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July 13th 2009 print

Harry Stein

Living in the occupied territories

We are racist, sexist and homophobic – and that’s when we take time off from agitating for war, destroying the planet and plotting new ways to oppress the poor and disadvantaged. We’re not just wrong, we’re evil.

Harry Stein writes for Quadrant Online:

A little more than a year ago, struggling to come up with a title for the book I was working on about conservatives marooned in America’s most smugly self righteous left/liberal locales, I attended a dinner party in my pleasant little suburban New York town. Since it was the height of the Obama/Hillary slugfest for the Democratic nomination, the talk naturally soon turned to the glories of The Messiah. I didn’t want to be a party pooper, but nonetheless felt obliged to voice a mild cautionary note about Obama’s lack of experience. At this, the guy beside me, whom I’d know all of ten minutes, turned my way with horrified incredulity, as if he’d just noticed I was dressed in a white hood and Nazi armband. “I can’t believe I’m sitting next to a Republican!” he sneered.

In their stunning sense of moral superiority, these liberals never fail to disappoint. I Can’t Believe I’m Sitting Next to a Republican was just published.

In fact, the guy had it wrong – though a conservative, I’m not a Republican. Not, it is safe to say, that his opinions on the subject are informed by anything so inconvenient as facts. Rather than look into what those of us on the other side of the political spectrum actually believe, such people trade in the crudest of caricatures. We are racist, sexist and homophobic – and that’s when we take time off from agitating for war, destroying the planet and plotting new ways to oppress the poor and disadvantaged. We’re not just wrong, we’re evil. 

For conservatives, it is curious  – that’s one word for it – living among those who think this way. Vastly outnumbered, we move about incognito, looking like other people, but thinking differently; hardy mavericks in the herd of independent minds.

Throughout deep blue America, left-of-center politics are quite simply taken as evidence of superior morality. As a friend of mine says of his life on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, “to be a conservative here is to walk down the street and know that every third one of them hates your guts – and is proud of it.” 

In the book, as a kind of goof, I set out to find a single brave conservative whose experience exemplifies the special scorn New Yorkers reserve for their betters on the right. There were many candidates: activists with the Catholic League, perpetual targets of Catholic bashers; black conservatives who’ve taken on Al Sharpton and other race baiters; those who toil for Fox News. But finally I settled on an attorney who makes his living representing New York’s beleaguered landlords. As the son of a Holocaust survivor, he grew up thanking the fates for the privilege of living in the United States, under the free enterprise system, and the horrors of dealing with New York’s courts, bureaucracy and entitlement mindset have left him surer of his conservative beliefs than ever. “I am a certified expert,” he observes, “on the breadth and depth and infinite variety of liberal hypocrisy in this city.”

Indeed, it is no accident that those industries most congenial to New York’s self reverential and ostentatiously tolerant elites – big media, the arts, publishing, academia – are the very ones where to be openly conservative is to most likely risk career oblivion.

Yet just as often it is in the private realm that conservatives in dark blue locales find themselves tested. More than a few parents I spoke to described confronting a public school curriculum increasingly obsessed with race gender, sexual orientation and victimhood, and with teachers who use their classrooms to propagandize. “I am very troubled to learn that you have again used your music class as a forum to impose a one-sided political lecture on the children in your charge,” wrote one intrepid conservative to one his young son’s music teachers, who’d equated Republicans with Nazis, adding that if the teacher insisted on doing so, another adult be brought in “to present the other side of the issues to the children. Then the kids can arrive at informed opinions on their own. That’s the American way.”

Then, of course, there are conflicts with family and friends, born into the religion of liberalism. Shootouts over the holiday table are legendary, friendships of decades are sundered over someone’s having wised up and abandoned the received faith. One woman describes lunching with friends after Rudy Giuliani withdrew from the New York Senate race with prostate cancer, “and all these people, my friends, are going ‘Yesss, Giuliani has prostate cancer, isn’t that the best news you ever heard?’ And I said: ‘Tell me, how would you feel if it was just announced Hillary has breast cancer?’…From that time on, they never talked in front of me again. I was labeled – and it was my problem, not theirs.”

Obviously, the best way to respond to liberal intemperance is with reasoned dialogue; and never more so than in the age of Obama, with the caricatures of conservatives and conservatism flying fast and thick. But, just as obviously, countless liberals are simply incapable of either reason or dialogue on the subject. So there are times when the principled conservative just has to stand up, be counted — and take his lumps.

Probably no one has it harder than Blue State conservatives looking for love. There are many horror stories in this regard, all summed up in a gallows humor e-mail I got from a New York friend. After multiple misfires and many insults, he said, he was posting the following on Match.com: “Dear Confused, Bleeding-Heart, Race-Hustling, America-Hating Feminist. I am a knuckle-dragging armchair warmonger looking for love. Can we talk?”

But then he thought better of it, and simply moved to North Carolina instead.