The incident prompted a conversation today between Curmudgeon and a Gray-haired Fellow from Another Department (GFAD) that went something like this:
GFAD: But you saw about that KU professor didn't you?And so it ended, without my getting to use some of the best lines I keep in my pocket: "I don't let the NPR people do my thinking--or my feeling--for me" and "Well, considering the rate at which people like me are breeding and the rate at which people like you are contracepting and aborting, my views will soon prevail based on demographics alone, right or wrong."
Curm: Maybe, which one? wha'd'e do?
GFAD: You know that fellow that was going to teach the course on evolution, and sent out all those emails--which he probably shouldn'a done--him. You know. He got beat up the other day.
Curm: Well it just goes to show that not all us Christians are pacifists, eh?
GFAD: It's like America's Taliban, the religious right. There's going to be a civil war, you know!
Curm: Ya think so? About time . . . one suits me. The last one didn't turn out the right way, and that's why the country's in the mess it's in today.
GFAD: What? Well, it's pretty outrageous people beating a guy up over that.
Curm: [missing his opportunity to advocate the rack and the stake] I dunno. I mean,
it's hard to get too upset about that sort of thing. After all, that's how the left has operated at least since the sixties. Guys like that don't have much of a claim to be treated with any sort civility.
GFAD: But beating people up? They don't do that. When?
Curm: Well, I can't think of an example off the top of my head, you caught me off guard. But the left uses force or the threat of it all the time. Abortionists and the NARAL crowd are wrecking pro-life people with frivilous RICO lawsuits and stuff.
GFAD: Well, if they're intimidating people that's fine.
Curm: [missing another opportunity] Well, I don't think it's intimidating the die-hards; they're still protesting. Oh, the you're talking about the protesters, not the abortionists. I think you've got that backwards.
GFAD: Oh boy, we need to talk to you. Who else?
Curm: Well, for instance, do you know why the American Psychological Association declassified homosexuality as a psychological disorder?
GFAD: You're not telling me you think it's a disorder! People are born with it.
Curm: Well, of course it's a disorder, whether people are born with it or not. People are born with all kinds of weaknesses and disordered inclinations. I know I've got my share--although I don't struggle with same sex attraction, of course. I hope you don't buy into that Kinsey 10% garbage. It's not based on scientific method. Which brings me to my point. The APA dropped homosexuality from the DSM not because it had any scientific reason to, but because militant homosexual activists hounded them through the late 1960s (and the 1970s, I think), harrassing the people in charge of the DSM, disrupting their classes, their practices, and their speeches. The APA was bullied into dropping it for political reasons, not science.
GFAD: [signalling retreat] You really think that? Wow. We have to talk to you.
It's so much fun (and I've relayed this in a previous post, I think) to just play along with these guys and to treat their views with the same skepticism they treat yours. It really takes them by surprise when they come across younger, similarly educated people in the same line of work as them who don't subscribe to the conventional wisdom. Once you go into a detailed defense of your views in these water-cooler conversations, you lose. You can almost hear the NPR Morning Edition fanfare (Dah-dah-dah-dah . . . Dah-dah-dah-dah) as they write you off and their minds shift to the next little 2-minute artfully produced water-cooler vignette about the goofball art they've installed across from Barney Allis Plaza in KC (much like the serious review of a new album by some clown playing an underwater digital saxophone you'd here on NPR). BUT, if you start questioning their views, pretending that yours are the conventional wisdom (easy to do if you don't watch TV and or follow current events very closely), they usually don't know what to say.
I once had a conversation with another gray-hair from another department, this time at an Indian restaurant buffet in Johnson County, in which I said the only person I personally knew in the legislature was Kansas Senator Kay O'Connor. The GFAD said, "Oh, you must be a conservative Republican," to which I responded that I hadn't voted for a Republican presidential candidate since George Bush #1 in 1992 (which I regretted), and that I wasn't a conservative. When he challenged me on whether I was a conservative, I said I was a reactionary, not a conservative, because I didn't see anything in the political or cultural status quo worth conserving. The fellow almost dropped his plate of curried chicken, laughed nervously, and started talking about a business client of his.
So my thought is that (with minor adaptations for persons and circumstances) that we all quit engaging the progressive/liberal/radical Jacobins in our midst in any substantive way, and we do what our parents did to us when we were 13 or 14 years old and started repeating some of the political and cultural nonsense we picked up in junior high school. We, in a tone of feigned naivete, ask things like "What on earth do you mean?" and "Where did you come up with that idea?" and put them on defense. If my fellow evil trads need advice on this, I'd suggest they go up north and take lessons from Hilary, who would seem to manage the technique well.
Only in rare circumstances are you likely to get caught with someone who can trace their views pack to Jeremy Bentham or Jean-Jacques Rousseau or whatever particular high-on-cocaine-snuff enlightenment theorist that first expounded them, or someone who can go on-and-on about John Dewey's principles of pragmatism. Usually, the best authority they can come up with is "it's obvious" or "they say" or something they heard on NPR or read in a New York Times Book Review or a Molly Ivins column.
Really, in situations like this, where you're having a couple of minutes of casual conversation with someone, they're not going to actually listen to and remember your views, even if you're more prepared than I usually am to expound them concisely. Whatever you say, they file it under "right wing crank." So why not turn the tables on them? It may be more effective to impress upon them the fact that the opposite view can be held just as smugly and certainly as their own, by someone so sure of its rectitude that he feels no need to defend it and is shocked that anyone could hold the conventional view. THAT might actually get them thinking.
Does any of this make sense?