Recently I called up an old friend who is a Sarah Palin fan to understand that situation. It may seem obvious to you, but after the vice-presidential debate, I never really stopped to think about why people liked Sarah Palin. I just assumed they were wrong. (Nice!) And it’s been easy in my social circles to not challenge this perspective, or lack thereof. A case in point: I have about 500 friends on Facebook, and as far as I know, only one is a Sarah Palin fan. Lucky for me, she was kind enough to share her viewpoints with me. And let’s just say… yikes! I learned as much about my narrow-mindedness as I did about the ex-governor of Alaska’s appeal. It’s not every day you learn just how open minded you are not.
My friend (who is also named Sarah) is a neat gal. We met 16 years ago in a summer camp. She uses words like “heck,” and “wicked,” but not ironically. She owns her own business, has lived overseas, and has a Master’s degree. She is married and has four kids, and importantly, is not like, nuts, about Sarah Palin. She just likes her—likes that she worked her way up, likes that she’s got chutzpah and believes in the Bible, and likes that she is a modern feminist who can raise a family and be successful. “Not one or the other.” Most lady politicians, she pointed out, don’t have big families. (And yes, we both know about Nancy Pelosi.)
So that was interesting. But then we started talking about how we rarely talk politics, especially when we know we don’t agree with the other person, because it’s an exhausting way to spend your free time, and Sarah mentioned something that really stuck. She feels like it’s not always easy to be conservative in this country. As she put it: “When I talk to people who are really liberal, I have to see their values as the truth. If you don’t see it their way, people assume you’re small-minded. Whereas if you’re liberal, you obviously went to college and are enlightened. I’ve learned to just listen.”
She wasn’t talking about me per se, but she could have been. I’ve surely been guilty of all that “enlightened” attitude (see first paragraph), even if I wasn’t so bold as to admit it aloud.
It also made me wonder: is it (gasp!) hard to be conservative in this country? And is the USA more liberal than I always assume? I always feel like it’s a conservative world but for my friend it’s a liberal world and she has to struggle to protect her values. Like when an elementary school in her community decides to hand out condoms, and she doesn’t feel that’s the best move for that age group. Or when people assume she didn’t go to college and is from a hick town because she admits to believing in the Bible. (This has actually happened.) I always thought that believing in the Bible made it easier to be an American, not harder.
Just for kicks I compared how often the terms “gay marriage” and “gay rights” appeared in Newsweek and The Wall Street Journal in the first half of this year, through the end of July. Then I compared that “data” (yes, I know I’m using a very loose definition of that word) to the first half of 2005. Guess what? This will shock no one, but those terms come up twice as much these days. (And this was before Prop 8 was overturned in August!) I realize that “data” doesn’t prove much, but it does suggest a liberal trend, at least in one arena. And could this partly explain Glenn Beck’s popularity? Like, if he stood for “liberal” values, would he lose his competitive advantage because then he’d actually have to compete with mainstream media? These are things on my mind.
In the meantime, I’m grateful for people who take the time to express their viewpoints, expand some of mine, and sometimes (another gasp) take the time to disagree. Hence I say thank you to many folks on Tumblr including Joe at STFU Conservatives and Foul-is-Fair aka Get Some F****** Moxy. And EvilTeaParty. And the always enlightening AZSpot. It takes time to offer perspective, and I appreciate yours.
And of course, thanks Sarah!