20 May 2008

Passive learners

This Memorial Day weekend ushers in another season of campfire discussions at our cabin. While I enjoy sitting around the fire and chatting, it never quite goes that way. Never has, never will.

Somehow the conversation always finds its way to politics. Unlike many people, I detest talking about politics. It's especially tiresome when the conversation never goes anywhere, nothing gets resolved. With hubby's family being on one end of the spectrum and us on the opposite, there isn't a middle ground. This was the same as it was over twenty years ago when we were first dating and it's the same today. I know the conversation is pointless, but for some reason, these folks want to rehash the same-'ol, same-'ol every weekend.

My husband listens to conservative talkshows, like Rush Limbaugh and CINO Sean Hannity. I would rather have a tooth extraction than listen to the bombast of Rush, even though I happen to agree with a good deal of what he says (as I mentioned, I don't listen to him so don't beat me up if the guy is advocating goofy things, I'm talking about agreeing on general conservative principles, but since I'm a Catholic, I diverge on some issues).

The campfire conversations go something like this.
"Oh, that Bush, he's so terrible."
"Why is he terrible?"
"Oh, I don't know, he's just terrible."
"But why?"
"Well, he's just after oil."
"How so?"
"He just is. And, making sure all his cronies get rich. I'm so tired of all these people getting rich."

Oh, and the latest...
"I'm voting for Hillary."
"Why is that?"
"I just think she'd do a better job than a man. Look at all the things that are wrong because we've had a man in charge all this time. A woman certainly couldn't do any worse."
"What is Hillary's platform?"
"I don't know, she just isn't a man."

20-plus years of this kind of stuff. I don't think I'd mind the conversation so much if everything wasn't so nebulous. It's all just sentiment they pick up from TV. Hillary and Obama blast Bush and the Republicans without really saying anything. There is nothing qualitative or quantitative to rebut, it's all just wordsmithing that's meant to sound like they've really said something. For 20 years, my MIL has been carrying on this conversation but has never really gotten to the meat and potatoes of why she disagrees with the conservatives. She just does. Period. Passive learning of things she's absorbed from watching snippets of politicos on the news. Superficial, unsubstantied.

Drilling in the ANWR is bad. Don't do it. But why? She couldn't tell you, but merely responds that it's bad. Bad, bad, bad. No matter the topic, her opinion is just the latest news bite from CNN.

If she really looked into politics, fairly and honestly, she would see that she is a huge conservative on many issues and is aligned so closely with Pat Buchanan that she would jump off a bridge if she found out. I've often contemplated printing a copy of Buchanan's column, cutting off the by-line and letting her read it. I don't want to open that Pandora's box since I don't know if she'd kill herself first or me.

Same goes for religion. Why does she believe what she does? It's all about feelings, just like so many songs of the 70s. If pressed, then the response is, "Well, you know so much about your religion that I don't want to argue about it." Huh? Isn't that like saying, "I'm ignorant about my beliefs, but don't rattle my cage, don't make me walk through things logically?"

My MIL has a favorable opinion about the Pope. When he was here, she watched the news coverage and she said she really liked his voice. Honestly, to me, that's one of the least attractive things about him, but she liked the Pope. I think a lot of it had to do with the surprisingly positive coverage the Pope enjoyed from the press. But, then she's hostile about the Church in general, because you know, that whole sex scandal stuff. I'm not diminishing the abuse, just noting that all her opinions are puppeting the pabulum she hears on TV.

Strangely enough, I had a lady, a Catholic psychologist, tell me that I should just let my husband and his family argue over politics. I should sit at the campfire with a glossy stare and a smile on my face, happy that everyone else is having a good time. Hmmmmm. I'm sorry, I thought the definition of insanity was to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different outcome. They've been going down this road for over 20 years, slinging insults back and forth, always expecting that they'll convince the other side of their opinion, but I'm the one with the problem to tell them that politics isn't to be discussed around polite campfires?

Maybe if I put some rum in my Coke things would go better.


Lisa said...

Alcohol does ease the pain of relative humidity! :)

I so relate to this post-my mom is the same way about politics, with no logical reasons for why she hates Bush or supports Obama. Like your in-laws, the typical sound bite from CNN or MSNBC is all she reiterates. I enjoy talking politics, even with Democrats, if people are well-read and have thought out the issues. An educated debate is always welcomed, but I don't bite if it's just the latest regurgitation of a Keith Olbermann commentary! (check out his rant on May 14 about Bush- yikes!)

Melody said...

My Mom's family used to do what you are saying. It was always about politics or religion (Mom was the sole Catholic of the bunch); the same things argued about, over and over. I finally had a bit of an epiphany when I realized they enjoyed it. One time my Mom and one of her sisters were having at it in the kitchen. I was a teenager at the time, and chimed in with, "Aunt D. drove 600 miles to be here. And all you two can think to talk about is politics?" Mom said, "Oh, leave us alone! We can't even have a good argument without someone interfering." Both Mom and Aunt D. have passed on, God be good to them. I wonder if they're still arguing in heaven?

Cathy_of_Alex said...

Swissy: You just described my family visits! LOL!

Actually, you have to be careful to only give yourself the alcohol. If it's shared things can get ugly. Just my personal advice for a smooth holiday weekend.


gemoftheocean said...

You only thought just *NOW* to put rum in the coke? Extra ice helps keeping you from imbibing too much and saying what you really think.

"Well, I suppose if they were found dead in the morning....there might be questions....." [Lank Hawkins, Crazy for You....]

swissmiss said...

My husband likes to talk about politics, but I just don't care for it. My family never really talked about politics because they were all like-minded...until recently.

I know they enjoy it. I don't quite get it, but know they enjoy it. Odd family since this is how they relate to each other, but arguing over politics!

Point taken!

I think it's time for a vice and drinking might as well be it :) Could solve a lot of problems.