President Obama recently spoke of the necessity to “actively” seek out “information that challenges our assumptions and our beliefs” in order to “understand where the people who disagree with us are coming from.” I know that some of you run into the President at various Trilateral Commission drug parties and don’t want to be caught short when he demands to know if you’ve complied with his counsel, so you probably need to engage in some dialogue with Americans who vote Republican, go to church and don’t live in Brooklyn. Too bad you don’t know any!
You used to, of course. You grew up with them, and in some cases you were raised by and with them. We all know the story. You grew up in a suburb or small town in flyover country. Your peers and even the adults in your community never knew what to do with you, nor you with them. They cared about football/lacrosse/basketball/baseball and God and Scouting. You were artistic and/or gay. You wrote embarrassing journal entries about the suburbs being nothing but a pleasantly painted manhole cover hiding a sewer of avarice and pain. Popular kids made jokes about you and then high-fived each other. (No they didn’t, that only happens in the movies.)
In any event, you moved to New York the minute you turned 18 (okay, 23; you had to attend an expensive college first) and never looked back. You go home for Christmas and keep in touch with a few of your old friends, but you’ve learned to steer clear of politics and religion when talking with them. At this point your only interaction with the heart and mind of Real America are the email forwards you get from your aunt’s AOL account, typed in 24 pt. blue font and railing against welfare queens, illegal immigrants and Barack INSANE Obama.
As much as you want to obey the counsel of the Dear Leader, you’re hesitant to break the “We’ll Just Agree to Disagree On Politics And Only Talk About ‘American Idol’” pact it took years to establish with your family and friends from home. You’re in a little bit of a fix, aren’t you?
That’s where I come in. I’m a 32 year-old white Mormon Republican male. Although I’m more David Frum than Glenn Beck, I did vote for George W. Bush. Twice! So, yes, we have our differences, you and I. At the same time, I’m capable of speaking your language because I’ve lived in New York for a while and went to graduate school at Columbia with people who seemed to genuinely enjoy holding candlelight vigils.
Here’s how we’ll do it: Make note of these issues or events that get you so frustrated that you turn to your transgendered roommate and yell, “What are THEY (Republicans/conservative religious people/lovers of America) thinking?” In the event that I happen to be one of THEM on that particular issue, I’ll tell you what I’m thinking, and even though I won’t try or expect to convince you, we’ll see if we can’t at least understand one another. We’ll take the issues one at a time. If I’m not one of THEM on that issue I’ll still probably be able to explain what THEY’RE thinking because a lot of the people I know are THEM.
And every once in a while I won’t be able to explain what THEY’RE thinking, in which case you can go celebrate with the appropriate Wiccan ritual.
So, for next week, why not leave some questions in the comments or send them over email to askarepublican at gmail and let’s have a dialogue-lest the President, in his righteous anger, rescind your invite to the White House Muslim Swingers Ball. (Oh, and since the whole point of this exercise is to foster dialogue and understanding, and since I’m mostly done playfully stereotyping and insulting you as an icebreaker, let’s make a pact to be civil. Your President would want that!)
Davis lives in New York with his wife and their puppy. He blogs at Don’t Do Dumb Things.