Monday, September 7, 2009

Conservatives, Progressives, Black People: Can't We Get Along?

DonnaK4 commenting at BlogHer.com on PunditMom's post, "What are Conservatives Really Afraid of When the President Talks to Schoolchildren?," offered an olive branch to progressives/liberals or maybe it was not an offer to progressives/liberals but a suggestion for everyone. In any case, I wrote a long, easy-going response that you may read farther down. She was respectful and seemed sincere.

I know some white conservatives honestly believe conservative economic policy and a Republican social agenda is best for this country. The people are nice enough, church-going, not rabid screamers who love Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter. They wouldn't consciously discriminate against a black person and have some black friends, and so they honestly don't see the more subtle shades of racism in the conservative agenda.

They also work at soup kitchens and give money to homeless shelters. Consequently, they don't accept that some of their views are narrow and classist. I'm not speaking of DonnaK4 here because I don't know her. I'm talking about people I've meet in person. I try to hear where these people are coming from, even though I'm inclined to believe their minds can't ever be changed if they don't at least consider this fact: most of us lean toward subconscious messages based on our culture and upbringing. These messages influence our decisions, and so, sometimes we may not base our decisions on reality according to a bigger picture but on what we've experienced in our small worlds.

I can talk to such people when they at least consider that they may need to look beyond the white picket fence. However, I lose patience with people who drop by blogs, hit and run like this person, who speaking of Obama said, "Also, I'll agree that the comparisons to Hitler are unfair, since by all accounts Hitler actually loved his country." Otherwise, I'm usually patient with people who have issues with the president and his policies, which deserve questioning, based on what may or may not be good for the country.

This is what DonnaK4 said:
We Are Americans First
Alot of conservatives feel that Obama is not your usual liberal. He has changed alot of things in a very short time. Please, look beyond the left/right paradigm, and see how he is fundamentally changing our country. We need to work together as Americans and not be divided as democrats or republicans. We should try to be tolerant of other people's views, and possibly even try to understand them. I have learned that people always feel they have a good reason for what they do, even if I don't agree with it. And we shouldn't call each other names. (comment from BlogHer)
I answered with the following that is long enough to be a blog post, and so I didn't post it there but here at my own blog.

How Do We Get Along?

If what you've said is correct, that Obama "has changed a lot of things in a very short time," then would you please help us along by listing what you think Obama has changed, the sources for your information, and what you believe is wrong with the change? Is it a change that will fundamentally mutate the nature of America and how its government operates or is it just something to reject based on ideology such as "no new taxes ever under any circumstances."

I mean this sincerely. The only thing I ask is that you please consider the sources you select to support what you say. Fact checks and objective sources are more credible than people whose jobs are to push for one thing or the other. I've personally seen conservative pundits and bloggers use bogus information, including hoaxes, to support their claims, and I've also seen extremists on the left exaggerate or buy into bogus information sometimes because it supports what they'd prefer to believe. I'd appreciate your elaborating.

If I had to recommend anything to conservatives, I'd say--if they wish to have the kind of unity for America you suggest in your comment--I'd say please back away from people like Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, and Glenn Beck who foment racial distrust with blatant lies that many conservative Americans don't seem to be able to distinguish from fact. By extension these lies overheat political discussions and distract from life and death matters.  How do they expect thinking people to not assume the worst about them regarding goodwill and race relations if they remain silent as their mouth pieces lob such lies with a black man in the Oval Office and then deny any racial intent?

In addition, when the conservative base defends comments like "I hope Obama fails," which certainly suggests they keep fingers in their ears with hopes that a specific ideology triumphs whether it's good for America or not, they hardly promote any kind of unified effort to examine exactly what Obama's policies may mean for this country. 

If I had anything to say to "liberals" that would be that politics by nature involves compromise. How do they expect Obama to reach across the aisle without a willingness to compromise? You can't lead well and regularly cater to the extremists in your group. See George W. Bush's history, including speeches to the general population.

As for name calling, what I'm seeing increasingly is that people can take any word and combine it with a tone that turns that word into an insult. The word "liberal," for instance, is being tossed around like it's synonymous with "demon" and it's used to define anyone who doesn't agree with the Republican platform. And if that wasn't enough, the words "socialists" and "communists" have been added as though these words mean the same thing as "pedophile" or "serial killer" or "Nazi" and are used to take people down like Van Jones.

"Wing nut" is definitely a nasty name, however, some people earn that name such as the people drawing Hitler mustaches on the president's pictures or who buy into statements like "health care reform is Obama's reparations for slavery" or embrace the notion that Obama is taking over the world because he wants to give a speech to school children. However, you can make wild accusations and launch "grassroots" movements that cater to white fear in this country and still keep your position in public office.

So, they get called a "wing nut," which is not very nice, but they also get to keep their positions of power or their jobs. In other words, sometimes a nut is a nut. But I understand what you're saying, it's not productive to call the person a nut.

Speaking of speaking to children: Reagan and George W. Bush both spoke to children in public schools and the so-called "liberals" who've been supposedly brainwashed by a "liberal media" did not not yank their kids out of school on those days.

Bush told the children that "We're going to change America one heart and one soul and one conscience at a time" and lectured parents about responsibility. Reagan, whose speech was broadcasted, told students that this nation was great because its leaders believed in God and low taxes.

So, I'm for everyone getting along, but can we speak honestly and ask why is it okay for Reagan and Bush to talk to school children but Obama is considered to be a socialist taking over the minds of American children because what, his administration suggested a lesson plan asking students to write letters about how to help the president?

Can we really get along if conservatives go for drama over things such as this?

And then there's the "r" word, and I don't mean "racist." What I see, such as in my post at Examiner on race and politics, is that certain people who identify themselves as conservatives don't want to discuss race as a factor in anything, ever. They start foaming at the mouth if anyone mentions the word "race" and assume the next step is to call them a "racist" even when no names are mentioned, only behavior is examined within the context of history. In the case of politics and race, they're angry over book suggestions. I find this tendecy to plug ears and sing "la la la la," the absolute resistance to look at another's point of view, to be most disturbing, definitely not conducive to working together on anything.

So, I appreciate what you say, but I have a bad feeling that America may self-destruct before people learn work together if how conservatives deal with Obama in office is any indication of where we're headed.

Nordette Adams is a BlogHer CE & you can find her other stuff through Her 411. Blogher.com is non-partisan. Nordette Adams's opinions are her own. So ends my comment to DonnaK4 at BlogHer.com.

Link to original BlogHer post here. The picture on this post comes from George Bush's archives. He was speaking to a classroom of children who appear to be mostly black and other students of color instead of an empty classroom, missing students whose parents kept them home.

3 comments:

le0pard13 said...

Very well done, Nordette. A cogently written and sincere response. I'd be interested in DonnaK4's reply, too. Anything that keeps a rational discussion going only improves the signal-to-noise ratio (and helps tamp down the extreme rhetoric and falsehoods currently flooding the airwaves). Thank you for this.

msladydeborah said...

I know that there are rational people on all sides of the political spectrum. Even if we cannot connect with ease in the current political climate.

We knew that the first Black POTUS was going to catch the blues from all directions. We also know that there are people in this nation who are going to be batty if any person of color has a position of leadership that they believe is solely theirs. We are not going to be able to change Home Grown American-they work real hard at inbreeding to sow seeds for the next crop.

The whole storm over Obama addressing the nation's children was just sheer hysteria. It kind of reminds me of the sixties after the riots. Every fearful White person thought we were going to murder them all. Some of them still believe that we are secretly plotting against them. Didn't you get your memo? :-)

We are going to have to work really hard to bring rational people together. In reality, we all have some of the same concerns and fears. We also have some very talented and caring people who want to see things improve.

In reality, we are going to either do battle royale with the extreme block-or we will find an alternative route to work out of.

rob said...

I thought this was a very thoughtful and well written post. I found this on twitter, and I am very glad I did. You have gained a reader. Thanks.