired of the “talking points” of the other side, and the ignorance of people who vote against their own interests due to their intransigence in even looking at any other point of view. I know this is a hard line to take, but after the bruises and scars of many a political discussion, I feel I have earned the right to speak my piece. I am sure that many will disagree with me here. I do admire your patience and your concern for her feelings.

        I do hope that you are able to change your school mate’s attitudes about her politics in general, but I have my doubts on the surface. My experience has not been a positive one in trying to do the same thing. Maybe it’s my “no apologies” approach! The only solace you can take, if she is offended, is that you KNOW in your heart of hearts that you are right, that basically people ARE good and that we ARE capable of governing ourselves with positive results! After all, that is the foundation upon which this country was built. On that point, your friend can have no argument.

        Good piece…very thought provoking! :-)

        • kesmarn says:

          Em, the talking points are SO annoying, aren’t they? Occasionally I’ll hold my nose and listen to Limbaugh for a few minutes just so I’ll know what the script du jour will be. I can’t imagine listening passively and docilely to some blowhard to find out how I thought/felt about current events every single day. But they do, and once you’re on to their sources, it gets easier all the time to refute them.

          You’re so kind in your comments, Em. But I am old enough to appreciate Kathy Bates’ performance in — what was it? — “Fried Green Tomatoes”? 😆 So that makes me officially old.

        • Artist50 says:

          EM -- I love your “my way or the highway” approach to life. Women spend most of their lives “doing” for others. No on ever got up from the dinner table and said thanks for doing the dishes to me, but if the kids or ex did them they practically expected an Olympic medal! One of the great pleasures of aging as a woman is saying what you want, when you want and genuinely not caring what others think. I’m not quite there, but every year I feel myself slipping into that mindset and it’s such a freedom. There’s a great book my brother gave me many years ago called, “When I am an Old Woman I Shall Wear Purple”. As to the topic at hand, I have 15 friends from high school (1968) who have always stayed in contact. There’s hardly a day that I don’t receive an email from one of them. We’re spread out from Arizona to Connecticut but at least every 5 years we take a trip. We do not discuss politics because it has been divisive and there a couple RWers that know I will stand up for beliefs. I don’t mind the debate but some people take it very personally and it’s not worth losing a friend.

  11. PatsyT says:

    Kes, maybe it’s your medical training that gives you the stomach for these folks,
    Good for you, talking the talk and walking the walk.
    I admire you perseverance.

    I ran across this quote today on the Christian Left FB page

    ‎”Don’t tell me you’re a Christian. Let me figure it out.” — Unknown

    I just don’t recognize these “Christians”
    They are so full of themselves.
    Do any of them remember…
    ….Pride goeth before the fall….

    • kesmarn says:

      I saw that quotation, too, Patsy! I like that one. It’s right up there with: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” (Francis of Assissi)

      It’s weird how there’s that clear fault line that splits mainstream religions right down the middle. Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Muslims all have their ultra-extremists (usually easily identified by the way they treat women) and then their more moderate, humane sectors. And the chasm between them is enormous. (Guess I shouldn’t have used the phrase “down the middle,” since I think the extremists normally tend to be quite a bit fewer than half of total believers. But you know what I mean.)

      • kes, my brother is a conservative through and through. Not only in politics, but just the way he lives his life. He is a work-aholic and does earn the expensive lifestyle he lives. But he is sort of a paradox in that he is very generous. He is caring and thoughtful and not entirely closed minded. But I don’t think he stays as informed politically as I do. He doesn’t really have much time for the nitty gritty details. So I don’t think he realizes just how bad today’s GOP and TP are. If he did, I am sure he would not approve of them.
        We are diametrically opposed and pretty much always have been. I am not really materialistic and tend to be more ideologically oriented. I am more of a transcendentalist and he is more into the status quo.
        I say these things because I realize that fundamentally, he IS a good person and I know there are others like him on the right. And I am sure that those like my brother don’t know the nitty gritty, cold hard facts about today’s right wing. And so, I give them the benefit of doubt.

  12. escribacat says:

    Kes, Usually when someone says “Can we talk?” what they really mean is “Will you listen to me?”

  13. KQuark says:

    Kes thanks for providing your valuable insights.

    I know where you are coming from because since I move down south almost 20 years now from the NE I’ve had more interaction with conservatives than liberals.

    • kesmarn says:

      It’s walking a fine line, isn’t it, KQ? You have to steer between going soft on your principles and being so emphatic in making your case that you alienate them even more. Not easy.

  14. SueInCa says:

    Kes
    I think you did a fabulous job. You struck the right tone and backed up your thoughts with clear and compassionate truth. If I was reading that, I know I would not take offense at anything you said. On the other hand if I was a rightwing long time conservative I think it would take me awhile to wrap my head around it. I would hope that I would be able to look at it with an open mind but you just never know. The party line just might be too ingrained in her to look at anything with an open mind or she may just know your political standing and sought you out because she is having doubts. Let’s hope it is that and the response will be positive.

    • kesmarn says:

      Thanks so much, Sue. You, more than most of us, know how that RW “head” can take hold, and how difficult it is to “inject doubt.” I’m not going to get my hopes up terribly high that this will produce any sort of epiphany. But I also felt that it would be a shame to ignore her request for “dialogue.” I figure there were probably only two possible reasons she made that request: she either wanted an opening to convert me to her point of view, or she really wanted to understand a different one.

      Needless to say, I’m hoping it was the latter!


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