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.

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labyris13Sabreen60M CubedKhiradbito Recent comment authors
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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.


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


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.


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.


“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.


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.


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


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.


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.


Oh, I think there has to be reason and logic when discussing what our government is doing, should be doing and should not be doing. Discussions of faith are a different matter.


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.


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).


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.


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….


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

KQµårk 死神

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.


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.

Dorothy Rissman
Dorothy Rissman

Thoughtful piece. In such a situation it seems the right thing to do is to state your position, listen to the other, and move on. I do not think there is much of a path between the two parties at this point.

You are spot on in talking about the greed of this country. I fear that many, maybe like your friend, do not understand that we are truly an aristocratic nation. When I was in graduate school in the 70s, sociological studies found that this country was fourth in the world in terms of inequality between those who have and those who do not. It is even worse today.

Thank you. I have a difficult time even when dealing with some of my super progressive friends.