The view from a barstool

We did trivia last night at our local pub – out of the money for the first time in about nine months. The quiz was strictly on trivia of the 21st Century, which, one must admit, is pretty damned trivial; any decade in which Britney Spears could be considered a cottage industry on her own – and still is, even given her recent mental health challenges – has some cultural voids that a world of geeks like me couldn’t repair. In any case, I enjoy hanging out after the game and chatting with the guys at the bar over a bheer, because I’m by far the most liberal person there, and it’s nice to see how the “other half”, or perhaps other three-quarters, thinks, in an atmosphere where we can simply shoot the shit, have a good laugh about it, and not take it any more seriously than, say, discussions of the upcoming Super Bowl (which came up) or even Britney Spears (which mercifully didn’t).

My usual friend in this is Chris, who’s one of the older guys there and is a proud and rather crusty conservative. He gets along fine with me because I’m not a Democrat and we’ve even been able to agree on some things (like NAFTA). Paul is one of those my sister says doesn’t exist, politically, which amuses me: he’s a staunch, unaffiliated independent. Can’t stand Bush at all, can’t stand the Dems…his problem is that his mouth goes loud and proud when he’s had a few, so it’s impossible to get in a word edgewise, leaving Chris and me just grinning at each other for a bit until he stops. Rick, the quizmaster, came over to get Paul to stop at one point, and stayed for a bit; he’s a great guy, bit older than me and from New Jersey…likes his golf and is probably the closest lefty to me there. We even had Rob, the barkeep, poke his way in occasionally.

Chris asked me about the results of the Florida primary, and I reported it looked like McCain there. Chris shook his head, slightly disgusted. He was holding out for a “real conservative” in the race, he said; Romney would have been better, but even then, he was concerned about Romney’s past stances on things. In an odd way, I could relate. Having someone in power who wouldn’t pander, and who’d stick to the stances that got them there, would be a welcome change – enough so that I made a welcome change to a different political party than the ones I thought were doing this. He did add that McCain would be better than Hillary, and went off at her for a bit. Again, I could sympathize; she is the Lady Macbeth of the Democratic Party.

“But what if it’s Obama?” I asked.

Paul chimed in saying that Obama was “like Hitler”, which even accounting for the booze was a rather extrordinary statement, more so because Chris half-nodded in assent. I asked if he really believed that a President Obama would, say, annex the Sudetenland or send Jews to gas chambers, but he waved that off. “Oh, no, no, not like that. I mean the way he whips up the crowd. Gets them all into this fervor…it’s really scary, because you don’t know what he’s going to do.”

I pointed out that we’d had many Presidents who were fantastic with a crowd, and were inspirational speakers – Kennedy, for instance, or Reagan, whom I threw in partly to see if the conservative would agree. Chris did take exception to Reagan as being more “warm” than the others, and started to make a point about it, but that’s when Paul kept going and Rick stepped in.

The topic at that point did turn to racial profiling and affirmative action, and I began to get a bit uneasy…but Chris indeed did accept my point that we, as privileged whites, really weren’t the best ones to be discussing what’s best to earn black people their equality. He was able to ponder that for a bit, which I do like about the guy – yeah, he’s way to the right, but he isn’t closed-minded, which I think might be more significant than where on the artificial spectrum he lies.

Paul talked about profiling as a neutral issue – if I were to step into a black neighborhood, and a cop spotted me, he’d assume I was there to buy drugs. That was a point, I conceded, but it’s a bit more pernicious against blacks – here I gave an example of what happened to my friend F (can’t do the LJ alias thing here), who was stopped after getting lost in a white neighborhood by a cop who demanded first to know what she was doing there (rather than “Can I help?” or “Are you lost?”) It’s a difficult thing: profiling has caught terrorists who were attempting to attack sites in the U.S., and it’s also resulted in direct instances of racism such as that. Rick and Rob agreed; Chris argued that a certain amount was indeed necessary; Paul went off about something which I can’t remember except that it ended in a discussion of the Patriots’ wide receiver corps. G’fig.

It’s good to have those moments when you can have a talk with real folks who are just relaxing, trying to get by, the same as you are – but don’t necessarily see things your way. I do get an impression from many Greens and many Democrats that they haven’t really tried this…just take their beliefs out for some exercise, so to speak. See if anything needs strengthening, or maybe if you can discover a new “muscle” to work on instead.

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12 Responses

  1. I believe in independents. It’s moderates I think are over-counted.

  2. Uh-huh…everyone who’s an independent is secretly either a Republican or Democrat. So what is Paul? What about that guy we saw tonight, in the same pub, who hates the conservatives and the liberals, by his own admission? There are a lot more people like that out there than you think exist. They might vote one way or the other because of the artificial limiting of our choices (by those two parties themselves) – but that ain’t the same thing, is it?

  3. Aargh… why id it you continue to think that I said everyone is secretly either a Republican or a Democrat??? I believe there are many people who don’t fit either well at all. It’s just that I believe those people tend to have some seriously quirky beliefs — maybe some Right wing, some Left wing, some completely unidentifiable. I don’t think you reach those people by running in the middle. I don’t believe there are a great many centrists out there. Don’t believe there are many moderates. But I absolutely DO believe that there are a lot of independents.

    Plus, aren’t you proud that I checked your blog tonight? I’m still waiting for you to write an entry on what you would do if you ran. That’d be interesting…

  4. Do NOT encourage him to run.

    Just sayin’…

    (glad you’re checking out the blog, hon)

  5. Kramer ’12

    Feel better….

  6. Interesting that the Trivia Night was about the 21st century, as the most recent incarnation of CBC’s Test The Nation trivia show (roughly once-annual show that tests the nation on trivia stuff. Year One it was an IQ test, Year Two, it was a language test, this year it was on the 21st century). I’d think that whoever makes up Trivia Night knew this, but you’re the only American I know who I’d even suspect of watching the CBC (and actually wouldn’t be surprised if you saw Test the Nation if you do get the CBC somehow down there)

    I more and more consider myself a form of independent, our citizens don’t seem to be cut and dried one side of the fence of the other as yours are (for many, many, many years I got the impression that all Americans had to register themselves as Republicans or Democrats and vote that way the rest of their lives). I’ve lately defined my political views as “small-c socialist”, still a proud lefty, but as I get older and become more of a responsible adult, I find more of the Conservatives’ planks appeal to me. (Still dislike the party as a whole, but I’m thinking for the first time that they’re getting a few things right for once) – the “small-c” of course is a reference to “small-c conservatives” that you’d find here – but of course if I’m in a room of die-hard lefties, I could always say the “c” stands for “communism” 😉

    Interesting comment about Obama being the Fueher of the US. I’m thinking (and you seemed to use this line of reasoning too) that any good politician *has* to be good with a crowd and be a fantastic speaker, it’s what politicians *do*. Kennedy was good that way. Reagan was good that way. And Hitler was good that way. Looks like Godwin’s Law just says you won that one. 😉

    And very intriguing comments on racial profiling, I’m still amazed to hear that that stuff goes on there in 2008! My immediate first thought was “I rarely, if ever, see our black citizens treated in that way. Not only do we hardly have any “black neighbourhoods” (they live same places whites do, except for the lower-class ethnic neighbourhoods where recent immigrants of particular nationalities tend to congregate together, thereby making “black neighbourhoods” of a sort, but not in the same way), but cops usually don’t suspect black people more than white people, and blacks are usually not looked at twice or seem to be treated different here (at least from what I’ve noticed.) Then I thought of substituting “black” in your above paragraph with “Aboriginal” (or “Native”, or “First Nations”, take your pick), and I suddenly, soberly, realized that Canada still has a lot of growing up to do.

  7. Oops, that link should be Test The Nation – WordPress seems to lack a way to go back and edit or delete your own replies. Get used to seeing this a lot from me. 😉

  8. @Lisa: Which Kramer?

  9. @David: I think there is a way to edit comments, but I’m not certain what it is for visitors.

    My father-in-law prided himself that Canadians didn’t treat black people the way Americans did…then went to Chicago, heard white Americans speaking about blacks there, and realized that they used the same terms as the anglais used to describe the canadiens in Montréal.

  10. Dude — the crazy thing is that if I ran, I wouldn’t even have your vote.

    And no — I’m not stalking your blog. The debate just ended, and I came upstairs. Did you watch any of it?

  11. You might indeed have my vote, but I don’t believe you’re not stalking me.

    I saw some of it towards the end. Again, good talkers, but not much difference between them and classic Democratic answers to tough questions. All the panders and equivocations were firmly in place. “Change”, indeed.

  12. He hit your line in response to the “tax and spend” liberal thing. Figured you’d like that. She beat him on health care; he won on Iraq; probably an equal number of sound-bitey lines. Overall, a good debate — not too combative, but not dry either. Worth the watch.

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