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I've been spending some time down South with more family contact than I usually have. Change of plans, I know - bit of a family emergency combined with the time of year that made it particularly hard to say no. That means I've been spending more time around people decidedly more conservative than me. They knew better than to rehash the election explicitly, but just the exposure has me thinking more about American conservatism. What drives it, you know. And here's the trends I'm noticing:

(1) People tie poverty and suffering in with bad life-choices. If you have more kids than you can support, for instance, even if your life-circumstances changed, there's this idea that this is your own fault and responsibility means handling it yourself.

(2) Related: rugged individualism runs strong. That means people don't see why they should have to help other people when the problem isn't their fault. We're all responsible for our own choices, but there's no sense you can also be obligated for things that aren't your fault - basic decency and neighborliness, being our brother's keeper, etc. doesn't always become real.

(3) There's a lot of privilege, a lot of lack of exposure. Take the NC bathroom bills. A lot of my family sees this as the LGBT community making a stink to make "normal" people look backward, because they don't see the problem the bill was trying to address. They've not experienced what it's like to be a trans kid and have to navigate school bathrooms. Or the outrage over police violence - they don't get the frustration, the fact that these don't feel like isolated incidents because they're not living out the other trends.

I'm not trying to defend any of these things. I am a bit tired of arguing against them, so I haven't been. But my point is, if you're liberal and trying to reach people who aren't already there, seems like these are the basic lines of thought and experience you need to find a way to show they're wrong.

(I'd add they're deep-level experiences and assumptions, they're almost axiomatic to how the world works from certain peoples' expressions. So I don't think it's a matter of winning one logical argument. On the other hand, people can change. I'm proof of that, and the way my perspective is so different from other people coming from the same background as me I think shows that more than just about anything.)

I would be interested if this is the way other people with more conservative friends and family see things. Not whether they're right, but if this is where the tension points are.

*************************

In other news - I've got a fully drafted Silm story currently standing at about 2,500 words. It's tone-deaf and needs a quick rewrite hopefully by tomorrow night, then off to a beta. (I got an extension due to said family emergency, and dawn_felagund it's still coming...) So yay for that!

Comments

( 8 comments — Leave a comment )
shirebound
Dec. 26th, 2016 11:56 pm (UTC)
they don't see the problem the bill was trying to address

That's a very good point. Thank you for sharing these observations.
donutgirl
Dec. 27th, 2016 01:45 am (UTC)
yeah, I've seen pretty similar things, living here in the bible belt and interacting with my fairly-conservative in-laws.

in their case, I think... they're baby boomers (or thereabouts) who came of age in the '60s, and they regarded themselves as pretty progressive and open-minded then. they were the generation that was going to end racism and heal the world, and they both went to teach in urban public schools with a big black population and a lot of poverty. I think one thing that happened is they got worn down by teaching every day. they saw a lot of selfish, shitty behavior (of course they did -- teenagers from all backgrounds are shitty and selfish), and over time it became difficult to resist the temptation to tell themselves "I'm not getting through to these kids because they are basically worthless and lazy and combative." They wanted to be treated like white saviors, but instead they got treated like the enemy (as teachers often are), and they resented it.

and I think they also resent east-coast liberals calling them racist and bigoted when they really believe they are NOT. they remember how their parents and grandparents were, how vicious and undisguised racism and prejudice were then. *they* defined themselves in opposition to that, so they don't understand why these smarty-pants elites are criticizing them just because they think gay people are disgusting and muslims are terrorists and black people are lazy and manipulative. they signed up to be the good guys, so they don't get why now they've been cast as the bad guys.

they didn't love trump, but they REALLY hated Hillary, and they resented being called stupid, uneducated, and bigoted for that (they both have graduate degrees), which only drove them further into the trump camp.
donutgirl
Dec. 27th, 2016 01:46 am (UTC)
they also saw a lot of corruption or mismanagement in the local teacher's union, and that also drove them away from the democratic party.
dreamflower02
Dec. 27th, 2016 03:15 am (UTC)
I'm proof of that, and the way my perspective is so different from other people coming from the same background as me I think shows that more than just about anything.

I'm also proof of that. My beliefs about sexuality and related issues have evolved greatly over the last few decades.

I always thought of myself as pretty liberal because I was comparing myself to the people I grew up among. But of course, that wasn't right either, because it meant I was judging them. It takes a while to recognize some things.
engarian
Dec. 27th, 2016 03:43 pm (UTC)
people don't see why they should have to help other people when the problem isn't their fault. We're all responsible for our own choices, but there's no sense you can also be obligated for things that aren't your fault - basic decency and neighborliness, being our brother's keeper, etc. doesn't always become real.

Many people suffer from the pointing finger. My "brother" taught that pointing a finger at someone else meant one finger was pointing away from you, but the other four fingers were pointing back at yourself. I've certainly been guilty of pointing fingers many times over my life because I'm human and it is natural to spread blame or push it off in a different direction. But now I try hard to think before doing that - it's all too easy to accuse someone else or to find an easy excuse for someone else's behavior.

I'm sorry your family had problems over the holidays. It's a stressful time of the year to begin with, adding family emergencies can make it so much worse!

- Erulisse (one L)
dawn_felagund
Dec. 27th, 2016 08:45 pm (UTC)
(I'm here, back in Vermont, whenever you're ready! :)

I think modern progressivism is having a really hard time reaching people in rural areas. I'm extremely progressive and also live in an area of high rural poverty and regularly facepalm at fellow progressives, who so often come to conversations with either the assumption that everyone either lives in the city or a hip suburb outside of the city, or reveal a blatant lack of understanding of the culture, concerns, and challenges experienced by people living in rural areas (especially the rural poor). It boggles my mind because such ignorance and often close-mindedness would not be tolerated toward other cultures outside of the U.S. but is acceptable to a lot of liberals with respect to rural Americans.

(Vermont, of course, went strongly for Hillary--only one county went for Trump; incidentally the most remote and rural county in our very rural state--but towns with high poverty like where I live went mostly for Trump.)

Then there is outright exclusion of rural Americans from the progressive movement, i.e., a group of us reserved a bus to go to the Women's March on Washington on January 21 and--coincidentally!--even though we've had the bus reserved for about two months now, now they don't have a bus to send to us. But they have empty buses traveling from New York City. I guess just in case enough Park Slope women get done early with their mani-pedis to go. It's hard to feel like you matter to a movement when you're the first people culled when an idea catches on among urban progressives.
blown_wish
Dec. 28th, 2016 05:48 pm (UTC)
Most of my family is politically conservative. They use that rugged individualism language to justify corporate fascism. They call it supply side economics. They're all older Boomers who don't realize their generation benefited from the biggest economic boom in history. It's like they were walked to third and told themselves they hit a triple.

They also talk a lot of shit about family values, which makes me laugh. They're almost all divorced.

Edit: Forgot to say, I live in Oklahoma. It might be the reddest state on the map. Not because the republicans are amazing. No. We all hate our govorner. We all hate the political system the republicans set up. It's because the left doesn't even try, here. I know plenty of Bernie voters. Bernie stickers outnumber all political bumper stickers from this cycle. We are so hungry for another FDR in these parts. The DNC is full of idiots.


Edited at 2016-12-28 05:53 pm (UTC)
shadowfireflame
Jan. 2nd, 2017 02:42 am (UTC)
This was a good list, and yes, I've seen a lot of this along with your everyday bigotry--the lack of exposure, the privilege. Most of the people I've met don't necessarily support Trump but see Hillary as part of the "global elite" who are trying to take over the world. I find that talking to them logically or pointing out news articles don't really help because they don't trust "the news," as it is run by the "elite who control the media." Sigh.

Have you read this post on how to respond to everyday bigotry, from the Southern Law Poverty Center? I found it helpful because it has many different scenarios and some examples of optional responses.
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