After the 2000 Presidential election, there was much discussion on the Red States-vs-Blue States phenomenon; the cultural differences between coastal urban centers (which tended to be left-wing/Democrat strongholds) and rural/suburban 'middle America' (which tended to be right-wing and Republican-friendly voting blocks).
One of the most distressing things I've observed living in a Blue state is the smug arrogance of many on the political left; convinced of their own intelligence and their moral superiority to those ignorant Bible-belt country yokels, they gleefully seize on the worst sterotypes of those they disagree with as fodder for cheap-shot 'humor.'
In a recent post, someone on my reading list made a sly joke suggesting:
It occurs to me that the Bush campaign needs a GLBT-oriented bumper sticker that mainstream Republican voters would be proud to put on the back of their pickup trucks, which expresses their heartfelt convictions regarding the rights that gays, lesbians, etc. should have.
Vote Bush / Cheney '04
... or I'll chain you to my bumper and drag your ass.
As much as I disagree with Bush, the suggestion that anybody who votes for George Bush is a truck-driving, gay-murdering thug is ludicrous and plays to ugliest of sterotypes. I'm certainly not above crude humor, but every joke ought to have some connection to reality. I commented to that effect, and got a defensive retort, claiming that:
the fact remains that you couldn't create a GLBT-oriented bumper sticker that "heartland" Republican voters (predominantly in the South and Midwest) would be proud to display as a sign of unity ...and frankly, some *WOULD* appreciate a sticker such as I described.
Is that a fact?
I asked this person just how many registered Republicans (and how many residents of the American Midwest/South) he knew personally, or whether he came to this insight about the psychology of Midwestern/Southerners from watching television.
Respect, in my observation, is a one-way street between Blue Staters and Red Staters - people I know in the Midwest/South have a genuine interest and curiosity about life and politics in big-city coastal areas, while many Blue State leftists can't seem to open their mouth about Republican-voting 'Middle America' without injecting some sly insult about the intelligence of rural Americans, or trotting out some raggedy-ass canard about their supposed 'intolerance' (a sense of irony, it appears, is the first casualty of registering oneself a Democrat).
Salient points, I felt, ... and I posted a version of the above as my reply. His response was to delete my three-paragraph comment to give himself the 'last word' in the thread. Dissapointing, but ultimately, it's his perogative.
There are people I have significant political disagreements with with (hi, throwingstardna!) that I'm able to engage in vociferous but respectful debate, and I firmly believe that any political idea or opinion that cannot withstand the cauldron of intelligent criticism ought not survive; strident sloganeering is a dangerous and foolish path for anyone to take.
So I turn the question to the audience - can you sustain friendships with those you disagree with? Or do political discussions with your friends tend to be "oh man, we are SOOOOOO right!" excercises in mutual backslapping?
It is human nature to seek the company of like-minded people and there's certainly nothing wrong with that ... but I do believe in the value of mixing it up in one's personal life to keep perspectives fresh. Just how much diversity is in your rolodex of friends?