In which I tell conservatives I understand them because I used to be one

Guest post by Erin K.L.G.
In which I tell conservatives I understand them because I used to be one
Photo by Isai Ramos

If I can say anything at this bleak hour, with the world splitting at its seams, it’s this: conservatives, I understand you. It may not be something you expect to hear from a liberal, but I do. I understand you.

When it comes to politics and issues of the day, you want others to see what you see: that there are rules and decorum and tradition. There’s a rightful order to things.

You’re human. You want a warm bed, a hot meal, someone to love. You want a job you love and a purpose that’s clear to you. You’d like a vacation. A happy retirement. You want a voice. And you want status — personally, professionally, and within a larger community. You want things to make sense. When it comes to politics and issues of the day, you want others to see what you see: that there are rules and decorum and tradition. There’s a rightful order to things. Either God made it so, or because it’s just the way things are and have always been. That questioning these things or wholesale throwing them out will only cause an unsettling discomfort, or maybe even worse. The rules are there, like silent soldiers. You know this. And there’s no going back once rules are broken. Everyone knows that.

I understand.

In which I tell conservatives I understand them because I used to be one
Vintage Poster Reproduction from Authentic Heirlooms Co

I understand you, conservative women. You see Them smirking at us. You’d rather They smirk with you. You want to be in on the joke. You want what They offer and cannot be without. So you laugh with Them. Ha ha. Now look at you. You’re one of Them. They’re strong and you like strong. So strong, They need your help to defend them, stand in front of Them. Shield Them. So you do.

It’s not his fault for taking it a step too far! What was she doing taking any step in the first place? You say these things loud and clear so They’ll hear you. Always, you want to make sure They hear you. You’re the very best megaphone. They don’t like victims and neither do you. You don’t want to play a victim. Not like other women. #NotAllMen but #YesAllWomen are suspect. After all, the handle of the axe is made out of wood.

Other women, they can make you angry. They hack away at the order of things, and you don’t know what to do with this. If they undo everything, what will be left for you? It’s off script. Off the map. Just off. Those women make noise, make demands, take up space. Think they can do whatever they want. They ask for half, more than half. It’s too much. Who do they think they are? They’re too much. You? You ask for nothing on your way to becoming something. So They smile at you, approving. And you’ve made it. A seat at the Table of Their Respect. Now you’re protected. From what? Why from Them, of course. From Their ire, Their disdain, Their worst impulses. They won’t shit where They eat. Not with you, Their cool girl. You can sigh, even if you can’t quite relax. No, you’ll never be able to relax again. But the proximity to Them, it fills you with reassurance.

I understand.

I understand you, conservative heterosexual men. Your head is on fire all day, every day. You never got what was promised to you. The girl, the dream, the summit. Your kind has owned the entirety of history. You can’t be blamed if you thought you’d own the future, too. The top is supposed to be within easy reach for you. Everyone knows that. Well, everyone knew it at one time. Now only a small slice of people will acknowledge it. It infuriates you.

You want love and adoration. Instead, she said no. Or she laughed at you. Or she simply ignored you. That’s not how it’s supposed to work. That’s not the social contract you were promised. Your head is full of pain and you want retribution. And the computer is the white, hot glow of understanding right there in front of you. Calling out to you. If you spew the poison, maybe it’ll stop the softness inside of you from turning to rot. Maybe someone will listen and simply nod: Yes. You’ve been wronged. You did not receive the thing that was never yours.

And women! Women complain that it is they that have been wronged, but you know better than they do. You always do. Those that sit at the top have the longest way to fall. And isn’t that you? It’s not them. They cannot win at these suffering Olympics. You’ve won, which makes you the loser. That’s it. Yes, you’re a loser. It makes you angry. You didn’t even ask to run this race, but here you are, winded and bruised and falling behind. And truthfully, you’re a little worried. Worried about what happens if you never get what you’re due. Worried about what that means for the future you had in your head. Worried about what will happen if you let your guard down and the others see — the others, the ones just like you. The angry ones. What if they saw right through to the real you? You, the vulnerable, sad teardrop running down the face of manhood? What would they do to you if they ever knew?

I understand.

In which I tell conservatives I understand them because I used to be one
Photo by Markus Spiske

I understand you, fiscal conservatives. Money is time. Money is power. Money is everything. Money is the value we place on things and then somehow forget that we are the ones who made it so. We the People, the highest value of all. But that’s Just The Way Things Are. And we all need money, don’t we? Some more than others. Those at the top should have as much as possible. That’s the natural order. Those below them, the workers, the unions. Well. Money’s not for everyone, no. Capitalism works until everyone wants in. Capitalism works until it doesn’t. Let them eat cake, whoever gets here first. That’s what she would have said if she’d had time to say it before the mob assailed her for being too fabulous. Anyway, it’s about earning power.

There’s a price on all our heads like there is on, say, a hamburger. Which, by the way, will go up in price if we raise wages. You know this as well as I. And the CEO who talks about the hamburgers deserves more — much, much, much more — than the people who make them. Earning Power™. Because if he can grab all that cash, then so can you! It fills you with hope, watching other people make money. Never has something filled you with such moral righteousness as defending the accumulation of wealth. Because by God, that could be you. And with enough hard work and desire, it will be.

It’s not a secret; just don’t be lazy. Why is everyone so poor and lazy? For that matter, you can’t believe that the hamburger CEO has to pay more in taxes just because he’s earned all that hamburger money. That’s not fair! Because the more hamburger money he earns, the more jobs he creates. The more he shares. If you tax him too much, he’ll stop sharing. And we can’t threaten him that way. Didn’t you ever have to pay the bully in elementary school to keep yourself safe from said bully? That hamburger money, it’ll trickle down like urine on a Russian prostitute. We don’t need to pay the guy at the bottom very much because the guy at the top will share once he’s taken what’s his, which is sometimes everything. And you’re going to be just like him. How do you know? Because you want it more. That’s how it works. That’s the beauty of the free market, dummy. Free, with an asterisk. *A free market is not free but simply refers to having no restrictions which makes it vulnerable to manipulation and side effects may include lost retirement accounts a ravaged planet abysmal work conditions slave labor and the possible destruction of the middle class to make way for an oligarchy.

Capitalism is moral is American. You’re sure of this. There is no better system than one based on supply and demand of goods, rather than the humans behind it. Yes. Your only worry when it comes to money is how much of it you can keep. Preferably, you’d keep all of it, thereby choking the very system you support. But no matter. There’s no end in sight to what you can accumulate. How exciting when there is no limit, like that tower in the Bible. You’ll defend this until the day you die, when they can then pry the money from your cold clutches. Yes. Because in both life and death, money is even more important than you.

I understand.

In which I tell conservatives I understand them because I used to be one
Photo by Radek Homola

I understand you, conservative white people. You see the world changing around you, darkening and speaking in tongues, and you wonder what will be left for you and yours. You? You’re not racist. You don’t even believe that racism exists anymore. That ended with the great Martin Luther King, who only ever protested peacefully — unlike some football players you know. But you know for sure that if white people become a minority, the world will treat white people like a minority. That doesn’t feel right. In fact, that feels downright scary. But look, you’re not racist. You have friends who are people of color. You don’t even see them that way, anyway. You’re color blind. You just don’t want to find out what happens if people of color become as blind as you. It’s not like you have a great deal in common with other white people, anyway. You don’t even particularly like some of them.

But if there’s one thing white people do share, it’s the bond of the majority. You are the many. And the many have always known what was best for the few. Just look at history and you’ll see. Speaking of history, white people were here first. Or, not first. But second, third, fourth, and fifth, and that counts for something. You have the DNA test to prove it. The DNA that proves you are from everywhere but here. But no matter, because you’re legal. Your people came here on the Mayflower, in fact, before legality was even a thing. You predate the standard you hold others to. And isn’t that your right? You’re as authentically American as they come, as authentic as the country itself, which rose out of the ground as it were in 1776.

And anyway, if only those other illegal immigrants would just earn their way in like you did. Or rather, like your people did when they came and stayed like a houseguest who wouldn’t leave. You are a Great American and have earned your place at the top. It’s not racist to say this. It’s just not polite. So you don’t say this to your friends of color or your friends whose immigrant parents had to hold down three jobs to feed their families. They wouldn’t understand. They wouldn’t understand how hard it is to be you, and what a tragedy it would be if you lost your place. That might just make them feel worse about their own place. But this doesn’t mean you’re racist. You’re just uncomfortable.

I understand.

You don’t know what’s happening anymore, and you don’t like it. It makes you feel dizzy. Out of control. Alone in a world you no longer recognize.

I understand you, conservative morality voters. What is even happening right now? Boys are girls are boys are people trying to use the restroom next to you. This is a fact: you’re born with the private parts you get, and you can’t change them or stick them where they don’t belong. Private parts are private until it becomes necessary to discuss them in public! God said nothing about these gay trans queer drag bi non-binary homo sapiens, but that doesn’t mean you don’t know what He would say about the whole sordid thing. Love the sinner, hate the sin, right? You’re not exactly sure how to carry that one out in practice, but it sounds reasonable enough. A piece of candy with a soft, juicy poison center. Anyway, God doesn’t make mistakes, even if you have to pray to tell Him otherwise.

Sheesh. What is this world coming to? Morals are gone. Morals like they used to have, back when men were men and women were in the kitchen. What happened? I mean, maybe you’d be okay with all of it if it wasn’t right in your face. If they didn’t put it out there in places where people exist. If they didn’t come to places where people exist. If they didn’t exist. They shouldn’t exist. They’re mistakes. They must be. But wait, no. God doesn’t make mistakes… Oh dear. You don’t know what’s happening anymore, and you don’t like it. It makes you feel dizzy. Out of control. Alone in a world you no longer recognize.

And they demand attention while your thoughts have to stay inside, in the dark. It doesn’t seem right for you to have to stay quiet. You feel oppressed by their liberation. Your opinions, held in check, while their existence just exists. What are you supposed to do, keep your mouth shut? And what about all these baby killers! What a travesty. Somehow, that makes you feel the most out of control of all — women making these kinds of radical decisions for themselves. Mother knows best until she decides she doesn’t want to be one. That little cluster of cells fills you with such indignation, knowing that it represents something even more intangible than morality: potential. And potential is worth protecting at all costs. Not potential for the woman, no. What you mean to protect is the potential housed inside the womb. But after that, whatever potential exists, it’s on its own. You can’t be expected to take care of it. That’s not fair, this idea that you live in a wider world. No. It’s called personal responsibility.

You wish others would learn it. It’s right there in the name: personal. Personal responsibility does not include any responsibility you may have toward others. Why should it? Every man for himself in these here States that are United. Yeah, you may be on Medicare, but they’re on welfare. You may get money back on your mortgage interest, but they live in subsidized housing. BIG difference. You’re not like them. Your morality is a door, and it’s closed. You live on one side, and they live on the other. You’ll sit here, thank you, in this precious room with the door closed, minding to the morality of the world as it goes on without you.

I understand.

I understand all of you.

I wore this conservatism like a badge of honor. Others simply didn’t understand, even friends. I was one of only a very few soldiers left on a battlefield littered with the honorable dead. It was my duty to keep it going, no matter the cost.

I understand you because I used to be you. Long ago, in the era of Slick Willy and the dawn of explicit labels on music CDs, I was conservative, too. I stood up for men first, considered money an inalienable right, questioned immigration, and thought abortion was the greatest moral crisis facing our lives. I wore this conservatism like a badge of honor. Others simply didn’t understand, even friends. I was one of only a very few soldiers left on a battlefield littered with the honorable dead. It was my duty to keep it going, no matter the cost. If there were stripes to earn, I’d done so many times over by proselytizing about the morality of the right wing. I hopped, skipped, and doubled over using mental gymnastics to make my arguments fit the philosophy I deemed correct, without regard for facts or feelings. My back was rigid, my jaw clenched, and my fist squeezed. I was always ready for a verbal fight.

I’m not proud that I was once young, sheltered, and fed on garbage. That’s not an excuse; it’s the reality of how some Americans live. And of course it was exposure and education that changed me — college, friends, moving to a few major cities. Nothing about my story will be a surprise to you. In fact, it’s probably what you’ve heard from other liberals. Maybe you’re even rolling your eyes right now. Liberal colleges and professors! Slutty college chicks! Bleeding hearts who are naïve about how the real world works! I can hear your voice in my head still. Even now. But how I got here is not the point. The point is to tell you that I understand what makes you tick and what drives your impulses. I know because I once stood where you stand.

But more important than that, I want you to know that I know your secret. It was my secret, too. It’s a secret that you know about yourself, deep down. A dark one you don’t let your mind linger on.

It’s this: You’re conservative because you’re afraid.

I’m not talking about the average fears we all have, like making ends meet or dying alone. No. You’re afraid of something far more primal. You’re afraid of the very obliteration of your existence. Every position you take is in defense of a self that’s too weak to exist without this posturing. Women having as much power as you or the ability to make powerful decisions will diminish you. Money is power and without it, you’re nothing. Immigrants will take your spot, replace you. Anyone who is not like you is a threat to your own existence. When you open your mouth to justify the things you believe, you’re defending the scared child within you. I understand. If you’re reading this, and you’re conservative, you’re either in denial about this or angry with me for saying it. Fear and anger are cousins. But maybe, if you close your eyes, you’ll know it to be true. You’ll feel it. It’s there, the pebble in your belly that rattles whenever you talk about these things. You feel like you’re in the fight for your life.

But I’m here, on the other side, and I can tell you: You are not. You’ll be fine. In fact, the things you believe, the things you say, and the things you support — those things threaten actual lives. Your ego can withstand a knock. A refugee child in a cage cannot.

Fear tips the scales of equity, sends brown people to jail, and divides the earth into maps. Fear unifies us in its division.

If you don’t believe me, try this exercise. The next time your impulse is to fight about immigration, abortion, feminism, or something else, try simply saying, Okay. A few letters to give you pause. Okay. This is not a threat to me. A person wanting to live in this country takes nothing from me. A woman making a medical decision is not my business. A factory worker fighting for a higher wage is fine by me. See how you feel. Maybe, at first, you’ll be uncomfortable. Let it sit. It’s a dark cloud; watch it float on by. And then let it go. See what happens when you say okay instead of fight. See what happens to your philosophy when it takes a hit. If it’s strong, it should be able to. It shouldn’t need a wall to keep it safe. See what happens when you shake it. When you turn over that pebble.

Are you still standing? I think you are.

See those people you admire, follow, retweet? They’re afraid, too. Afraid of losing, just like you. So afraid, they’ve built an entire system around their fears, with the goal of making you more afraid than they are. The bigger the shadow they cast, the greater the cloak to hide in. They know fear is a powerful tool. They know you feel it. They want you to feel it. They want it to fester, make you angry, turn to hatred. If you’re looking the other way with daggers in your eyes, you can’t see the ones targeted at your own back.

Fear tips the scales of equity, sends brown people to jail, and divides the earth into maps. Fear unifies us in its division.

I understand you, conservatives. I too once let my belief system rise up out of my fears.

What will you do with yours?

This post was previously published here.

Comments on In which I tell conservatives I understand them because I used to be one

  1. I’m a conservative who’s been reading this site for about 6 years. I’m a Christian, a feminist, I voted for LGBT marriage because I don’t believe in forcing my belief system on others, I work in public health funded mostly by government money, Fox News is gross to me, I listen to NPR (despite disagreeing with it at times), I generally vote Republican/conservative (didn’t vote for Trump or Hilary) and most would call me a fiscal conservative. Frankly, this post hurt me, because rather than feeling understood, I feel very, very misunderstood, patronized, and reviled.

    While I don’t deny that this writer held the beliefs she wrote about, this kind of reductive assumption that all conservatives think the way she did only deepens the divide and makes meaningful conversation more difficult. Given how vitriolic and polarized our politics (and society) is right now, we need respectful and curiosity-driven conversations across the aisle. Assuming all conservatives have arrived at their beliefs because of naive fear is insulting and only makes dialogue more difficult. And frankly, it seems her definition of a “conservative” (white, Christian, believes morality must be legislated, trickle down economics, racist, anti-LGBT) is drawn more from what we see on Fox News than a true functional definition.

    While she is welcome to write an opinion piece about her experiences as a conservative, I certainly hope this post doesn’t deepen the divide between the liberal and conservative readers of this site.

    • Yeah, this kind of writing just makes things worse. Why can’t we ACTUALLY hear from a conservative instead of a liberal who clearly DOESN’T understand what conservatives are thinking? That isn’t a dialogue. It’s a monologue, and it just makes this misinformation louder.

      • Do you really think conservative discourse is lacking in this country? Do we really wonder what they’re thinking? They have entire tv stations, websites, papers. The Senate. We know what they think because they tell us with their actions and words.

        • Fox News represents just a sliver of conservative thought. Reducing Conservatives to one platform is the same as reducing Liberals to one platform. There’s a difference between a Bernie Supporter and a Hilary Supporter. The same is true for conservatives, especially Millennial conservatives who didn’t vote for Trump, but still voted for conservative measures. Going to Fox News to find out what they’re thinking is probably the worst source. The best would be your friends.

    • If you don’t see yourself in this post, then it’s likely not directed at you. Still, I’m curious that you call yourself a conservative while espousing more moderate views. Do you vote for people who are also conservative, even if you disagree with them? If so, how do you weigh your views/intentions against the actions of the larger conservative movement? I’m genuinely curious.

      I read this as though the author was sharing their viewpoint on their own journey, and speaking to a specific kind of conservative. I didn’t find it divisive. The authors is just speaking to their own truth. If divisiveness bothers you, I would seriously take a look at the policies you support.

      • I am not conservative in the slightest, and this post still struck me as absolutely bizarre. It read as very patronizing and reductive. I don’t understand the authors point – it clearly wasn’t to educate people, and it wasn’t to truly reach out a hand to conservatives, either, nor to truly express any understanding for them.

        I’d be interested to read more about how an actual conservative is orienting themselves and their own moral compass under what is unarguably an immoral regime here in the US. I don’t think that’s a perspective we’re hearing from much in this political climate. I doubt I’d agree with much they had to say, but I would be interested to learn their perspective. This post was just strange.

  2. As I began this article, I resonated with it as a woman who is now liberal but grew up as a conservative in a very conservative family/community. While I strongly distance myself from most conservatives these days (not in small part because of their association with white supremacy and bigotry), I still somewhat believe that I can ‘understand’ conservatism, especially from an economic perspective. Unfortunately, about 1/4 of the way through the article, she completely lost me. The author seems to be blind of her own benefit from the capitalist economic system in the United States and also to the histories of socialism and communism. As a screenwriter in Los Angeles she clearly accepts these capitalistic privileges and benefits greatly from this system and yet she attempts to stand on a metaphorical soap box and proclaim that the system is evil. This is simply a post generalizing conservatives and demonizing them (despite probably knowing very few in real life and basing assumptions off of evil, nasty news sources like FOX News, Hannity, and the like). I agree a few of the commentators above, I believe this is exactly the kind of opinion piece that further divides folks. It lacks self awareness; it lacks awareness of her own educational and class privilege, and it does not hesitate to generalize a very large group of people in a very condescending way. Also-heads up to the author- there are plenty of LGBTQIA/POC folks who are various degrees of conservative. Their opinions are just as real, justified, and valid as yours. Go out and meet some.

  3. As a (somewhat) conservative woman, I have to say your section for conservative women is utterly incomprehensible. I read it twice, still have no idea what you’re trying to say. Who the fuck is “Them?” If it’s supposed to be conservative men, I still have no idea why they’d be smirking at you, or why I’d want them smirking with me?

    Does it occur to you that conservative women might not be that way just to try to appease conservative men? That they might actually hold their own opinions, have their own beliefs?

    My take home from this whole article is that you have no understanding of what it is to be a conservative, and you never were one. Maybe you thought you were a conservative, but you actually just hadn’t thought about or formed your own opinions yet and were just going along with the people around you. You never understood conservatism.

    You said: “I was conservative, too. I stood up for men first, considered money an inalienable right, questioned immigration, and thought abortion was the greatest moral crisis facing our lives.”

    First of all, its not about standing up for men first, its about innocent until proven guilty still being a thing, and important. Equally important to justice for women and men who are victims of sexual violence.

    Second, it’s liberals who seem to believe in an inalienable right to money, not conservatives. I’m not even opposed to social safety nets myself, just pointing out that conservatives just want to keep more of their own money, not have it taxed away to be given to others who didn’t earn it.

    Conservatives, on the whole, are not opposed to immigration, just to people immigrating illegally and then being treated as a protected class above people who are here legally.

    I’m pro choice, but here’s the thing. Pro life conservatives genuinely believe that aborted fetuses are murdered children. Imagine if it was common to know that your neighbors, behind closed doors, were murdering kindergarteners. This is not a true equivalence, but it captures the emotional response of pro life people. Imagine that children were being murdered in large number, legally, and every time you tried to say this is not right, you were told “just mind your own business.” Doesn’t really cut it.

    Conservatives are a varied and diverse group, and I can’t attempt to speak for all. But for conservatives like me, we don’t care about who marries who or who’s using what bathroom. We just want to keep living the lifestyle we find enjoyable and fulfilling. You’re right, we are afraid. We’re afraid of the ever increasing taxes and regulations proposed and supported by liberals making our way of life illegal or impossible. We’re not talking about “rights” to discriminate or harass anybody, we’re not interested in that. We’re talking about our right to live rural, build our own homes and grow our own food, hunt ethically and shoot targets recreationally, maintain and fix our own vehicles and line dry our clothes, teach our children, and most of all, not be just continually managed by others.

    • “We’re talking about our right to live rural, build our own homes and grow our own food…. maintain and fix our own vehicles and line dry our clothes, teach our children…”

      Branwyn, can I ask you in what sense you feel like mainstream liberals are trying to prevent you from doing those things? I’m curious because I strongly identify as liberal, and those are largely the kinds of things that I also prioritize, not just for myself, but as options for everyone to freely choose (or not). I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      • I can’t speak for Branwyn, but as a rural gal myself, a lot of resources, subsidies etc. are directed towards urban folks while regulations and taxes tend to disproportionately effect rural folks without providing them the same benefits (Think public transportation, social non-profits, vs. small business taxes, min. wage laws etc.) I don’t really know who’s fault this is, or what could be done to solve it on a governmental level, but that is definitely a reality of our day. Rural people feel condescended to and taken advantage of, all while in close-to-desperate economic situations.

      • Reasonable question.

        There was a recent article on the NY Times website entitled, “The hard truths of trying to save the rural economy,” in which the author made an argument for abandoning the rural areas of the United States and evacuating all of the people living there to large cities, for our own good.

        But that’s just one opinion article, even if I think it does accurately capture the disdain and pity felt by many liberal urbanites toward the conservative rural areas.

        The bigger issue is the liberal push to eliminate personal vehicles. In a big city, a car is a symbol of rich indulgence, expensive to own and maintain and park, so of course we should increase the “sin tax” on cars, registration, and fuel, because those rich folks can afford it, right? Well, in the rural areas, cars mean something very different. Cars are essential to life out here. There is no public transportation within a day’s walk of my home to the nearest grocery store. If I want to go to work, buy food, or visit a doctor, I have to take my personal vehicle, or convince someone else to take me in their personal vehicle. By making cars more difficult and expensive to drive, liberals are making rural areas more expensive and difficult to live in. Just look at the yellow vest protests in France for an example of this. The gas taxes put in place by those in the urban areas are so egregious that the rural people are revolting against this attack on their very way of life.

        In addition, liberals are pushing for stricter emissions and manufacturing standards on cars. Even if we could afford these fancy new hybrids, which we can’t, and they did what we needed them to, which they don’t (a 2 wheel drive won’t make it up my driveway), their manufacturers are pushing intellectual property laws to the breaking point by including proprietary software that makes it so basic repairs and maintenance must be done by specific mechanics with agreements with the manufacturers, and the owners can’t fix and maintain them on their own.

        And of course, these standards are being pushed in the name of protecting the environment, but by the time you spend the staggering quantities of fossil fuels needed to manufacture these new cars to replace the decent older cars that still work, you have already put more carbon into the atmosphere than those older cars would have anyway, so no savings for the environment.

        Urban areas tend to be more liberal than rural areas, and those liberal urban areas tend to make policy decisions over the rural areas because of the structure of our republic. These regulations often outlaw or greatly complicate aspects of life that are normal and necessary for rural people. You can easily find examples of all of the following normal activities being outlawed or heavily regulated in areas of the United States: DIY home maintenance and repairs, rain barrels for gardens, front yard vegetable gardens, chicken coops, clotheslines, homeschooling and homeschool co-ops, drinking raw milk from your own cow, home solar and wind power generation setups and having a home not connected to the grid, wood burning stoves (the only heat source in many homes in my area), and even beehives. All of these regulations and laws make our way of life harder to attain, and in some cases impossible.

        I notice in your post that you carefully and tactfully work around my references to gun rights. The thing is, it’s the exact same thing. Guns are a necessary part of our way of life, for hunting, protection, and recreation, and the liberal urban areas are trying to push to make them more difficult and expensive to own, as well as less effective. I know people in my area and other rural areas for whom the only meat they eat comes from what they can hunt, for ethical reasons related to the evils of factory farms, health, personal preference, and because it’s what they can afford. The nearest police presence is over an hour away from my home. I have a small child and I have seen mountain lions within half a mile of my home. It is an unreasonable intrusion into my way of life to tell me that I can’t keep my rifle to protect my child and must instead choose between leaving her vulnerable to mountain lion attack while I watch her play outside or keeping her inside all day every day.

        Rural people are outnumbered by urban people in this country, and that divide it growing. It’s heavily tied to the liberal/conservative divide. We don’t want to force urbanites to life our way, we just don’t want to become victims of the tyranny of the majority.

  4. Wow, this felt super patronizing. I had to stop reading halfway through. Let me-a lifetime liberal- take a stab at this:

    I understand, because the urban decay and student loan debt crisis gets all the press. Meanwhile, the last industry in your town just closed with not so much as a severance package for you, your brother, your uncle, or your dad. You all were great at your jobs. You didn’t fall into the liberal college myth (because there are few scholarships for white rural students and you didn’t want to be shackled with debt). Instead you became a master at your craft. A craft that is being outsourced overseas, leaving you with the option of welfare.

    I understand. You’re told how much you hate the environment by people who have never been in the woods before dawn tracking the delicate movements of a deer or a flock of turkeys. Climate change seems real, but you have yet to see the effects. Except for the tax on gasoline that limits your ability to use your 4WD vehicle-the only thing that can safely navigate these roads in winter or rain.

    I understand. You pride yourself on making the most of your situation. All your children never knew hunger. Hell, you didn’t either most if the time! You lived within your means, even putting away savings. You enjoyed modest vacations and never needed for anything. And you see liberals on the news advocating for welfare and to help illegal immigrants get citizenship that they didn’t earn. And don’t get me started on all the “poor urbanites” on their smartphones.

    And this is just a single view of a rural conservative. There are many varying views. It’s really not hard to actually understand- it’s empathy. And actually, writing this out made me more empathetic.

    • Thank you for writing this. I identify as liberal but I grew up in a very rural area similar to what you described, and it’s these things you mention that keep me questioning everything and not feeling like I can whole-heartedly support every bill my liberal brethren introduce.

  5. I am very late to this conversation, but I hope to add. I grew up in a very conservative family in an urban city. Now I am a moderate liberal Christian in a mostly conservative rural area. Many of my liberal friends own guns and hunt. Although I am not interested in those things, I have no problem with it.

    For me the problem is that in addition to over generalizing, we have come to a point in our society where we are all talking “at” each other instead of “with” each other. We make assumptions about each other all the time in order to feel that we ourselves are righteous. Some things in this article and many of the comments seemed to do the same. I know I am often guilty of this too and when I catch myself at it, it makes me feel disappointed and sad.

    I had a co-worker who was a moderate conservative. When we really talked together, we found we had much more in common than not. Starting with the desire to listen and truly understand the other person’s point of view and the wish for a more civil tone of political discourse. What if we could all take a little time to ask, “Can you help me understand why you feel the way you do? May I try to help you understand where I am coming from?” and really listen to the answers, without assumptions and with the intent to understand and not judge. And more than anything, if someone is afraid we could ask, “How can I help ease your fear?” I think this is the only way we will begin to find real solutions to the big problems.

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