Monday, June 14, 2010

Below the surface

Sometimes I meet the nicest people, kind, outgoing, articulate and with many shared interests. A Saturday afternoon barbecue, a manicured garden, a convivial crowd of fellow boaters; many with experiences I can only envy, of cruising the beautiful and exotic parts of the globe.

I mention a planned sail to the Leeward Islands and a stop in beautiful Dominica with it's mountains and waterfalls and hot springs and black sand beaches like the Hawaii of long ago. "Maybe I'll never come back," I say.

"Maybe we'll all have to go elsewhere" says she, "before those Liberals ruin the country with all that debt and, you know before that Obama destroys capitalism."

There's that sick, sinking feeling again; the realization that beneath the tranquil surface, there's a dangerous reef to rip your bottom out. I should have known; but facing the isolation one feels when surrounded by people passionately inimical to your every thought and steadfastly obstinate in resisting any facts or any argument that might diminish the comfort of their cherished anger, makes one too desperate to believe someone might not have been infected with that alien zombie virus. Damn it, I let my guard down again.

"I can't watch the news any more, it's all Liberal" she says. Perhaps she doesn't, but she's listening to someone. Someone is not telling her that the debt began so soar in terrifying fashion when George entered the white house; has soared under every Republican president since Ford or reminding her that the tax cuts that were supposed to increase government revenues didn't and that were supposed to create new jobs created no private sector jobs whatever while government jobs and government coasts soared. Someone isn't telling her that our senseless military endeavor that appears now to have been embarked upon for profit has already cost more that World War II and continues to burn through billions. That kind of debt doesn't count, only debt that might help Americans who aren't already in the club. No -- best not to listen to the Liberals on the TV news.

"It's true that 24 hour coverage leads to a format that's mostly speculation and opinion and it's true that at least one network simply lies and invents and misquotes and twists facts, " I said. Her brow began to furrow. "That's why I try to read as many sources as I can. "I read three or four to a dozen newspapers most every morning," I say. " I listen to everything from Al Jazeera to Haaretz on line." I can see the suspicion growing, the bestial voice in her head growling liberal.

I'd ask her to define liberal, but I know she's define it as its opposite. I know she has no awareness of current events, history or anything outside the Yacht Club Republican cocktail-hour school of economics and social criticism. I know there's no point in flexing a consciousness that's been ossified in one position for 75 years, so I do what I always have to do and smile and say:

"Oh, don't worry, it's a strong country and I'm sure we'll survive," even though I'm far from certain.


  1. Liberals: Those are the people and the things that do not turn out as expected...

    Things don't go according to plan?

    Its the fault of the 'liberals.'

    GWB was disappointing ad he did not lead the conservatives to their anticipated nirvana, and so he is now considered "a liberal."

  2. Liberals are the new witches. Crop failure? Strange noises in the night? It's liberals.

    No, the Republican economic model is a total failure, always has failed and always will fail, but the excuse is always Liberals. When the Democrats succeed, it's blind luck or the results of the previous, failed administration.

    There's no better definition of madness, but it also fits stupidity, dementia and ignorance quite well.

  3. Most of my conservative friends switched parties in 2008 and voted for President Obama. I don't bother with the other friends anymore. The partisan atmosphere within this condo community is so tense, neighbors exchange cold stares. I no longer socialize at the community clubhouse.

    Socializing, you know, smacks of socialism.

  4. Sometimes I think the hardest choice is choosing your battles. Casual conversations begun with strangers with whom you appear to share common interests and then there is that moment when you realize the divergence of your views on matters of substance. Do you try to be heard or simply let the conversation fade away? You have my deepest empathy, dear Captain.

  5. O Captain. You are too kind.

    I would have vomited all over her Ralph Lauren Polo shorts.

  6. No, I have a strong stomach and I just let it die, but I won't be going on any cruises with them.

    It's such a sickening waste though -- she and her husband are truly nice people. I see them as victims in a way.

    In a way I became used to it long ago. At school or work, many friends eventually feeling comfortable with me, would bring out the Jew jokes or start in with the anti-Semitism routine and I would have either to confront them or move on. Neither path is a happy one.

  7. GAH! It's astounding to me that simply saying you get your information from a variety of sources indicates that you're a liberal. That drives me batty.

    I suspect your friend couldn't define "capitalism" or "socialism" if you asked. Good for you for taking the high road by not asking. I'm not sure I would have been able to bite my tongue.

  8. None of these people can, but the do have a strong sense of their being sides even if they can't define them.

    Of course demanding that foreign oil companies adhere to safety standards is Communism. Equal protection under the law is Communism. Taxes are the tool of Communism. Of course.

    Capitalism means anarchy and authority at the same time. The only civil right guaranteed by the constitution is the right to unhindered profit from unhindered exploitation.

    An elected government means tyranny by a foreign power, while liberal means authoritarian as does conservative except when the authority applies to the speaker's rights. Conservative means backing war for war's sake. Liberal involves complaining about corruption by conservatives.

    It's all so complicated -- far more so that Orwell could ever imagine.

  9. By way of coincidence I went to Dominica earlier this year when healthcare reform was going through. I got in a conversation with one of my fundamentalist neighbors, who was very upset when the bill passed. She said just the same thing about staying there to escape socialism, despite the fact that she and her family could no longer afford healthcare insurance due to a massive rate hike which the public option would have addressed.

    But speaking of healthcare...

    Dominca is a poor country, but they provide healthcare to people from birth to the age of 18 and from 60 onward. Between 18 and 60 they are expected to have healthcare insurance. There are numerous group and community based plans available at modest cost. Community clinics are staffed with RN's with physician backup when needed. As a result, Dominicans have one of the longest life expectancies in the world. They are healthy, well educated and well informed. It was quite a reverse culture shock to return to rural NC.

    Dominicans just seem to have their priorities straight, especially given their environmental stewardship. They have done a lot with few resources.

    I am not a sailor, but, I did live in the USVI for several years way back when. I had thought, perhaps mistakenly, that Dominica was one of the Windward Islands, it is at the bottom of the Leewards and top of the Windwards so I guess some confusion is permissable.

    Well, eat some jellies, drink some Kabuli's and hope that that volcano on Montserrat doesn't dump ash in your Soca and lime. Oh yeah, and be careful of those scary storm drains at the roadsides


We welcome civil discourse from all people but express no obligation to allow contributors and readers to be trolled. Any comment that sinks to the level of bigotry, defamation, personal insults, off-topic rants, and profanity will be deleted without notice.