Dear Amy: I am an intellectual conservative, living in liberal and one-party Berkeley, Calif.
Time after time at dinner parties (even my own), the guests just assume that I am a liberal like they are.
When I tell them that I’m fairly conservative, they just don’t get it. They freely disparage “right-wing hillbillies” and say that all conservatives are “evil people.”
One time I countered, “Forty percent of the people in this country are not evil. They are good people. They just have different values from yours.”
The table became silent, they all glared at me, and the dinner party was ruined.
What is one to do? Must one just smile faintly and bear it? What can one say? — Frustrated Republican in Berkeley
Dear Frustrated: Whenever I try to tackle a politics-adjacent question, the reader-responses range the gamut from people decrying my conservative hot takes, my liberal views, or my “both-sides-ism.” This tells me that people are avoiding nuance, context, or subtext.
My take on the phenomenon you describe is that one unexpected and unfortunate consequence of our president’s personal and public comportment is that it seems to have inspired a parallel mindset in the opposition. I do not lay the blame for the close-minded attitude of many progressives on the current administration; I simply note the parallels.
Each of us is entirely responsible for our own behavior. But the stereotyping and overall narrow-minded attitude you describe is something you might want to gently ask these liberal intellectuals to reflect upon. Practice a question: “Are you interested in learning more about how conservatives like me view current events — and what we are thinking about?”
Yes, it might be easier for you to simply sit through this sort of group-think, but you should not take the blame for “ruining” a gathering simply because you have asked people to be open-minded and rational. Nor do I think that you (or anyone) should feel forced to stay silent when others are being rude, crude, or reactionary.
Surely anyone worthy of being called a “liberal” should defend your right to speak your own mind, and should maintain an attitude of open-minded curiosity about people who think differently than they do.
Dear Amy: I’m a media producer with an emphasis on video production. I mainly work on documentaries, so I usually work with people who don’t have on-camera experience.
When I put microphones on people, I try to make small talk about whatever common subjects I can think of (sports, pets, kids, where they’re from, etc.). The goal is to loosen them up for when they have to talk on camera and to alleviate some tension regarding me, a stranger touching their body and clothes to properly place the mic and hide the cable. (I do always say, “I’m putting the mic here, is that OK?”)
Recently I put a mic on a very pregnant woman. I was going to say, “Congratulations on the pending arrival, I have a daughter myself and it’s great...”
Instead, I made a comment about the weather because I thought if I mentioned the pregnancy it would be akin to commenting on her body and I’m “woke” enough to know that people, especially women, don’t like that.
Was I correct in not acknowledging the pregnancy, or would using the pregnancy to relate on a “I’m a parent too” level be acceptable? Trying to make people comfortable and relaxed is my number one priority. — Too Woke in Chicago?
Dear Too Woke: You understand the important role you have in helping to calm jittery nerves during what can be a nerve-wracking process. Your sensitivity is commendable.
No, you should not mention a woman’s pregnancy as you are helping to affix her mic. The main reason for this is because a person getting ready to be interviewed on camera should be concentrating on their own preparation. Pregnancy is a diverting topic to discuss just before being interviewed.
If a woman makes a reference to her own pregnancy, then yes — congratulate and briefly share your positive parenting experience with her, but the time for more leisurely chit chat is after the interview is wrapped.
Dear Amy: “Just Wondering” was worried about his girlfriend’s habit of texting a (male) co-worker after work-hours. I agree with you that any of us has the right to maintain friendships outside of the love-relationship, but Wondering’s girlfriend should show him her texts and reassure him. Secrecy makes all of this worse, maybe for no reason. — Been There
Dear Been There: I agree.