Tuesday, September 9, 2008

"Don't know whether to laugh or cry" moment

This is a conversation I had a couple of days with an ex-student of mine. She's always struck me as earnest, opinionated and very, very liberal from almost everything she said in class and outside. She's almost a stereotype in the stuff white people like mold- vaguely hippyish, vegan, back packing through Chile, artistic type who loudly denounces men, marriage, meat, Western hegemony and walmart all in one go...in other words the perfect person to have a friendly political rant with the day after the Palin speech...

Or so I thought...

The conversation made me long for a large white flag and a pole from which to wave it.

(With a little poetic license)

Me: (brightly and slightly conspiratorially) "Have you been following the political news lately?"

Student: (eagerly) "Yes, I'm sooo excited about it all"

Me: (Feeling happy about evidence of political activism in the youth) "Cool, what parts?"

Student: "Well, I think it's awesome that we have a woman running for VP. She's going to be awesome."

Me: (back peddling in my mind) "Hmmm? Interesting....so, do you find her views on the issues convincing? What things do you like about her?"

Student: "It's just really important to have women- they would change stuff, and make things better.."

Me: "Hmm....So what kind of stuff do you think she will change?"

Student: "She's going to make things.... better and she'll be great for women's rights"

Me: ('polite' voice) "Umm....Ok... Well, you do know that she's very pro-Iraq war, pro-gun, anti global warming as a concept, pro-life, anti-gay rights etc. right?"

Student: "Yeah, that's true but she's a woman and I think that's cool. We really need that right now."

Me: (smiling tightly): "Interesting....well, it's going to be.....interesting"

And then I slunk away....

It's working! Oh god, it's working!

Now I'd like to think I'm sufficiently open minded not to judge people for their political views. Some of my brightest students have been conservative in intelligent and thought provoking ways. But this is just not very smart, is it?

It bothers me that I did not try to gently disabuse her of those notions- but its hard to do without sounding condescending, patronizing and rude. No wonder the dems are bafflingly polite in the face of blatant lies.

Another day, another reminder of the 'jackass problem' in democracies, as a professor once eloquently put it.

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