Liberals and conservatives
I woke up the other night to hear the Four Seagulls at my bedposts discussing politics. I did not get all the words, but the gist of it was as follows.
Liberals and conservatives have very different ideas about the world, they said, and there are various ways to interpret this situation. For example, when compared to their opposite kind, liberals do not put much value on loyalty. Not that they are incapable of loyalty after a fashion, but they just do not value it very much.
Take the case of Art M., a tireless liberal from Lincoln County who recently wrote a letter to the editor of The Priceless Press. He roundly castigated President O for not having done all the things Art wanted, and Art announced (no doubt to the delight of all conservatives,) that as a result he will refuse to vote for O in the forthcoming elections.
It’s not just Art who behaves like this, the Four Seagulls agreed. You hear this all the time from liberals everywhere. If their person does not transform the world and reshape it in their likeness in just a few minutes, liberals will desert their party in droves, spitting fire and complaining bitterly about the weaknesses of their own people.
Then they go off and vote on principle for Independents, for Greens, for Painted Hamsters, for Luke Skywalker, even for Ralph Nader, repackaging their votes into even smaller parcels until some parcels are so small they disappear. I imagine, said Matthew Gull, this is why conservatives keep getting elected.
Liberals, said Mark Gull, seem to think that all you have to do is rationally explain an idea and the very power of it will sweep aside all opposition. This is why they generally keep nominating cerebral types for election. They are the party of the brain, and much good it often does them. On the other hand, Mark continued, conservatives have a very different position.
Conservatives, he said, value loyalty very highly indeed. For them party allegiance is just about everything, and they find it an easy and logical idea to entertain. They are loyal to party, to community, to party, brand of auto manufacturer, and to whatever else it is they love. This loyalty is not something they will lightly discard.
Conservatives are the party of the heart, agreed Luke Gull. Furthermore, Luke added, liberals and conservatives have very different ideas about fairness and justice. And as the stars crept overhead and looked coolly down on our darkened grain towers, Luke expounded on his theme.
For a liberal, he opined, fairness means that everyone deserves to be treated the same. They deserve the same food, the same education, the same health care, the same quality of life, perhaps even the same share of tomatoes that are distributed by the South End Tomato Lady. Material and numerical equality defines fairness for these people. Of course, conservatives also believe in fairness and justice, Luke continued. It’s just that they see it differently.
The conservative point of view is generally that one deserves to receive in proportion to how much one contributes. This defines conservative fairness, he said, sticking his head briefly under his left wing, pulling out a loose feather, and sticking it under his right wing.
(Luke Gull does this quite often, and I worry that some day he will attempt to fly from our tower to look for something to eat but will instead fly around in circles because if the imbalance of feathers in his wings. He will eventually starve, I suppose, unless someone decides to help.)
The idea that we are all the same and that we should all be treated the same just does not make real-world sense to a conservative, he explained.
We all looked at Arthur Gull, expecting that he would want to contribute to this debate. But he just closed his eyes, yawned, and expressed an opinion in the unique way that seagulls often do.
At this point Matthew Gull opened his beak to rebut, but something happened and I woke up. Yes, I know this sounds hard to believe but this discussion had all been a dream! Can you believe such a thing! Nevertheless, upon reflection I find that the notions propounded by the erudite gulls in the Land of Nod are a rough approximation to the ideas in a book I read not long ago by a chap called Jonathan Haidt. He’s some shrink with a social conscience, I suppose, and his book is about how good people disagree in politics and religion.
Anyway, take it all for what it’s worth. As ever.
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Marilyn S., who is Minister for Tourism and Salads with the Independent Republic of Owls Head, told me the other day that she lost a queen-size fitted blue bed sheet from her washing line, and given the direction of the gale that was blowing she wondered if it had flown anywhere near the north tower.
I said I had not seen it, but if any of you happen to see such a thing flapping around the South End, please let me know.
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I was talking with B not too long ago, who was telling me her friend is moving to North Carolina after many years here in the Lime City. She told me the soon-to-be-departed has already rented an apartment down there, in a building with a German and a Pole.
I thought that was strange information to include in any sort of conversation, so I asked her to please explain these peculiar racial circumstances. She looked at me as though I had turned into a sea gull, or something equally absurd.
She has rented an apartment in a building with a gym and a pool, B repeated, speaking slowly as if she were addressing a small child of very little wit.
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How many public payphones are left in Rockland? There is one in the mall by the Chinese restaurant, and another near the Post Office on Limerock Street. Are there any others?
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Leaving St. Bildad’s by the Sea last Thursday evening, I was glad to get outside. Inside the church had been warm, and it was one of those humid nights that are never as hot as you think they are, but often a little sticky and airless. We had just concluded a special parish meeting, following which I had helped wash the dishes.
I have a strong affection for St. Bildad’s, for among other things it is here that both liberals and conservatives in our fair city seem to get along with some respect for each other’s points of view, never mind what the Four Seagulls of the Apocalypse might think.
Anyway, as I stepped out into the cooler night air, I heard what first seemed to be the crying to strange birds out there in the dark. But it was only the sound of sneakers squeaking on the ancient wooden gym floor (not a German in sight) as our neighbors played basketball in the Rec Center across the parking lot.
They were playing with the side door open. How wonderful to still have the doors open. It will get cold soon enough. Must give some thought to how the coming months will feel up in the east tower…
David Grima is a former editor with Courier Publications. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, but not in German or Polish.