Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Seeing Red: A Tale of Hostility

Sit down. Pour yourself a lovely but decidedly unelitist glass of pinot (grigio or noir, your call). Get comfortable. Put your feet up on your coffee table (that is, unless you ever eat off of it). I'd like to tell you a little story. A true story. It's autobiographic and it happened today.

I wrote recently about my struggle to be friends with Republicans during these contentious times. I received many comments that injected the voice of reason into my psyche. I appreciate those people taking the time to help me see the light and not fall into this my-way-is-the-only-way abyss I teeter on the cusp of. I also got some anonymous comments nudging me to try to understand the other side and be a true tolerant liberal. It's curious why some commenters are anonymous and others go out on a limb. But that's neither here not there, simply a sidebar in my head.

So today I thought I'd start implementing my new be-nice-to the-other-side philosophy. I wear my Obama button everyday. It's like my watch; I feel naked without it. I proudly support my guy and never making disparaging comments about McCain outside my home and my blog. I simply let my button do the talking. It's not my place to strike up political conversations in public or try to change any minds. Unless I am asked something specific, I keep my trap shut (hard to believe, but true). And when asked, I answer in a positive light. While I might disagree with McCain supporters, I do not pick fights. At five feet tall, 100 pounds, you wouldn't pick fights either; it's not in my best interest.

Since I mistakenly left my sunroof open last night during an unforecasted torrential downpour, I had to take my car to be steam cleaned and detailed. While hanging out in the waiting room, I saw a man walk in wearing a McCain/Palin button. Tall, fit, lanky even, jeans, khaki button down shirt, loafers, graying in that erudite British Literature professor kind of way. I smiled and waved hello. He smiled back, making eye contact and smiling graciously. There are few things I appreciate more than eye contact. I thought we were off to a great start. It wasn't hard at all to be pleasant to this guy. I felt my blue anger fade a few shades.

And then our conversation went something like this:

Me, pointing to my Obama button: "Hey, look at us each supporting our guy. It's great to be part of this process, isn't it?"

Man, whose eye contact and warm smile instantly turns to disdain: "He's an idiot and so are you!"

Me, astounded, left for speechless: "Um, really? You think I'm an idiot? You don't even know me. I was just trying to be friendly."

Man, about a foot taller than my five foot tall frame, poking his finger in my face, veins pulsing in his neck: "Yeah, you're both idiots. You're gonna be sorry! You're gonna be real sorry!"

Me, eyes bulging, gulping, flabbergasted, somehow maintaining calm demeanor (very much unlike me): "Sir, I meant nothing disrespectful. I was trying to be nice, just pointing out that it's good to be part of this exciting time. I don't care how you vote. I just think it's important that everyone does vote."

Man, grunting, walking away: "Well, you're stupid. He's an idiot. You've got something coming!"

Me, still cool as the proverbial cucumber: "It's a shame you feel that way."

Then I called Mac Daddy who bore the wrath that had been escalating inside of me. He dutifully listened and advised getting the guy's license plate number. That Mac Daddy, he's no dummy.

So the man gets into his car, revs the engine, guns it out of the parking lot. He turns back to glare at me and flips me off. Middle. Finger. Even the car wash worker looked at me and said, "I'm not voting for Obama but I would never treat you like that." I tipped him five bucks.

The man drove off in a double cab white pick up truck peppered with McCain and Elizabeth Dole stickers and a vanity license plate that said PRAYER. Central casting couldn't have found a better stereotype. If you see PRAYER cruising the strip, make sure you wear your Obama bling proudly.

This guy's ranting was not analagous to a Wisconsin fan badgering a dyed-in-the-yellow-and blue Michigan fan about an upcoming football game at Camp Randall. He was plain mean and disrespectful. There was no elbow nudging and bwah ha ha-ing going on in good fun. When we flaunt our political leanings, we owe it those brands to behave in a fashion that is becoming to that brand. It is our duty to represent that which we honor. I'm pretty sure Jesus and John McCain would not condone his actions. To be so brashly and unabashedly rude to someone is abominable under any circumstance. Even I, hothead left leaning opiner and whiner of the century, would never do what he did to me. Don't get me wrong, I'm not playing the role of victim here. I'm simply saying that that man did nothing to help ease me on my journey to understanding the other side. Granted, he is but one example. But his behavior is on target with other experiences I have had during this election season. Let me share a few real examples that have shaped my disdain, frustration, and utter lack of patience for the conservative faction. Take a look and you might start to understand my paradigm, for we are all products of our experiences:

  • A man who flipped me off and yelled anti-liberal sentiments to me while Bird and Deal were in the car with me (and obviously visible to the driver who was higher up than us).
  • A man who flicked his burning cigarette butt onto the hood of my car at a red light, again with Bird and Deal in the car. He was firing obscenities too.
  • A man who dangerously tailgated me and almost ran me off the road for a long stretch of two lane road on my way to see a client in Greensboro, fist raised in air, yelling god knows what at me.
I have nothing on my car other than an Obama 08 sticker. No negative Bush cracks or anti-McCain sentiments. Obama 08 has sparked such scorn for this mom with two innocent young boys in her car. My experiences are not in a vacuum. Others have recounted similar tales. This along with the rash of Obama yard signs being desecrated,, knocked over and stolen from people's yards. What gives? Is my experience really isolated? Am I wearing a target invisible to the donkey's eye?

This man's behavior was nothing more than childish. And rude. And unproductive. He represents the lowest of his kind. The kind whom I am certain John McCain would condemn.

So tell me, have you had similar experiences? I also want to know about the Left harassing the Right. Everything can go two ways, and I want to hear it all. Do tell.
Seeing Red: A Tale of HostilitySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend


Unknown said...

I LOATHE rude people like that. I'm an independent but I hate when people bash each other. There is no reason for it! So sorry that happened to you!

Unknown said...

Unbelievable. People are truly crazy. I am sorry that you are being treated in this manner. Perhaps it is the way I was raised but I don't wear any paraphernalia for my candidate. My mother would get upset if I asked who she voted for maybe that has something to do with it. But I am getting an Obama shirt - history in the making!

Anonymous said...

Oh my God. I am mortified by this story. Utterly MORTIFIED. I just read it out loud to my husband. He isn't all that surprised by that behavior but I have never seen anything like that. MY car is peppered with all kind of liberal stickers (A ying to his yang! But a whole lot nicer...). My husband has 2 stickers (Obama and HRC). He is telling me now he has had many dirty looks at stop lights. I've had none that I know of. Yet. But back to the point. I am going to try and be the optimist. He is just a BAD HUMAN BEING. So are the others. Jesus would NOT do that, and he better praynow for some forgiveness - right quick. I think your hope to try and be open to the red folk is a good one. But I am left speechless by this story. The timing of it. The hate of it. It freaks me out. It worries me how many ppl (hopefully the minority) HATE Obama. Deep breaths. Lets also hope that the pin you wear, everyday, may silently be telling people everyday "she's voting for him, wow lots of ppl think he's the answer, let me think more closely about my vote". I know I have hijacked this post, but that was straight up traumatizing. One of my car stickers? "Hatred is not a family value". I hold on to never hating and hope that example holds true...eventually...somehow. A huge hug to you. How utterly traumatizing. Ok ok, enough from me.

Kelly said...

You handeled the whole situation like a perfect lady! Good for you. I'm not sure I would have done the same thing. Politcally, I don't know who I like; thankfully, I'm not voting this year (1 more year!). The whole partisan politics thing is awful though. People and candidates need to work together as a country in order to solve the nations problems. I'm not sure I believe in the "all for all" message Obama is sending (he is sending this hint to me @least) and the whole "Robin Hood" philosophy; hard-work will get you what you want, yet that's how I've been raised. Be philanthropic if you can, but don't be foreced to take out your wealth if you don't want to.

You are an incredibly courageous woman. Keep up the good work.
-Kelly (or Kelleexo on twitter)

Mom101 said...

thanks for pointing me here. (Well, sort of. I'm kind of steamed now.)

I will say and yeah, it's partisan, that Newt Gingrich created this heinous divisive culture in this country. Congressmen on opposite sides of the aisle used to hash it out at work then go out for drinks together. No more. It's a huge destructive force in our country and I really do think that Obama's the guy to change it.

Your observation that we have a responsibility to the brand that we represent when we wear a button is utterly brilliant. I never thought about it that way.

I had a healthy(ish) debate today with an old friend who turns out to be a rabid, left-hating republican. We parted still friends. He may think a little less of me and I of him in some ways, but I need to get past it.

But any guy who thinks it's okay to flip off a woman, let alone run her off the road...that's more than politics. That's someone who needs to be bitchslapped by his own mama for growing up to be an utter and complete asshat.

I'm truly sorry you've experienced these things. Come to NYC! We love Obama buttons here!

Lisa @ Crazy Adventures in Parenting said...

Wow, thats pretty spectacularly horrible. I am really shocked, I can't believe its getting to this point. What happens after the election, you know?

A Crafty Mom said...

Wow. I'm stunned, but I have definitely heard of this happening before. I haven't encountered anything like that here in Canada, and I live in Ottawa which is the capital, so I'm in the middle of a lot of politics. But then again, sadly there isn't a lot of passion in our politics, even though we're having an election at the same time as you. (And I watch more American coverage, too, b/c it's just more interesting.)

That's just brutal, ignorant behaviour. I'm impressed you didn't drive him off the road or follow him and slash his tires :-)

Mayberry said...

My god, such vitriol (I mean Mr. PRAYNOW, of course). It's so unnecessary and counterproductive.

I haven't experienced this but I confess--I am nervous about putting up an Obama yard sign, and when I blogged about it several commenters said they felt the same way.

Anonymous said...

Speaking as someone who is voting for McCain, I PROFUSELY apologize for this mans behavior. I would never treat someone that way, either... I stay out of politics (especially with people I don't know) and other than all-in-good-fun teasing with my democrat friends (which they can give just as good as they get!), I keep my mouth shut.
It was not only rude what happened to you, it was totally uncalled for. And what someone did to you while you were driving in your car WITH YOUR KIDS was dangerous and they could have killed someone.
I don't have anything against Obama, and not all of us Republicans are like that... really.

landismom said...

Unfortunately, there are ignorant people in the world, and you seem to have run into one of them. It's a pity that man's parents didn't raise him better.

The Tutugirl said...

I work at an office where most people are pretty conservative. Enough so that they call me a hippie, even though I'm far from it. My boss and I joke about our political differences, but I've refrained from putting an Obama sticker on my car because I'm afraid there would be some sort of backlash.

You definitely handled the situation perfectly.

Anonymous said...

You forgot to mention "scared" when describing him. I'm admittedly not the best judge of character (you've seen who I've dated) but in my experience the angry bully's who lash out at people are quivering little kids inside. Oh, and they also have small pee-pees.

Sorry about your car AND your day. Keep being open-minded, but I'll bet a quick scan of driveways with PRAYNOW parked in it could yield a fun night planting Obama posters all over his lawn...

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all of you who have left messages. I trust that Mr. Right does not represent his brethren. It is a shame we cannot just exist in peace with mutual respect. Like I said, I'm betting McCain would abhor this man's behavior.

I have not heard any stories of an Obama supporter behaving like this to someone who supports McCain. How about you?

Scot said...

Isn't it truly amazing that the people who profess their faith are the rudest individuals.

It is always the contractor with the fish on his card or truck who we have issues with.

Sorry he is part of the Rebuplican party.

On a funny note I woke up to a Obama sign in my front yard, and glad to see that my neighbors still want to have fun with the election. He will be receiving a Women and families for McCain yard sign later tonight.

What a fun time!

Anonymous said...

I'm not surprised by this guy. He is sadly an example of the many Ignorant-Americans who have been blindly electing Republicans for years.

Anonymous said...

That kind of anger is scary. I'm glad you are still able to laugh about it. My father is a conservative Christian Republican. He kept sending my teenager the most hateful, racist and sexist candidate jokes and photo-shopped pictures. I asked him to stop. He proceeded to tell me why Obama is a Muslim and not an American citizen. I listened to him and then I started to tell him why I like Obama. He immediately cut me off and said I was blind to the truth. Then, he told my Mother that he isn't speaking to me any more. Ever. My mother called me and told me to stop upsetting my father and vote McCain for my father. Umm, no. I'm over 40, not 12.

Anonymous said...

It is peeps like that that make me shed a tear for my beloved state. It also makes me want even more to come home and do some good.

Tammy said...

Wow! I'm totally amazed and dismayed at the behavior of some people. No matter who you are voting for, behaving like that in any context is NOT OK.

Sounds to me like you handled the nasty situation as best you could! Sheesh!

(I'm new to your blog - via twitter - and enjoying your writing!)

What Kate Wore said...

Like everyone else, we find this reprehensible and abhorrent behavior. Clearly the man is not well. We generally think behavior like this is founded in fear, not making it any more excusable as nothing would excuse. Nothing.

We haven't made up our minds yet, but are really just aghast at the irrationality of it all.

Bubba said...

Reminds me of a story which I found rather humorous that happened to me awhile back.

One day I was driving behind a car proudly displaying the bumper sticker, "Honk if you love Jesus!!"

When the single lane road opened to a double lane, I whipped around to pass the vehicle, and being in a somewhat playful mood I honked twice and waved while passing.

The gentleman behind the wheel turned my way and promptly flipped me off..*L*

I must have caught him on a bad day.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Someone came into my office today and asked me why I thought McCain refused to look Obama in the eye in the last debate. My take is that he is deeply ashamed of his campaign. He should also be ashamed of some of the people voting for him, but that's the kind of campaign he's run. It's come from the TOP.

Anonymous said...

I think I've lost some friends over the candidates and who I an supporting. It disturbs me that people are willing to give up friendships because of all of it! I mean sure we don't agree 100% of the time, but who wants to be around people who they agree with 100% of the time! Hence my search for liberal military wives, and I have found a few so I'm happy. :)

Anonymous said...

Holy sh*t girlfriend! That sadly only adds fuel to the fires of my republican / conservative christian stereotypes. Ayiyi.


Anonymous said...

Unspeakable but hardly unheard of. The book "True Enough" gives a small explanation of why the right seems somewhat more subject to this fiercely rigid world view. I disagree with the poster who said that Newt Gingrich started this, though. I certainly think he made things much worse, but to me it looks like something that goes back at least as far as Nixon.

I think Nixon supporters, so frustrated by the universal disgust heaped on their champion, were thrilled by the emergence of Reagan -- moreover, they were right when they perceived only scorn from the left towards Reagan. We on the left treated Reagan like a retarded child, and from my perspective, it was during the Reagan years that politics shifted so far towards "you lose!" as well as "I win." Certainly the Clintonites sneered when we finally had a chance in 1992, and that probably helped crush any chance at bipartisan health care reform and helped launch the Gingrich movement in 1994.

So everybody's plenty mean because everybody feels like they've been abused for the last 30 years. That's one of the things I like so much about Obama and Biden: they don't just talk about decency, they live it. It was one of the things I liked about the whole campaign until Palin entered: there was so little of this business of looking down on those who disagree. Palin, regrettably, appears as smug and certain as Bush does, and if there were ever a country that needed less certainty it's ours right now.

Anonymous said...

OMG I think I talked to that guy on the phone. Being we are calling for Obama we also do not get hot-headed or start back at people, but when the guy finally said to me "You don't have a clue about the issues at all." Well let me tell you that did it, but I was real nice, I said "I beg your pardon sir but I am a Republican and I know my issues that is why I am volunteering for the Obama campaign." He shut up and I hung up :~)

Anonymous said...

When ignorance is bliss, hatred reigns supreme

Anonymous said...

When ignorance is bliss, hatred reigns supreme

Lawyer Mama said...

Ack! That's horrible. What an ass. I have my moments of accidental rudeness, but I go out of my way to be polite and friendly while wearing my buttons and driving my car with my Obama magnets. Like you, I think of myself as a representative of the campaign and the Democratic party. It's too bad not everyone treats others with the same respect.

Glennis said...

I live in a liberal oasis. My town is often called "The people's republic of..." but in a funny way it makes me acutely aware of what it might be like to be a conservative here. So I don't flaunt my liberal leanings too broadly.

Although I will say - though I've been a democrat my entire adult lie, for the first time in my entire life I actually have a political bumper sticker on my car. That's how positive I am about Obama.