So I haul myself out to WCTC a month or so ago on a Saturday for a WI blogger conference called Download 2006. It seemed an innocent enough thing to keep me from laying on the couch on a Saturday afternoon, which that day seemed a pretty compelling option.
This is my take on the Wisconsin political blogger community. We are a loose knit group who are all fairly new at this. We go across the political spectrum from the far insane right to the far insane left and most of us (although I was once berated as Milwaukee's Very Own Jesse Jackson which I guess puts me a bit farther to the left), stuck somewhere in the middle. I have a nice list of the Wisconsin Blog-o-sphere to your right. Although it is a bit skewed to my perspective, you can find most of the righties listed on Boots and Sabers.
I guess with such a diverse group of thinkers, I expected it to be a diverse group of bloggers... I was wrong. I was I believe the only person of color in the entire room (although I was told later there was a latino I missed). Not only that, I was one of four women (one was married to a blogger, not a blogger herself).
I happen to have a friend who is a righty blogger (It's kind of like the Arabs and the Israelis-pick a side any side. If you go there, you will find many individuals who could care less about ideology and remain good friends through all the insanity around them.)
What sort of shocked me is that I said hello, hugged him (I'm a hugger, I hug everyone) when I got there, and then went on to say hello and hug my lefty blogger friends. The group of righty bloggers (all white) was behind me and as soon as I turned around, I heard 3-4 of them say in shocked unison (who's that? how do YOU know her? etc...). My friend quickly explained nicely that we are friends and pseudo neighbors.
Now this wouldn't be notable except that I got the feeling that they were all a bit shocked that my friend knew a black woman. I've known him for years, and never had any inkling he had any racist tendancies, and although he does write Kane Watch, he generally tries to make a good argument over a racist one. I find him to be somewhat of a moderate fiscal Republican and although we don't always agree over the kitchen table or online, we always have insightful and interesting conversations.
So why were the conservative bloggers so shocked when they saw me? I may never know, but it sticks with me today as one of the oddest moments I've ever experienced. A little while later, I introduced myself to the entire conservative blog-o-sphere who were all grouped together in a gaggle. They were polite, but except for my friend, hardly friendly and as soon as each of the introduced themselves, it was pretty clear that they were uncomfortable with me in the conversation. It could be that they were afraid to say something that I would find offensive and blog about, or it could be that they consider us liberal bloggers "the enemy", or it could be a mass shyness in the group, or it could be that they were talking about something they didn't want me privvy to, or it could be that my forward friendliness was outside their stereotypes, or it could be they hate my blog and had a preconceived notion of me as a radical lefty nutbag, or it could be... Well, regardless, it was awkward and I think I'll go to Drinking Right next month.
I was disappointed in the number of lefty blogger who didn't attend. I was looking forward to meeting some of my favorite writers out there. The conference went well, but I had to leave early (I promised my middle daughter that it was her, what we call "Mommy Days") .
So this is why I decided to write this blog. I get out to the parking lot and as I get to my car, a young white male was standing next to it smoking a cigarette. Not noticing him inside, I asked if he was with the conference. He say he was "kind of" and I asked what blog he wrote. He tells me he didn't write a blog, but was doing research. When I asked if he was the student writing a paper on the blogosphere, he said, "No, I'm from the other side." I could only assume at that point he knew who I was. I never got his name, but we began debating politics. We went on and on about a variety of subjects. A few stand out in my memory and won't seem to go away.
Education: My point was that it is for the common good of society to educate all members of society to the fullest. The WI GOP operative's point is best put by a facetious saying my husband has rolled off for many years now. "If everyone goes to school who's going to flip my burger?" He's always said it as a tongue and cheek point, but this guy meant it. He said that "if everyone's educated, then the job market will have a glut and wages will go down for those of us on the top. Why would we want to educate everyone when it hurts us in the long run?"
Healthcare: I say it's a fundamental human right. He says, "Why should I have to pay for healthcare for everyone? If everyone's healthy when their young, they'll live longer and I'll have to pay for them to live forever as old people. Let them die young if they can't afford to live."
Food: I say again it's a fundamental human right. He says, "I can feed my kids. Why should I have to pay to feed someone else's? If they can't feed them and they die, why is that my problem?"
After a half hour of this dribble time and again. I was pretty disgusted by every point this GOP thinktanker had to make (although strangely enough, it was a friendly enough conversation). I finally said, "So you've helped me figure out the difference between a conservative and a liberal." He said, "What's that?"
I said, "A conservative only cares about ME, a liberal cares about WE. It's just one letter flipped on it's ass, but I know for sure that I will never be a conservative."
Just then our friends came up on both sides of the political spectrum to figure out again why we were talking to the enemy (bloggers are a bit territorial about their own...LOL). We parted amicably, but as I got in my car, I thought to myself.
What kind of hatred of humanity makes someone so damn MEAN at heart??