Feed on

We all have this image we carry around about ourselves of how we look, sound, and react in stressful circumstances. I know I at least like to think that I can hold my own in a verbal battle, make my case without resorting to ad hominem attacks, and generally comport myself with class and dignity. I like to think of myself as professional bordering on professorial.

Then I go and scream at someone whose name I don’t even know, call him an ass to his face (really), and realize that my entire mental image is a sham. Give me a few hours—or better yet days—and a pen or keyboard and I can preserve my desired self-image. But put me in the heat of the moment, and my composure just might crack.

What set me off today was politics. More specifically, the politics of a single person on a community relations board I’ve joined. Yet more specifically, the superior, condescending tones deployed by this person to attack my position. Most specifically of all, that these superior, condescending tones were being deployed by an older man as if speaking to a misguided, ill-informed child. That’s a combination that pushes just about every button I have.

The discussion was over gun control. I’m sure I don’t have to explain the reason. The question before the board was whether to pass a resolution supporting Senator Feinstein’s proposed legislation to reinstate the assault-rifle ban that timed out in 2004. At my mere mention of Senator Feinstein, this person interrupted me to say “Are you aware that she supports concealed carry? Do you know what she really stands for?” At which point I should have said, “Why do you ask? We’re not talking about concealed carry right now.” Instead, I got defensive and responded “Dianne Feinstein was my senator for eight years when I lived in San Francisco. So yes, I am aware of her positions on things and don’t need you to explain them to me.”

These words were the first we ever exchanged. We were clearly not off to a good start. Shortly after the meeting adjourned, he said something that deeply offended me. He stated plainly that Jews who really care about Israel vote Republican, and that you can’t care about Israel if you voted for Obama. Now, about 69% of Jews (the percentage that voted for Obama in 2012) would disagree with him on that call. As would many of the Israelis who do not support Netanyahu’s policies, including notable political commentators Gershom Gorenberg and Haim Watzman.

But the real point here is not the policy position: It’s not that one side is saying “I disagree” or even “You are wrong”, which is fair game, but rather that one side is saying, “You do not care about what you say you care about” and/or “You are a self-hating Jew”, which infuriates me. I told him that his statements were deeply offensive, that hurling accusations like this damaged political discourse, and that his bullying was damaging to the democratic process. He continued with his inflammatory statements. He kept interrupting me. And before I knew it, I found myself yelling in a high-pitched voice that I hate. Finally, I told him that since he insisted on cutting me off, I was finished with our conversation. Actually, what I said was “I’m done with you, you ass.”

So clearly I did not cloak myself in glory on this one.

I have since learned that my nemesis is well known in local politics and has a reputation for bullying. (What my mother called him cannot be printed in a family blog.) Not only am I not in trouble for calling him an ass, I’ve earned some support and sympathy for doing so. And I’m honestly pleased with myself for not backing down; there was a time that I would have worried about being disrespectful and displeasing my elders, whereas now I feel free to dish it right back to them.

I just wish I had dished it back better. Taken the high road and all that. Destroyed him with erudition and backed him into a corner using his own poor logic. I wish I could have lived up to my best-case self image. Maybe next time. At least now I know what and who I’m dealing with and can be prepared for the next time. And given who this character is, there is sure to be a next time.




3 Responses to “Cooler Heads Not Prevailing”

  1. tlalbaugh says:

    My mother and I (both living in small towns where we aren’t part of the political status quo) can relate completely here. We are so thoughtful and well-reasoned in our heads (we think, anyway : ), and then, always in public, someone pushes a button that we just cannot resist and we end up stridently shrieking and shaking. SOOOOOOO frustrating. I’ve learned to let Tom talk at our town deliberative sessions: He is very calm and reasonable and well-spoken in front of a microphone. It is a gift, I must say.

  2. blg says:

    You go, girl. There are times when it is OK, maybe even effective, to show that passion!

  3. Amanda says:

    Turning 40 was a revelation. All of a sudden, when dealing with condescending assholes, I started thinking, you know what? I’m not a kid anymore. I’m an adult, I’m smart, and my opinion is at least as warranted as yours and probably more so because I’m probably far smarter than you are. And there is nothing more infuriating than being treated like, “oh, isn’t the hippy dippy liberal chick cute,” usually by an older man, and one whom I know I am smarter than. So you go, girl. And besides, bullies need to be taken down.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.