Saturday, July 12, 2008

Like-Minded Folk

Having listened to a National Public Radio broadcast last week regarding the splintering of America into living in like-minded neighborhoods - we drive the same vehicles, we have small children or teenagers, or we're retired, we speak the same language, we wear the same clothes, we drink the same beer or wine, we VOTE the same, we DISLIKE the same people or groups of people, we work for the same kinds of companies or in the same industries, and on and on so, as I found myself last evening in a buffet line with one of my fellow town citizens, fellow Americans, and someone whom I've known through church and some social events, I recalled the NPR broadcast realizing that there's not much chance that he and I would ever to choose to "splinter" off into the same neighborhood living situation.

He, for whatever reason, began to tell me that small town America is gone, that this nation is on a downright spiral that can never be turned back that if that "guy" Obama was elected there would be no doubt that America was "over." Obama, socialist that he is, has zero going for him. He has no experience, he knows nothing of America's values, his presidency would be a disaster.....(my buffet line friend did say that as long as Obama had a teleprompter he could give a good speech.)

All of this was delivered in rapid fire order with my "friend" becoming angrier and angrier as he spoke. When he took a breath, I suggested that I did not necessarily share his views but since he was so anti-Obama what did he believe McCain's strengths were. Well, he wasn't so sure about McCain but he knew he would be better than Obama. I then suggested that although I respected Mr. McCain's life experiences I felt he would just be a continuance of George Bush's presidency - the worst in our history. To which he replied that Bush hadn't done everything correctly but that he was right in going to war in Iraq and that "everybody else" had screwed things up beginning right after "we declared the war WON in Iraq" and now it was a mess! He granted that McCain is a nice guy but nice guys don't get elected anymore - like they ever did? My counter to that was that I thought George Bush was probably a nice guy - just incapable of being a president.

Taking hardly a breath, he launched into GB being "pushed" into a stand on global warming saying to even consider such a stupid concept was a mistake on the president's behalf. That there are at least 35 scientists in the world that believe there is no such thing as global warming and that dope, Al Gore, who put a story and a book up on a powerpoint screen being awarded the Nobel Peace Prize was the craziest thing he had ever heard of.

My response, both calm and measured, to this enlightenment (I guess that was what it was supposed to be) was that I did not agree with him on the points he had made but that it was interesting to listen to him as his viewpoint on America, the political process, the "won" war, global warming, and such was one that I seldom encountered. I think that was when we parted the buffet line!

So back to my opening comments about listening and choosing to live with like-minded folk - I do not hanker to spend an evening or even a few minutes listening or debating with my "buffet friend" again. And believe me, I am certain he feels the same way!

Regrettably or naturally(?), I would choose to be with like-minded folk rather than attempting to share religious or political views with an angry, adult, narrow minded white American male - (whew, sounds like there's a lot of anger in that sentence.) But truly, I do have friends with different political and religious interpretations that I can share or at least listen to without becoming angry myself....I think.....

Do we grow by only listening to like-minded folk? Do we grow by listening to those we consider less informed than we, more bigoted than we, more judgmental than we? (I threw in the judgmental for obvious reasons there - my biased writing is critically cruel and perhaps bigoted that I would lump a group of angry, adult, etc. - into the mix.) Do we fool ourselves into thinking we are open-minded and progressive, capable of listening to another's point of view without becoming the person to whom we listen but still disagree? What would our gut tell us, what would our religious thermometer tell us, how do we tell our story to someone who is so angry and feels so cheated in their ability to influence the world? Do I listen to like-minded folk so much that my wishful thinking for a better America, for a better world is clouded by the voice of other than like-minded friends who speak what they consider to be the "truth"?

How about your relationships, and I don't mean buffet line talk. Are they capable of holding up under differing religious and political views or do you draw the line and decide to discontinue them because a discouraging word has been "fired across the bow?" I'm asking YOU this question as at the same time I seriously ask myself the same question.


  1. Whew! I hate to spend that much time in a line waiting for food.

    When I think before responding or pontificating, I try to peer at things from different perspectives. Viewpoints can make all the difference in the way things look, physically or in abstraction. The difficulty for me is to remember to think, in addition to feeling.

    I don't remember the source of this statement, but I remember finding some truth in it, "We see the world not as it is, but as we are." Perhaps we can change the world as we change ourselves, for better or for worse.

    Unfortunately, in my opinion, you probably won't change the mind of the opinionated person in the buffet line, but you can benefit because you choose to consider the relationship.

    Whether relationships hold up can depend heavily on whether differences are presented as a discouraging word "fired across the bow" or an expression of a difference of opinion to be considered. I will draw the line if the shot is to the heart rather than across the bow.

    How about indifference? Is it as fatal to relationships as those discouraging words or shots to the heart?


  2. Among my friends there are varied points of view. I enjoy hearing them, from the people who are capable of looking at the arguments of others with some objectivity. Those who are vehemently sure they are right, whether or not I agree, I find more difficult to listen to. I'm not as likely to trust the words they're spouting to be ideas they've reflected on and come up with themselves. One social work intern in our office is the exception. He is so adamant that I want to laugh, and find myself baiting him mercilessly! We continue to be friends anyway.

  3. You are a better person that I am Wren. When I come up against narrow minded bigotry I find it all but impossible to "enjoy" listening and discover myself slipping into analytical mode topped with Pharisaical judgment.

  4. HI GEEZER - thoughtful response, thank you. I agree that relationships can depend on whether differences are presented as a discouraging word "fired across the bow" or an expression of a difference of opinion. I concur that if the shot is to the heart it's pretty hard to consider whether to continue, but the act of indifference may be the worst shot of all. Again, thank you for the reponse.

    Wren - I admire your ability to sometimes roll with the punches on those different opinions but my favorite tactics, as is yours, is to play with the opponent and bait them a bit - that could be considered a might cruel but if the circumstances are right - a little fun als.

    and CP - ala "analytical mode topped with Phraisaical judgment" - sounds like a Baskin and Robbins ice cream dessert!


  5. This particular fellow is a liberal bigot, which is maybe easier to take than the self-righteous right. :)
    (Feel free to delete this remark if you wish. It's sure to offend someone.) Since he's a student (even though 40,) I figure he needs a little confrontation as a learning experience.