How To Talk To The Republicans (Because We Must and Do Love Them)
UPDATE: I hit ‘publish’ when I should have it ‘save’ earlier-I actually finished this now…
To begin with, I want to acknowledge my gratitude to you; though I owe it to you for many things, when I saw what Oklahoma did this week I was very glad that you talked me down from the death penalty all those years ago. You saved me from ever sounding like these people. I know you know how to reach people, and your approach is unprejudiced and open minded because you understand how respect, trust, and faith intertwine. So this letter is no lecture but rather my response to the private prompt you gave me earlier which I am placing into a much larger frame because it fits better here than there.
So, how do we talk to the Republicans, or the conservatives, or the Tea Party, 0r the Fox Nation? We have to. We love them. They are us. But it’s really gotten to be a problem. Let’s put it this way. We know how they get when we mention ‘Obamacare’. But the Affordable Care Act is essentially the plan that the Republican Party put forward in response to the Clinton Administration’s plan. Mitt Romney dusted it off and showed it could work in Massachusetts. So, we’ve reached a point where the GOP of 2014 thinks the GOP of 1994 were a bunch of socialists.
Conservative media like FOX and Limbaugh and the rest have been very effective at repeatedly moving the goalposts and driving the center of the political conversation much further to the right than it’s ever been in our lifetimes while eroding and unraveling the social and legal progress made in the 20th Century. Economic inequality and environmental degradation expand as the Bush deregulation schemes bear bitter fruits. We know this. We also both know that thanks to groupthink and consistently doubling down, the conservative movement has introduced toxic levels of bullshit into its bloodstream. And this is a problem for all of us.
We need to be able to talk to each other again and find some kind of common ground. There are certain inherent problems with this but there is also some hope. The problem of racism is the conservative movement is as obvious as it is difficult to confront; while by no means is this to say all conservatives are racist there are clearly issues that can’t be ignored. As you said we don’t want to paint the word ‘racist’ over ‘conservative’. But here’s the thing; we can’t ignore casual racism or accept gender bias; we can’t allow our accommodating natures to be taken advantage of by people who are incapable of understanding that compassion is not something to be sneered at.
We live in a world where Ted Nugent compares himself to Rosa Parks and there are people who, instead of vomiting, nod their head in agreement. Something has gone very wrong with the course of our discourse and pretending that the old rules of civility still apply is what the racists and regressives want us to do because it serves them when we do it. You and I approach things differently and I am the first to admit that mine is the harsher and blunter way; there are things I chose to not be ambiguous about. But then, I cherish the moment when the bully cries ‘uncle’ a little more than I probably oughta should.
I wish I had better answers for you, but if I did I would be able to help America talk to itself a little better. I mean, obviously we are not communicating clearly because they are certainly not hearing us. The other problem is that it is difficult to get someone to listen when they are being paid to not hear something. Many folks who hold regressive views on race believe that it is in their economic best interests to keep other people segregated, ignorant, and poor; it is very hard to talk someone down from this position. The current platform and positions of the GOP has become so radical that it is difficult to see how anyone who accepts these positions could be moderate or open-minded about anything.
At the end of the day I will recommend what I do when I am dealing with other agitated and angry individuals who would rather rant than talk; be present. Wait. Be calm. Do not engage in petty disagreements designed to draw you into huge arguments. Except when you really want to…
My unlimited love,