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Dan Goodman's prediction and politics journal.

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

How to Influence Me Politically

A few months ago, a Canadian on soc.politics explained (for the benefit of European posters) that I was a typical American -- that is, I got my news entirely from television, and believed everything the White House said.

Item: I don't own a tv set.

Item: Three of my grandparents were Marxists; the fourth was an anarchist.

Item: I'm opposed to a whole lot of what the current Administration has done. And I live in an area (South Minneapolis) in which the number of people who support Bush might be lower than the number of Ontario residents who voted for him in 2000. (Probably higher than the number who sent in absentee ballots from Nunavit, though.)

However, I do believe that much of what Europeans think they know about the US is inaccurate. And I
don't take kindly to Europeans who lecture on American imperialism -- as contrasted with the saintly histories of their own countries.

(Note: I'm not saying that all European countries have engaged in imperialism. To the best of my knowledge, San Marino and Andorra have never done so. If you belong to another European country, and you're certain yours is in this category, you're welcome to tell me so. But I suggest first checking with citizens of countries which border yours, to begin with.)

I don't appreciate such ignorance and prejudice from Americans, either. I grew up in a rural area of New York State; I don't think kindly of people who "know" that NYState is entirely urban, and inhabited only by liberals. I also don't think kindly of people who "know" that Minneapolis is just like the rest of the Midwest, and therefore irredeemably conservative.

If you want to change my mind about American politics, you'd better do some thinking and investigation about such things.

It would also be useful to avoid insulting any of my friends, relatives, or friendly acquaintances. Which should be simple enough: don't disparage Marxists, liberals, conservatives, anarcho-communists, anarcho-capitalists; Catholics, Fundamentalist Protestants, Jews, "mainstream" Protestants, Orthodox Christians, Unitarians, agnostics, atheists, pagans....

If you belong to a particular political creed, I recommend keeping yourself humble by reminding yourself of the inglorious parts of that creed's history. For example, if you're a liberal, remember that the most racist 20th century President was a liberal Democrat: Woodrow Wilson. If you're a conservative, remember that there's a long history of conservative disloyalty; see, for example, Under Cover, by John Roy Carlson, published in 1943. (And what do you think the Confederate flags Southern conservatives display are a symbol of?)

And do try not to make it too obvious you think you're more intelligent and more knowledgeable than I am.
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