Sunday, October 12, 2008

My Facebook Conservatives

One "mixed blessing" of Facebook is that I have been reacquainted with people I knew 30-40 years ago in my fundamentalist, conservative past.

It puts me in the odd position of having to come out of the closet all over again, and then, inevitably, I get involved in debates over whether Obama is an anti-American Muslim, whether Western society persecutes Christians (surprising, how many fundies STILL see themselves as persecuted), and whether Republicans or Democrats are to blame for the shithole America has become.

I haven't heard from any of that crowd in over two weeks, so I may have pissed the last of them off, though I've maintained a fair and reasonable tone in pointing out the lapses in logic and the absence of evidence in their arguments. Well, maybe not--I did tell the Obama-is-a-Muslim person that only slobbering idiots believe that story.

Also, for some reason, the only students of mine who have signed me on as a Facebook friend are conservative and Christian, but they, having had me in class recently, must know I can pick over their bones for supper, so they never raise the issues of politics or religion with me directly.

Oddly, my chief appeal for the past 15 years as a college English instructor has been to conservative, religious students. Perhaps they perceive my strictness as authoritarian and take an immediate masochistic shine to me. Sometimes I think it's the Flannery O'Connor factor, that the grotesqueries of that mindset are still somehow apparent in my bearing and speech, even though I no longer actually have that mindset.

Sometimes I think they like that when I disagree with them, I don't attack them personally (except, on rare occasions, to say that only "slobbering idiots" believe the sorts of things they believe).

And sometimes I think they sense a kindred spirit--somebody who's been where they are and escaped—and, though right now they have absolutely no consciousness of it, they would like to escape, also.

Conservatives prefer to play with a stacked deck in argument--they hardly ever simply look at evidence with an open mind and deduce their positions from the available facts. Instead, they like to approach the facts with a prefabricated position already in place. Typically, they enter an argument with a handful of strong factual evidence that supports their claim, but almost never can defend the representativeness of their evidence (i.e. their facts are usually "exceptions," not "typical cases") and almost never can integrate their evidence into a consistent and coherent big picture. (Fundamentalist Christians, especially, have got so used to accepting inconsistencies in their dogma that they are usually blind to the inconsistencies in their politics.)

The irony that for the past 20 years almost all terrorists are ultra-conservative escapes most conservatives--who prefer to imagine that Bill Ayers and the Weathermen and perhaps even the Symbionese Liberation Army are still major threats to the security of the nation.

But the so-called Islamo-fascists are pro-life, anti-gay, anti-feminist, God-first, country-first (not even a contradiction in a theocracy), pro-preventive war (“the Bush doctrine”), pro-shock-and-awe (i.e. terrorism), and pro-strategic-use-of-torture.

American-born terrorists target abortion clinics, gay nightclubs, and black churches, not the Elks Lodge or Macy’s. Ann Coulter once quipped, “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is that he did not go to the New York Times building” (1). Eric Robert Rudolph, who bombed the 1996 Olympics Centennial Park, as well as an Atlanta lesbian bar, became a folk hero for a large number of conservative Southerners, one of the reasons the FBI gave for its having taken seven years to find and apprehend him (2).

Despite all this, conservative wags like Bill O’Reilly continue to paint liberals (and the left in general) as the “friends of terrorists.”

My old conservative acquaintances are upset with me when I point out such inconsistencies in thinking. Oddly, they are less upset to find out that I’m homosexual and godless (hardly blinking, apparently, at the thought of my frying for an eternity in Hell).

The cut-off point for their tolerance appears to be when they hear I’m voting for Barack Obama. That I consider myself considerably to the left of Obama on almost every issue, including war, the death penalty, and “family values,” is, to my conservative friends, quite beyond the pale.

(1) Gurley, George. “Coultergeist.” New York Observer.26 Aug. 2002.
(2) “Profile: Eric Rudolph.” 14 Apr. 2005. BBC News.

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