There are some right wingers who have a proclivity for voicing in passing their political views to total strangers. It always strikes me as both odd and more than a little gauche. They always speak as if you undoubtedly agree with them. The Left is a media phantom that they never actually see and that they never really expect to encounter. Like most people who lean to the left, I usually let their statements pass without comment, partly because the statements themselves are so dumb—or neurotic—that it feels impolite to say anything. But some of my reluctance to speak is a holdover from 9/11 when the slogan “United We Stand” was regularly trotted out by the Right as a threat to anyone who opposed their program.
On our recent road trip up north, Judy and I stopped at a motel in Brookings, Oregon. I was in the lobby working on the laptop when two men came in to see about a room. Weirdly, they started making Fox News-type political comments to the woman at the desk. Their comments started out mild, but they kept getting more and more outrageous. She was clearly apolitical. Her only concern was that they become customers, so she responded with pleasant non sequiturs. In the meantime, I was sitting there, tired from a long day of driving, and getting more and more irritated with these two. They pushed me over the edge when they started praising Singapore for its public hangings. I stood up and told them, essentially, that they were full of shit. The shock on their faces was striking. I don’t think anybody had ever opposed them. They didn’t become argumentative; they simply looked bewildered. I walked out of the lobby then, and back to my room.
I don’t think that “talking back,” in and of itself, can change much. But it is a place to begin, and I intend to do a lot more of it. The Right has been getting away with not having to listen to the other side for too long now.