Eat At Joes

Just a regular Joe who is angry that the USA, the country he loves, is being corrupted and damaged from within and trying to tell his fellow Americans the other half of the story that they don’t get on the TV News.

Location: Chicago, Illinois, United States

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Christmas

Merry Christmas. Happy New Year. Happy belated Hanukah. Happy Kwanza.

I spent the day before Christmas Eve with my side of the family. It was a wonderful day. My wife’s family are great people, too. Most of them.

I had to spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with my brother-in-law. He’s a die-hard conservative Republican Bush supporter. He is supposed to be well educated: bachelors from the University of Virginia and a law degree from Harvard Law School. I have no proof he actually earned these degrees, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The Christmas Eve political debate at dinner was as turbulent as I expected. As usual he spent most of the time shouting over me and interrupting me. If you ever watch Bill O’Reilly (one of my brother-in-law’s heroes) interview someone he disagrees with, you will see the same technique. Conservatives, I believe, secretly realize that many of their arguments are without merit or have only a tenuous connection with reality, so screaming and interrupting those they disagree with is the only way to “win” an argument. They must interrupt and talk over their opponents because they fear the inadequacies of their own positions will become apparent to others.

Christmas Day’s discussion was more civil because I bent over backwards trying to find some common ground between us. I found that after about 40 minutes of doing this (and it was a struggle to find agreement points, but I did find some) his tone lowered to a normal level, and his interrupting became less frequent but did not entirely disappear. I believe I calmed him and convinced him that I was not going to topple his house of cards, and in the end he granted some concession points that I was pleasantly surprised to receive.

My sister-in-law and brother-in-law know that I have voted for and supported Democratic candidates, but I usually avoid political discussions with him (I don’t relish being shouted at or interrupted) and have never used the L word in his presence. It causes him to explode.

During the Christmas Eve debate he went on about how all Muslims are evil and you can’t rationalize with them and they only understand power so you have to utterly destroy them in order to have any success. Naturally I disagreed with this. He countered by saying that if Iran exploded a nuclear bomb destroying Chicago the liberals (the dreaded L word) wouldn’t allow the US to retaliate.

“Bullshit!” I said, “We’d blow them to kingdom come.”

“Oh, no.” He maintained, “Liberals won’t do anything that might result in innocent civilians being killed. So the liberals would allow Iran to nuke us and get away with it!”

“Bullshit!” I repeated, “I’m a liberal and if any country nuked us we’d bomb them back to the Stone Age.”

As I said “I’m a liberal” there was an audible gasp from my brother-in-law. The Stone Age part he had no problem with, but the liberal part caused him to sputter.

“He’s really a conservative liberal, honey.” My sister-in-law tried to console her husband.

“Liberals hate America. Liberals think everything America does is wrong and evil. They’d never retaliate if we were nuked.” He insisted; his eyes now slits looking at me askance.

“Well, there are probably some liberals who would retaliate.” My sister-in-law interjected, “But Kerry and Gore certainly wouldn’t.”

“They were the Democrat’s candidates for President.” He crowed.

“We’ve done it before.” I announced. “Liberal Democratic president FDR approved plans for the nuking of Japan and Democratic president Truman executed those plans. Both Kerry and Gore would definitely attack any country that nuked the US.”

“No they wouldn’t. Liberals hate America.” The Harvard educated man muttered.

“It’s just that he loves his country.” My sister-in-law explained.

“I love my country too!” I said.

“Oh, I’m sure you do.” She responded.

“I’m not!” He scowled, “All liberals hate America.”

Given his supposed level of education and the fact that he allegedly attended Harvard I was most surprised by the two-dimensional cardboard cut-out idea of a liberal he had. I explained to him that his was a straw man liberal who didn’t exist or if he did, did not represent the views of most of us. I further explained that there are a myriad of views on the left, but we simply disagree with many of President Bush’s policies and actions and certainly do not hate America.

“Well, guess what?” he gloated, “Bush’s policies are the policies of the United States! And if you don’t like America’s policies you don’t like America!” The look of satisfaction didn’t remain long on his face once I responded.

“Why is it?” I asked, “That when Clinton was president those who didn’t like his policies were never called un-American, but as soon as Bush became president, anyone who disagreed with his policies was anti-America and unpatriotic? George Bush is not America. He is simply a man hired to do a job of representing all of the American people in the position of president.”

“Disagreement with any president is not un-American.” Another guest said.

“You can disagree with Bush’s policies.” My brother-in-law then reversed.

“Well, I do.” I said.

“That’s fine. It’s a free country. I never said you couldn’t.”

And on it went. I’ll add more of our discussions as time allows. They are most enlightening.

The long and short of it is that both liberals and conservatives believe in the old adage my country right or wrong. It’s just that we progressive liberals believe we must address the wrong parts and make them right in order that our country will be the best it can be. That’s really loving your country. The modern crop of conservatives, like my brother-in-law, believes that we must ignore the wrongs because to draw attention to them will make America appear weak or lessened in the sight of other nations. I don’t think that’s loving America.

Whenever I pointed out areas where we need to improve he countered by stating the obvious that America is better than Hitler’s Germany and life under the Taliban. For liberals it isn’t good enough for America to be better than the worst. We have to strive, really work at being the best we can be. Always improving and pushing forward. That’s progressivism and is central to liberals’ outlook. For the new crop of conservatives it is good enough for America to simply be better than the worst. It wasn’t good enough for the conservatives of a generation ago. It wasn’t good enough for conservative Barry Goldwater whose views are echoed in John Dean’s book Conservatives Without a Conscience which is based on discussions with Goldwater. It wasn’t good enough for progressive Republican Teddy Roosevelt who believed so much in the right and responsibility to criticize the President that he said to not allow such dissent is morally treasonous.

My brother-in-law brought up that many (he says 70%) of the Muslims in the world believe that it was not really Muslims who committed the September 11 attack. I pointed out to him that they were in denial because they didn’t want to believe that people of their faith could do something so horribly immoral. By the same token people like my brother-in-law are in denial about wrongs committed by the Bush Administration and the Republican Party. They refuse to believe that people of their party do the things they do. So they find others to blame. Usually it is liberal Democrats who bear their blame just as the Muslims he speaks of say Bush and Israel were behind 9/11. Conservatives convince themselves that they alone love America and that liberals hate our country. Therefore liberals should not be listened to, and conservatives despite whatever failures they may have are the only ones to listen to.

I’ll try not to follow either of these models. The Democratic Party has made many mistakes, and I will point out any the new majority in Congress make, here in this blog. I’ll leave denial as a river in Egypt.


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