Thursday, August 17, 2006

Right Wing Wacko or Liberal Wiener?

Whenever the question of politics arises in polite (or semi-polite) conversation,
I find myself sighing under my breath and keeping quiet. Because no matter what the issue, I can usually find something to disagree with just about anyone at any time.

It's not that I'm ornery, or itching to argue; I just have to think things through before I sign on to a position. This can be pretty inconvenient for someone who follows party lines.

I must be a centrist, moderate, whatever you want to call it. Because when my good liberal friends talk about how it's our military and foreign policy that are responsible for terrorism - I buck and refute. And when my conservative colleagues at work talk about what a great president we have - I groan and refute.

I guess labels are important, because I've been called a bunch of them over the years. My views on certain issues have certainly changed drastically as I've grown up, but I hope my heart hasn't hardened beyond the point of reason.

Here's a silly, slightly embellished, but basically true story, of encountering a bunch of goofy naked apes.

I was in Africa, at a photo-tourist camp, having dinner with a bunch of older folks who just happened to be from Berkeley. Our esteemed driver mentioned to them that I had voted for George W. Bush. (It wasn't true, but I think the driver made the assumption based on our discussions about Iraq.)

The dinner conversation exploded into rants such as "I can't believe you would vote for that mad man." "You've got to get your facts straight." "You are like many ignorant Americans." etc. etc. I sat quietly and didn't say much, after all I was technically working - getting paid to shoot wild life in Africa, I didn't need to jabber with a bunch of hippies pushing 70 about world affairs. Yet their rants continued even in the face of my silence.

"I am so ashamed of being an American these days. It's so embarrassing."

That was the last straw. "I couldn't agree more." I chimed in. They sat in shock at my sudden response, for about a nano-second. Then they carried on with their politico speak, oblivious to my jab.

Things settled down for awhile, and civility returned to the conversation. But later that night around the boma (camp fire) the drinks flowed and the attacks continued, culminating with the words "idiot" and "moron" being thrown in my direction.

I finally had to speak up saying to the effect "Look, I respect all of your opinions, it's clear you don't respect mine. It's okay though, I'm used to it. I'm from Berkeley remember?" This remark was outwardly ignored, but it seemed to have a chilling effect on the group conversation.

But one lady in particular kept screeching at me, and yes, yelling at me, not so much intentionally - but the booze ratcheted up her voice volume.

I couldn't help myself, and baited her for the next two hours, with little jabs like. "Just keep yelling, you might convince me." "Well, nothing that screaming won't fix". etc. Even her nutty friends tried to calm her down, since I was almost placid and she was the one being a shrill you-know-what.

The next evening I was ignored by the entire party in a fashion similar to social behavior in junior high. I didn't mind though, the camp managers, a lovely south African couple, still treated me and my producer to an evening of good conversation and food.

I did almost choke on my Kudu (antelope) when one of the Berkeley folks, a man named Victor, chimed in with "Excuse me, I have an animal question..." in a goofy lilt. "Do you call a group of Mongooses, Mongeese?" The driver and I shot each other a look. Yep, we agreed silently, idiots.

"Mongeese" became a running joke of the trip. After sitting with lions for hours, one of us would say quietly "Excuse me, I have an animal question..." culminating in an absolutely filthy scenario involving animal sex and mongeese.

This was yet another time in life when I found that the best remedy to closed minds was laughter.

(By the way, when Victor found out that he was eating Kudu antelope, he just about had a fit. "I can't believe I'm eating one of those beautiful animals!" Another running joke on the trip.)

I'm not sure what the point of all this is, but I felt like writing while my video project renders.

I guess I'm just trying to say, that right wing wacko or liberal wiener - whatever my views are; I've got to always ready to listen as best I can without getting personal if I can help it. It may not be possible sometimes, but I've got to do my best.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Speaking as a fellow moderate (small "l" libertarian, to be honest), I know what you're going through. The extremes irritate me.