Living in an Alternate Reality

I suppose that, with more than 300 million citizens, odds are that there are quite a few Americans living their daily lives in some form of alternate reality. I encountered such a person on Saturday as I was canvassing a neighborhood for the Obama/Biden campaign.  It was a nice-enough home on a tree lined cul-de-sac on the outskirts of Toledo.

The cold rain had mitigated some and the address was the very last house on my list of 40 addresses. Surprisingly as I stopped my car in from of the address, a woman of about 50 was coming out of the front door. She was near the driveway by the time I closed my door and I shouted, “I’m looking for  [name].” She identified herself as the person on my list- a person thought to be an Obama supporter who I was supposed to persuade to vote early. Those are usually easy addresses.

“I understand that you are supporting the President in the upcoming election,” I said, mindlessly, expecting a quick. ‘Yes.’ Rather, she said, “Why do you say that?” Hmm, I thought, as I glanced down on my wet clipboard to see if I misidentified her. No, the soggy sheet ID’s her as an early vote person.

Before I could say, “Because it says early vote right next to your name, for crying out loud!” she asked, “Why is he qualified to be President?”

Oh lord, a birther! WTF? There must have been some screw-up on the walk-sheet and this person should have been ID’s as a persuade, rather than an early vote. “What program did they take to qualify for running for public office? They must have had to take some classes,” she stated. My mind rushed to Joe the Plumber, but before I could get my lips apart, she went on with a litany of reasons that those running for office must have had some sort of training for the position.

A drop of water rolled down my baseball cap onto my clipboard. I was tired, cold, wet and hadn’t eaten since 7 AM and I was listening to a lecture in political science 101 class. I inched backwards down the driveway, but she matched every movement. I managed to quickly chirp a line about political science classes in college while she took a short breath.

Surely she was a member of the Tea Party, I thought, or an escapee from the mental ward of the county hospital.  But then, I repeat myself.

Suddenly she shifted: “I lost $4 million dollars,” she said, pointing back at her house, “my husband embezzled it from me!”

Well now, what does one say after that?

I wondered why she turned to point at the house; the house was not nearly worth that much.  Or, was her husband in the house? Perhaps his body still warm after a recent stabbing? I discretely checked her shirt for blood stains.

The angst of a holding a conversation with a possible murderer heightened when she pivoted away from the missing money to a screed on guns, bombs and violence. Gulp. I moved several steps further down the driveway, but she mirrored my movement.

Luckily the monologue again abruptly changed. “This is a nation based on values and church; this is a Chr…” She caught herself and did not finish the name of the religion, but pointed diagonally across the street to a manicured landscape. “Those people have an open Koran in their vestibule when you walk in.”

I saw my opening and took it. “There is nothing in our Constitution about this being a Christian nation!” I exclaimed. Quickly followed by, “I have got to go.” Luckily this time she didn’t mimic my movement towards my car. She was still talking as I shut [and locked] my door, my fingers fumbling for the keys.

What the hell was that all about?

I circled her name on my walk-list and wrote, “This woman is nuts! Do NOT attempt further contact!”



5 thoughts on “Living in an Alternate Reality

  1. Chris Mooney wrote an excellent book on how the right rejects objective reality and fact. When they believe they are acting or thinking rationally, MRI scans show that in reality they are operating with the parts of their brains that rely on emotion rather than problem solving kinds of thinking – or any other processes that we usually identify as thinking rather than feeling. The amygdala, which is a more primitive part of the human brain is often distorted and distended in conservatives, bulging like a highly exercised bicep from overuse. Our brain changes depending on how we use it – or don’t use it.

    What Mooney found that was particularly interesting is that the more educated and intellectual conservatives are, instead of being MORE willing to adapt their opinions to facts, especially new facts, the more in fact they are inappropriately confident that they are correct on the basis of ideology, and therefore have NO NEED of facts, much less changing their opinion because of them.

    The core basis on which conservatives resist or reject facts is the basis of identity – who they see themselves as, and then who they see themselves associated, alligned or affiliated with beyond themselves. That can be a political group, a race, a regional distinction,or a religion. Often it is more than one. It is a tribal us-versus-them mentality that only believes that which conforms to their notions, no matter how clearly, overwhelmingly, obviously they might be wrong. If something challenges the supremacy of that identity, to the degree they feel threatened they resist and reject it. Facts have nothing whatsoever to do with it.

    Liberals on the other hand are just as rigorously hard wired in their brains to believe that logic and fact must prevail, post-Enlightenment. The concept of right and left in politics dates to the French Revolution, as part of that notion.

    We have to adjust our own assumptions, and recognizing that it is a FACT that conservatives are not thinking rationally or intellectually, but rather are responding emotionally, we have to adjust our interactions (because WE can do that) to the new facts — in this case that we need to connect with them on an emotional rather than a fact-basis to get anywhere.

    I would encourage, strongly anyone doing any kind of persuasion reasoning not only with conservatives but with independents who have the same tendencies depending on where they fall in the political spectrum, but probably in differing degrees.

    We have the ability to adapt to facts; so we should – including giving up on reasoning with conservatives using facts, but rather revert to a more emotional based connection when dealing with them, beginning with finding common ground that doesn’t trigger the ‘danger will robinson’ flailing about robby-the-robot style rejection before one gets started.

    My response to the lady nut job would be “What training do you mean? Can you show me that provision in the Constitution, and who pays for that btw? Do they offer those classes in your church?”

    Of course, you must exercise great self-control not to laugh out loud as you say such preposterous things. But it might stop the woman in her tracks. I know that when i was doing phone work for the DFL in the 2010 election, and asked such questions, I could stop an entire room full of phone bankers, as I put those conversations on speaker phone.

    I got the kind of laughs and applause one would expect from a good stand up comedian performing. But the amazing thing is……those kinds of questions often opened people up to real conversations that lacked some of the barriers by making them rethink what they were saying in a non-confrontational way. Sure, there were the ‘home-alone-movie-face moments at some of the things being said, but the nice thing about phone banks is the person on the other end saying the really stupid shit can’t see you rolling your eyes at the more outrageous wacko statements, so you have more rope to play out for them to hang themselves on their ideas.

    Don’t expect rationality or reason, and it gets a lot easier to deal with the conservatives. And if it doesn’t go well, you can just laugh as their heads explode like something out of a vintage Monty Python sketch.
    It helps keep that all-important sense of humor and perspective intact that one needs for the long haul..

    1. My response to the lady nut job would be…

      At that point in the day, cold, wet and hungry, I was in no mood to engage her in further conversation.

  2. Hello Muddy,
    Ah stories from the front lines and I have my share of them too.

    I am passing on this clip so you can put a smile back on your face. I think you need this.

    Bill Maher Rips Undecided Voters

    Enjoy :-)

  3. Don’t mean to pile on, M_R, but Dog Gone is on the mark with the handling
    of the woman in the driveway. In essence she may have well been asking
    for more information. Your “job” is to overcome her objections. She obviously was not afraid of you as she walked or moved toward you on a
    couple of occasions, and you seemed to retreat. I usually respond to an
    opposing question or sstatement, with a question I will ask, “is that important to you?”

    Now as to the question about early voting. You said that was the reason that you visited this particular home.

    At this juncture I see no justification in early voting, except for valid absentee ballot reasons. For one reason, all the facts are not in yet. There are three presidential debates and one vice-presidential debates to have. Anything can happen in those debates. We could lose one of the candidates in an accident as we just saw with Mrs. Romney’s catching fire in the electrical system. Obama’s wars on terrorism may yet catch up with him.
    We now know that our Ambassador to Libya was targeted by terrorists and the Obama Administration has tried to cover that up by saying it was a
    spontaneous uprising from this “movie”. Now, he has had to back track,
    he and Clinton, to say the opposite. As with Bush in 9/11, we now have to ask What and when Did President Obama know. Was there a PDR that was ignored? Where was the CIA and the FBI?

    Then there is Obama’s Pakistani War. And, yes, my friend, it is a war..Anytime that another nation invades another sovereign nation and kills over 2,000 of its people, it IS a war.

    These are reasons not to hold early voting. In addition, there is the political sham of it. Just take the voting on Sunday before election day. A bus drives up to the Afro-=American Church and loads up the parishioners after they have been told by theeir pastor to go vote for the Democrats. This justs asks the other side to try and restrict that activity. Were your or my parents told by our different parish pasters to go vote for a particular President.
    Have our children been loaded up on a bus at church and taken to the early voting site What justivies it now? Finally, what does the United States say is the day of voting for President and Vice-President? Yep, the first tuesday after the first monday.

  4. You bring up an interesting point. The State can declare persons legally mentally unfit, claim they cannot care for themselves and will even support them. But they can still vote. Black churches were mentioned as having voting busses going to the polls after being “told” how to vote. I know of Roman Catholic churches in Livermore, California that very actively instruct their parishioners how to vote. And recently “unknown” groups have been having parties at group homes in Wood County that ended with a trip to vote.

    I don’t worry about someone without a picture I.D. voting, but I sure think there is still voter fraud happening. Do you honestly think the woman you describe should be able to vote? A very slippery slope indeed.

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