I get called stupid at parties. It usually happens suddenly, during a conversation that I thought was civil and interesting. Politics is the usual trigger, and the usual offender is a nice, doctrinaire liberal person.
It comes out in a blurt, an involuntary verbal fart, sometimes followed by angry tears, almost never followed by an apology.
I’ve been trying to figure this out on a couple of levels. It doesn’t happen when I’m being particularly argumentative. Usually, my opinion has been asked for, and they’re surprised by what it turned out to be. I’m then told, Oh, you’re not serious! But I am serious. Mostly.
Sure, sometimes I’ll say, It really was a mistake for men to give women the vote. Or, we should resurrect the poll tax. But mostly I’m expressing opinions that aren’t that unheard of, even if people disagree. No, I don’t think the evidence is conclusive on global warming. Yes, I do think that Barney Frank is gay.
The other day, I was listening to the Adam Carolla podcast. (That is one great podcast, and Carolla is turning into a pretty good interviewer. He gets great guests — Francis Ford Coppola, Mike Tyson, Danica Patrick, even Jack from Jack in the Box, in character. He got Jack to call the Burger King King a fag. Check it out.)
Carolla had a liberal friend on, and they were talking about immigration and welfare benefits, and Carolla said that he thought they should cut off free school lunches and those crappy parents would damn well start making breakfast for their kids and be better parents for it. This elicited an involuntary liberal “That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard you say!” blurt/fart. It was interesting seeing this phenomenon as a bystander. It made me realize how fucking rude and jarring these little moments are.
I remembered a time at work when I was a subject matter expert for a technical certification test. We had a working group of about half a dozen people. The psychometrician, a nice, large liberal lady of a certain age, during lunch, made a snotty crack about Ayn Rand. We’d been getting along just fine–we’re a few days into the project. I said I kind of liked Rand. She farted back, Only an idiot would like anything about Ayn Rand!
That was the last word on the subject. No way was I going to be the first one to pick up that dead mouse, and she was fine with it sitting on the table, pretending she didn’t drop it there.
Probably she didn’t follow up because she was embarrassed (it sure made everyone else get suddenly interested in what was in their box lunches).
I let her pretend it hadn’t happened, and she graciously did so–no apology or discernible olive branch offered–even though we worked together for several days after that. I bring this up because calling somebody an idiot at work in the middle of a team meeting is pretty clearly not respecting diversity. It’s more serious than doing it at a party where everyone’s had at least 2 martinis. This anecdote supports my liberal fart thesis.
I didn’t hold it against her, after about 5 minutes. I did not, as they like to say in geek circles, “flip the bozo bit” on her. She was good at her job and knew a lot about statistical analysis, and I found her interesting to talk to and I kept talking to her. Had she been the first nice liberal to suddenly fart in my general direction, it might have been different, but by then I’d been living in Seattle for several years and was used to frequent liberal sulphur-suffused El Nino’s.
I’m lucky enough to be daily surrounded by people I respect and who are way better than me at at least one thing that matters. I’m glad to be allowed to hang out with them. Most of the guys I work around are great at XBox games and Sudoko or Soduku or Seppuku or whatever the hell it’s called. When forced to play, I crash the car repeatedly, commit suicide after killing most of my team-mates or wipe my ass with the puzzle page till they let me leave. My point is, on my best day, I’m on the 50 yard line, intelligence-median-wise, in my world.
But politics and such are in my wheelhouse, and rudely trying to stifle me has a high correlation with not knowing much and/or being a crackpot/conformist. face/off. Being smart does a little, not a lot, to insulate you from childish fears, neuroses and ways of looking at the world. That’s probably why I like these subjects so much–it’s where I can compete and win.
Ok, as usual, I’m taking forever getting to my real point. I’ll take that up in my next post.