Today Anne, myself and two of our friends were accosted by a woman outside Barnes & Noble. Apparently she saw Anne’s “Bush/Cheney 2004” bumper sticker and it pushed her over the edge. She asserted, in a very hostile tone, that she “couldn’t comprehend” how women could support Bush or Cheney. Anne tossed back some quick one-liner and we continued into the store to do our shopping. There was no discussion of the incident at the time, but I’ve been thinking about it a bit since then.

Leaving aside the propriety of attacking the politics of a complete stranger in such a manner, two things struck me. First, there are roughly a hundred million voters in the United States. About half are women. Of those, polls indicate at least 40% are Bush supporters — that’s about 20 million people. I think if you’re sufficiently passionate about your politics that you would impose them verbally on strangers in parking lots, you should be willing to make the effort to comprehend why so many people disagree with you. That doesn’t mean you have to change your own mind, but as a simple matter of tactics and strategy you can’t be an effective salesperson for your own views if you don’t understand why other people think differently. Not everybody who thinks differently from you is stupid, ignorant, evil or insane. (And yes, this cuts both ways on the political spectrum, and yes I’ve been guilty of the same error myself. It’s still an error.)

The second thing that struck me was the sense of fear and anger that was rolling off this woman in waves. It was utterly inappropriate to the circumstances. It almost seemed like the fact that a woman might choose to support the reelection of the President struck at some basic psychological support pillar in this woman’s mind. Or perhaps she was just not very confident in a Kerry victory, and the presence of a Republican woman somehow concretized her fear of a Bush win, leading her to lash out against the present symbol of the distant man she really fears and hates. I dunno.

In any event, it was an interesting encounter.

4 Responses to “Something I Don't Comprehend”
  1. syn says:

    I know the feeling. I am female and whenever I voice my dissent on the issue of abortion, females automatically spew so much hate towards me. My reasons against abortion are not religious based at all, on the contrary, I am against abortion on a cultural and social level. I believe abortion has weakened the female, not empowered her. Because of the actions we females have taken over the past thirty years, males no longer respect the female’s ability to procreate. Even more disturbing, females disrespect our ability to procreate, it is seen as a burden, a problem, a mistake, a thing to rid ourselves of. We females were once honored and respected for our ability to procreate, today we reduced ourselves to barbarism. Not very empowering in my opinion.

  2. Kyle Haight says:

    An interesting argument, and one I haven’t really encountered before. It ties in with another argument I’ve seen claiming that widespread birth control has contributed to the decline of marriage. By severing the link between sex and reproduction, birth control makes it safe for women to have sex outside of the cultural institutions designed for raising children. And that in turn reduces the incentive for men to enter into those cultural institutions, and to stay in them once there.

    One question, though. The argument you sketch suggests that women should choose not to have abortions. It doesn’t really speak to the question of whether abortion as such is morally legitimate or not. Free societies legally permit a wide variety of behaviors that people should refrain from for moral reasons. Do you think abortion should be legal, but that women shouldn’t make use of it, or do you think it should be outright illegal? If the latter, are there other forms of consensual activity that should also be made illegal on moral grounds?

  3. Al says:

    syn partially highlighted the approach I often take.

    When arguing with someone that logic won’t reach, pick a _liberal_ sacred cow, extend it to the extreme position, and argue from that position. And don’t ever introduce any aspect of religion unless you have a specific non-middle-eastern-origin religion that supports your position.

  4. Kyle Haight says:

    When faced with someone that logic won’t reach, I typically abort the discussion. Argument almost by definition is based on adducing facts and logical connections. If someone isn’t moved by facts and logic, then what you’re having isn’t an argument. It’s simply psychological manipulation. At that point my goal is just to sow a few seeds of cognitive dissonance and then get on with my life.

    It’s also worth noting that just about any position can be made to appear ridiculous by pushing it to an out-of-context extreme. And in my own arguments I really try to avoid introducing religious elements on account of what I’m an atheist.

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