A couple weeks ago I had a blog entry about how conservatives should, like, STAHP with the appeals to the Founding Fathers and invoking the ghost of Davy Crockett and work at humanizing ourselves to people in NON-political ways. This is a necessity because Republican leaders both political and cultural have seemed to go out of their way to embrace their role as the Black Hat Evil Darth Vader Society in some weird faux pageant put on for the benefit of the American voters. The trouble is, the Republican leaders both political and cultural did not realize that somewhere along the way a whole lot of liberals started to believe in the weird faux pageant and that the Democrats really actually hated us, no more playin’. They have come to see us as real live unremorseful unrepentant bad guys who wanted to turn back the hands of time to a 1932 or something while evilly laughing mwah-ha-hah.
Liberals have come to see conservatives as evil villains who need to be eradicated, either by waiting around for old people to die, or maybe even by taking some steps to hurry the #winning process along a bit (such as, letting 16 year olds vote, for instance.)
It’s a good piece, probably better than this one will be LOL, but it got long and philosophical and as sometimes happens I had to set aside some of what I wanted to say to allow my argument space to breathe. But my brain keeps coming back to the stuff I left out, and so I think I gotta take a moment to lay it out for everyone again, just from a slightly different angle this time.
As some of you know I occasionally write stuff for Ordinary Times which is a kind of online news magazine where people across the political spectrum come together to talk about political stuff, cultural stuff, and all sorts of other stuff. The philosophy of Ordinary Times is meant to be “there is more that brings us together than separates us”, a cause which I’m fully on board with. Mostly, I think the real live point of Ordinary Times is more a place where some very tame or very foolish conservatives show up to be tag teamed into submission into by some really aggressive liberals – and a few nice ones – who don’t seem to have jobs or something (or have super flexible ones) since they have what appears to be endless amounts of time to argue online. But I digress.
So to my dismay, through no fault of my own since I have no ill intent towards liberals whatsoever, I find I’m pretty quickly becoming one of the main conservative baddies at Ordinary Times. I may even be growing into a role as the actual ringleader of the bad guys, a situation which is both astounding and mindboggling to me, a person who really mostly just wants to write about sandwiches. But that’s kind of the point of my thinkpiece, here, right?? That liberals, even nice ones, seem to really and truly think, that conservatives – even people who are pretty reasonable and fairly liberal in a great many senses of the word and if you’d only stop to listen I could explain all my opinions but ok I guess we’re making this about the Confederacy instead ok whatever jeez louise – are actually real live villains who want poor people to die and like to put children in cages and we all hate anyone who isn’t like us.
They think we are a stereotype. And it’s not even an accurate stereotype.
Over the past few weeks I’ve been told that I should be able to relate better to a liberal (who I wasn’t having any trouble relating to either by the way) because they’d “gone to a tractor pull and made their own bullets”. I’ve been told that the only possible example of a movie with a “conservative message” was Top Gun a movie which doesn’t even HAVE a message that I’m aware of. I’ve been told all other movies other than Top Gun simply had to be liberal in origin because conservatives only care about Jesus and jet fighters. I’ve been told that conservatives hate cities and only live in the country and that yes, actually, liberals do hate people who live in the country. I’ve been told again and again in numerous ways how these people see me and it’s as a patently false stereotype – an extremely Christian, extremely militaristic hick who hates cities and art and good food and gay people and loves guns and Twinkies when none of those things are true.
As it’s dawned on them (slowly, so very slowly) that I don’t fit too neatly into their expectations for a person who calls themselves conservative, now they’ve switched gears and are telling me I’m not an “actual” conservative because adjusting their concept of of what a conservative is was too painful for them. They prefer to continue to believe that the middle of the country is populated by hordes of Bubbas and Beulahs who are living on high fructose corn syrup and hate. These are very thoughtful, seemingly normal people otherwise. Yet rather than admit that their stereotypes of “conservative” were possibly incorrect or probably way too narrow (because there are some Bubbas and Beulahs out there, of course there are, although even the most Bubba-y Bubba who ever Bubba-ed is more complicated and 3 dimensional than my liberal peeps would acknowledge) instead they told me that I’m not really a conservative after all. LOL.
I am a conservative though. I promise.
I’m telling you folks, the vast majority of liberals have NO CLUE what conservatism is even about. NO CLUE. They’re not bad, they’re not stupid, they just don’t know what we’re even about so it makes it very, very, very easy for them to think the worst of us.
That brings me to Juno. Most people have probably seen Juno by now. It’s a wonderful story of a winsome and clever girl who gets pregnant and decides to give the baby up for adoption rather than have an abortion. She becomes overly involved with the prospective adoptive parents and the adoptive dad – one of those guys who refuses to leave the sex, drugs, and rock and roll phase of life behind – decides he’s in love with Juno and wants to leave his wife and set up housekeeping with Juno and the new baby.
During the same conversation in which I was informed Top Gun was the pinnacle of conservative filmmaking, someone (who I felt was actually making an effort to understand me) asked me “Well, what do you think of Juno? On the one hand it has an anti-abortion premise, on the other, it shows teen sex and it has an LGBTQ star!!” I found it an utterly depressing question. It shook me, not gonna lie. Really brought it home to me how deeply liberals believe that conservatives are incapable of being reasonable, incapable of watching fictional situations that don’t completely confirm and verify their priors every second of the entire story.
Even among conservatives, the entire point of fiction is setting up conflicts and then seeing those conflicts get solved in ways that speak to you on an individual level somehow. Fun fact, if you agree with every person’s behavior in a movie every single frame, you’re not watching a movie, you’re watching propaganda. Maybe this is why some liberals get so bent out of shape by movies that aren’t balls-to-the-wall PC every second of every day. Maybe they want propaganda. IDK. But personally I don’t need constant conservative rah-rah when I watch a movie, and in fact I think preaching of any flavor, even flavors I like, gets in the way of a good movie.
And no, I don’t care about an actor’s sexual persuasion, actually. I don’t care a whit if a writer has had a chequered past like Diablo Cody, the writer of Juno has had. (Feminist alert – note how this kind of thing only applies to women! as if anyone thinks Hemingway was sexually pure, LOL.)
Juno is in fact 100 million billion kajillion percent a conservative movie. The teen sex is not glorified and it has consequences. The pro-life protester was a relatable character (a young, attractive minority girl who was legitimately caring about the fate of Juno’s baby, rather than an old, white, mean Christian bully stereotype). The good people in Juno all behave responsibly. The good people are treated sympathetically even in areas where they may have flaws (for example, it would have been very easy to demonize Jennifer Garner as a shrew who pushed her husband to act badly from her drive to succeed professionally and/or her fertility struggles – and indeed, a “liberal” movie would have done exactly that – would have painted Jason Bateman sympathetically, or even told the story entirely from his viewpoint).
Juno’s dad and stepmother are endearing, caring, and wise even though they’re blue collar (Juno’s dad is an HVAC technician but still was super into learning about Greek myths – which I find more accurately represents what blue collar people are about than assuming we all go to tractor pulls, LOL). The villain is a person who refuses to grow up, refuses to behave responsibly, is completely self-absorbed and obsessed with coolness, and is willing to screw over his wife and a teenage girl for his own (mostly sexual) gratification. In the end, the good people are rewarded and who cares what happens to the bad guy, I can’t even remember what happens to him.
It is OBVIOUS to me that Juno is completely and totally a conservative movie. It’s actually stunning and to be honest, extremely dismaying to me that anyone could watch Juno and ever assume “oh boy I bet the cons HATE this movie.” It’s depressing how wide a gulf there is between conservative reality and what liberals think they know about conservative reality. The fundamental problem we have as conservatives is that people do not understand our worldview. We can’t communicate with those who don’t even understand where we’re coming from.
This in no small part because our conservative worldview is at present in flux, being transformed from primarily rooted in religion to being rooted in other ethical philosophies and in real world outcome (more about that another time), and in no small part either because conservatism is a big tent and we’ve got a lot of people with different beliefs within it. But in not-so-no-small part it’s because we, the everyday normal conservatives, haven’t been good at getting out there and selling ourselves. We let the people running the Republican movement – both politically and culturally – carry the banner for us and they did a freaking terrible job of it. And we sat silently by and let them, and what’s worse, we let the liberals in charge of Hollywood and the media define who we are!
Hey, I get it. I know why. It’s because we’re busy working and raising families and we don’t have the time or the energy to push back on this 500 foot tsunami of liberal culture that’s been washing over us the last 60 years. But if people don’t understand our worldview because we never told them what our worldview even was, they’re just gonna fill in the gaps and what they fill the gaps in with is gonna be the vision of us that best serves their interests. Many liberals, and ALL liberals in position of political and cultural influence, WANT to see conservatives as bad guys because they need a bad guy so they can continue to play the good guy. Their narrative is that they are The Good Guys and if we aren’t Actually Bad, it undercuts that narrative. They have a vested interest in keeping us fulfilling the Bad Guy role. So they’re gonna fight and fight hard to keep us shoved into that Darth Vader costume even though it doesn’t fit and never actually did.
We have GOT to start pushing back, and we’ve got to push back in ways that don’t continue making things worse. Too often (and I understand the temptation) in attempting to push back, conservatives start to embrace and celebrate the negative stereotype. Some of us have learned to take delight from being the bad guy. Some of us troll and insult and offend and trigger. Some of us have even started to buy into the us vs. them dichotomy and become ever more “US” even though we were never “US” to start out with! This accomplishes nothing and is simply allowing the liberals to continue defining us in the way that most benefits them.
I am a person who is not into tractor pulls. I’m not gonna let someone tell me that I am into tractor pulls. I’m not gonna get sucked into an argument in which I defend the greatness of tractor pulls just because they’re a thing “my side” is supposed to be into! I’m not gonna get sucked into arguments in which I defend child beauty pageants or Kevin Sorbo movies or calling people “snowflakes” or the shenanigans of Jesse Kelly or saying “cities are cesspools” or the Young Earth Theory or The Noble Cause or Pizzagate or conversion therapy just because those things are supposed to be “my team” or whatever (if you believe in those things, by all means, carry on, but if as a lot of cons do, you find you’re repeatedly getting sucked into arguments in which you’re defending things you really don’t even believe because you think you’re supposed to, just stop.) I am not gonna continue making things worse because it only makes things worse. Please, please stop making things exponentially worse because you want to “own the libs”!
Owning the libs is temporary. Saving America is forever, hopefully.
We’re better than the stereotypes. By far. All we have to do to prove it is share our actual conservative beliefs. The things we really believe are awesome and self-evident, we just gotta let people know what they are. We don’t have to be assholes, we just have to stay true to the things we actually believe rather than buying into what people who directly profit from us playing the bad guy are telling us we are.
So given that, how DO we push back, anyway? If I’m saying (and I am) that we shouldn’t go too deep into politics and philosophy because it turns people off, and if I’m saying (and I am) that we can’t go all in on “conservatives pounce ur triggered lulz” either, how do we push back?
Your path may very well be different than mine, but I believe the key is a one-two punch of humanizing those of us on the right while simultaneously illuminating the underpinnings of conservative thought without trolling or preaching. We have to both convince our opponents that we are not the bad guys, while simultaneously bombarding them with positive, informative, educational examples (both in reality and fiction) of what conservatism really is about rather than leaving them to blindly accept the Hollywood interpretation.
For me, this is doing things like writing articles about sandwiches in which I celebrate how amazing it is that a group of people from many different walks of life have come together in peace and friendship to make a country that while not perfect, is still pretty damn awesome. For me it’s about writing reviews about movies and TV shows that, like Juno, reflect a conservative worldview WITHOUT being overtly Christian or ridiculously patriotic. For me, it’s joking around with people who expect conservatives to have no sense of humor and being kind to people who expect conservatives will be cruel to them. These things work. I believe I am making inroads with people who are no longer willing to immediately write me off as being Eva Braun Junior just because I have a different way of looking at the world. And then when I hit em with the occasional political argument, they’re way more receptive to me than they’d be otherwise.
It takes time, and it takes a willingness to swallow my pride that isn’t always easy, I admit. This hasn’t been an easy path and I haven’t always lived up to my highest standards in every interaction. But I do think it’s helping create some paths of understanding in my little corner of the world.
We tend to look at history as a Big Picture. Big People doing Big Things and making Big Choices that have Big Effects. But history is made up of billions of people, like you and me. What we do matters because even though our individual acts may be small, the effect of a billion small acts outweighs even the biggest act of an individual.
We have the power to turn the tide. Spread the word.
And be good.