On Clipmarks recently, I came across a clip from an article discussing David Marnet, an ex-liberal who is "coming to his senses." I didn't read the article -- with my limited time and energy, I try to only read articles of real interest to me. Besides, my real interest was in the clipper's comment about how how age, wisdom, and maturity automatically lent themselves to conservatism. I knew this was a ridiculous and indefensible argument that the best debater in the world could not defeat due to the sheer dogmatism of the clipper, but I can never resist trying. The clipper had responded to a commenter who used a Wikipedia source by insisting that was proof the commenter was immature and incapable of defending his argument intelligently:
the fact you have to [cut and paste] propaganda off wikipedia ad nauseum , just continues to show how much of a profound lunatic you are. It is hard to imagine one more ignorant and incorrigible boor.
I defended the commenter, pointing out that using Wikipedia hardly means one is a lunatic. Which brought the clipper straight to me, saying,
Yes conservatism, incrementalism, and libertarianism come through moderation, growth, and wisdom. The only thing it takes to be a liberal is a half-wit, uneducated, and unwashed dirt-person that rebels against his or her parents and thinks calling the president a chimp is patriotic.
I grew up when I became conservative.
Wikipedia is not a reliable source. When one goes to it time after time and can make no rational or thoughtful argument, they display that they are lacking. All they can do is paste certain facts to comment and pretend they have a grasp on the subject. Lophatt [the commenter] has proven to myself and others that he/she has little grasp of anything, and perhaps does not have the ability to grasp anything
Now this was one of the most extreme characterizations of liberals I had ever heard, followed by a rather large insult based on nothing, and I was already sensing I was dealing with a person very much in denial. How could anyone make such sweeping, close-minded statements and claim to be mature? I responded,
And yet I know many immature conservatives and mature liberals. Attacking the maturity of people who think differently than you...well, not only is that unfair, it's pretty immature and unwise. If you knew me, you'd know I am very mature for my age
I then told him a bit about who I was, how I was educated, compassionate, and hygienic, despite having beliefs and causes that might be called "liberal." I finished with,
Stereotyping either is insulting and counterproductive. I don't appreciate the insult, since I'm sure you guessed my "alignment" before posting that comment, but it's no harm to me. I know who I am, and I am above stereotypes.
This prompted a string of sarcastic comments such as "I don't care how mature you are, or that you are mature. Good for you," and an encouragement to read the article. I told him I didn't plan to, and I wasn't talking about the article in my comments: I was responding to his statements. In regard to my comment above, he wrote, "Stereo-typing may be counterproductive, but generalizations are the soul of wisdom," and told me I could only be insulted if I chose to be. Of course, I wasn't insulted and had even told him that. I added one last comment,
Of course you don't care who I am. I am a person who tears your stereotype to shreds. ... People do not choose to be insulted, but they may allow themselves to be. Your comments, however, were intended to hurt. I think you're mad that I'm not insulted. I think you're mad that you can't defend your statement, but have to rely on comments like "thanks for telling me all about who you are."...
Generalizations are certainly not the soul of wisdom. That's the most ridiculous defense I've heard of stereotypes ever. The soul of wisdom is insight and honesty.
I didn't check back until just now, because I didn't care. However, his latest comments, to which I will not respond, are almost funny. He said he wasn't mad, that I was wrong for about the 20th time (was the conversation even long enough for that?). He said that because I wasn't insulted, I was obviously mature, but then added that because I'd said he'd never find a convert in me, my use of the word "never" "discount[ed] your claim to maturity and wisdom." And because I told him I hoped he'd grow a heart soon, I was unable to think as objectively as him. And to top it off, he asked again if I'd read the article, added me as a guide on Clipmarks, and has begun trolling my clips. Creepy...
But thinking about this incident, I realized it was more than just typical Internet-fueled right-wing lunacy. I have been discussing politics and current issues on the Web for years, and have seen more than enough liberal-conservative slap fights and unintelligent discussion. I have taken care to be honest and factual in discussions I take part in, but more often than not there is somebody unwilling to accept even the most rationed argument. Their opponent is simply wrong because they are "liberal." I have written before about how much I dislike labels, and as I told Crazy Clipmarks Nutjob, labels and stereotypes are unfair and counterproductive. Even if generalizations are helpful sometimes, it made Nutjob completely unwilling to listen to me, for the only way he knew how to deal with me was to attack me based on his notions about me, according to an "educated guess" on his part. I defended someone who used Wikipedia: I must be a liberal, because Wikipedia is liberal, and because the commenter had made a liberal remark. I do not identify as a liberal. As such mis-characterizations and uninformed attacks and arguments are common here on Newsvine as well, I am sure many of you have a list of things you wish people didn't believe about you based upon one opinion you've expressed, or a few articles you've seeded. But even beyond the simple glossing-over of individual differences, I have seen again and again the "argument" that liberals are immature. It's frequently tied in with descriptors such as "whiny," but after Nutjob tied it in with "uneducated" and "half-wit," and insisted that his personal growth had occurred with his adoption of conservative views, I remembered seeing this belief expressed even in less shrill characterizations of liberals. Why would this be so? Why are liberals "immature" in the sense of being close-minded, uneducated, and unable to reason effectively?
If we accept the premise that maturity and wisdom comes with age and experience, then we can assume that most older people will be more mature than younger folk. However, maturity is a complicated thing, and though it entails behavior, it also involves outlook. A man who's been supporting himself for 15 years, who has had 8 sexual partners in his life, who lives as a responsible citizen, can be considered mature by many measures. But he can still pick fights with people, or cheat on his girlfriend, and no one could call those decisions mature. He may not even consider the world beyond his own town or state, and without a sense of one's place in the global community, I'd hesitate to call him wise. But these degrees of maturity, wisdom, and experience are not drawn up in his political views. Obviously, age and its associated maturity does not necessarily turn one conservative. Otherwise there would be no Young Republicans, and no elderly liberals. However, "liberal" is more than political to some: it involves that very outlook on life, and for some it can be associated with maturity in a very non-political way.
I recall a conversation with a boyfriend I had at age 20. We'd been dating for perhaps six months, and he'd been telling his parents about me. His parents were conservative, his mother especially so, and he told me he'd told them I was liberal, as cautiously as if he was telling them I was a stripper or had a long criminal record. He was relieved that they didn't care too much. It bothered me that he'd thought it would bother them. After all, my parents, who are pretty progressive, wouldn't care if I brought home a conservative man (indeed, I have). But his father's response has stuck with me. He said, "That's good. Everybody should be liberal when they're young. Everybody needs to believe they can change the world when they're young."
So is that it? Liberalism is only useful in its optimism, but once you're in the real world, presumably having reached your goals and maybe having done something for the world, you should be conservative...and pessimist? Realist? This goes along with rhetoric I've heard about liberalism being naive, or overly optimistic. In a sense, I can see how optimism and idealism can be construed as immaturity. After all, if you've lived long enough and experienced enough to be aware of the problems in the world, you should be able to take off the rose-colored glasses and see that not all problems can be fixed. Conservatism is the adult worldview, one in which you understand that things will always be unfair, people will always be unequal, and sex should be gone about with caution. And yet plenty of people arrive at this worldview and remain invested in changing the world, no matter how little can be done. I am one of those people. Maybe I do, and believe, typical "liberal" things. Maybe I am too idealistic, stuck in a false world in which my "liberal" views will never mesh with harsh reality. But I am increasingly cynical about life and love even at age 22. To suggest I am a half-wit or immature because I choose to have hope, or because I am simply young, is, quite simply, ridiculous. At what point do I close my mind to every possibility except being close-minded? Sorry, Nutjob, but for me it will be "never."