Monday, January 16, 2006

Home Visit: The Sierra Club

Two young kids from the Sierra Club visited me and my family tonight. I often enjoy a good discussion with folks who oppose my view point. My attitude never strays from friendly but engaging... challenging, never hostile.

The long and the short of their visit amounted to cruising for cash. Not much of a surprise.

The two included a guy (who later revealed to be 22 years old) and a mostly silent girl (who later revealed herself to be 26 years old) with a hoop in her pierced nose. They were concerned (as they all are) about the environment, specifically Alaska (oil versus pristine wildlife).

The conversation quickly turned slanted (go figure) with statement that strongly suggested that the Bush administration didn't want SUVs and certain cars to get better gas mileage. "Really?" I said. He assured me that the Bush administration could put a stop to subsidies for SUVs and certain vehicles or eliminate a loophole involving ethanol. I have never heard of subsidies specifically for SUVs or any loopholes with ethanol... but that's not the point. He's probably fairly honest regarding both issues. However, that's a far cry from saying the president (let alone any politician) doesn't want better gas mileage in cars or that he's trying to prevent efforts to get better gas mileage. He laughed that off... and changed the subject.

He forged into the claim that the amount of oil we could get in ANWR is hardly worth pursuing. "What else would we do with it, though?" I asked. His response suggested that we not use it and that trying to get it would spoil the land. His specific words made it sound like there are those who wish to get the oil and those who think the land is beautiful. Those two are not mutually exclusive ideas, and I told him so. I also added that his suggestion really paints a very misleading picture of his opposition. Again, he laughed it off... and changed the subject. Actually, that isn't true... he and the girl backed away. First he said something to the effect of, "It looks like you've got a little reading to do, but have a good night."

Whoa, son! You and Miss Three-Nostrils sound a little condescending. I told them so. You can't just go up to folks and say, "You don't agree with us... we were going to ask for money, but we'll come back when you've done your homework and you think properly." That's when I asked their ages. The guy said this is a job and he's been studying all Summer for this. (Wow! All three months... well no wonder why you know so much!) They dodged my question of how much money they make... under orders of the Sierra Club.

He acknowledged that the Sierra Club writes things for them to say, and they are not designed to engage the public in conversation... they are designed to motivate the likeminded folk into donating money. (He didn't say if it was a memorized script, guidelines with key phrases, or what have you.) He claimed that he wouldn't phrase things in such polarizing statements if he were writing. (At that point I said, "I bet it didn't take more than three months for you to learn that.") They even claimed that they weren't supposed to engage in conversation with anyone. I bet this is also a tactic to back out safely with the Not-We... to save time and to play nice-nice with the opposition.

We shot back a couple more questions... it was all with smiling faces. The girl pointed out (somewhat defensively, but not hastily) that she really believes in this (oh, I believe you do, Sweetheart) and that she's studied five years. Where, though? They wouldn't reveal where they were from or where they were going to school, but assured me they were from the Twin Cities. They offered a handout with Sierra Club information and websites... I declined stating, "Oh, I have plenty of books and websites bookmarked on my computer."

At least they were nice... of course, they would get trouble if they engaged the Not-We and they certainly don't want that reputation. Especially, when some of their foot soldiers do such a bad job in public representing their ideas and members. Like a woman I met last year.

Let me set this up. A couple of friends of mine, Hip J. and The Doll, live out of state. They used to live here, but have since taken the trail to greener pastures. They are dear friends of mine, especially Hip J. The Doll has been around for maybe five years, and (as my nickname for her states) she is in fact a doll. Sweet as can be. You can't help but smile when she's around. Hip J. is similar in the fact that when I play poker with him he can clean my clock (and I do make it easy for him at times) but you enjoy the cleaning. Great folks.

While visiting last Spring (I think it was last Spring) they wanted to see folks. Hip J. told a few folks (friends of mine, too) and The Doll told a few friends of hers. I think she had six or more friends come and go. Some of them were a little shy around Hip J.'s friends. Perhaps shy isn't really the right word... especially when we talk a lot, we talk fast, and we were a couple of cocktails down the line. We also nipped off to the outside for a few cigarettes. That probably curtails enough conversation. I talked with some of the gals, though. The Dutiful and Beautiful Mrs. Badda-Blogger was out sick, so I had that story to bring up each time someone new came in. I mentioned Badda-Toddler to the point that they noted how struck I was with my son. They were all very nice.

...all but one, Miss Dowdy. She is a positive bitch. I mean that in a very serious way. She chatted very nicely and pleasantly and was even the most engaging of The Doll's friends... until she found out that I differ with her on private property rights and the environment. I, apparently, am one of the Not-We.

Miss Dowdy already looked a little older. Either that, or she's spent far too much time out in the sun (and I mean that in terms of physical appearance as well as mental prowess). When she really got warmed up her face constantly scolded me. She "couldn't believe" that someone with a child could care so little for the planet and my child's future. You know the type.

Since I was in public at the behest of two dear friends I merely chatted and held up my beliefs. I remained pleasant... even smiling through the whole affair. I stood up for myself and stated that I have an interest in the world, current events, local affairs, the future, and (of course) my son. She's never met "someone like me". She just had to straighten me out... and because she couldn't she became very frustrated. I looked over and saw The Doll had a slightly embarrassed look on her face. I'll tell you one thing... it wasn't because of me. The way Miss Dowdy chastised me for being such a Neanderthal while also being a father included some sob story that she's not married and doesn't have children. Most of those folks don't have children, ever notice that? (Probably no coincidence.)

These folks like to do the world a service and expect that folks like me should sit there and take it, or that we'll pop our tops and become belligerent. At one point she looked over at one of Hip J.'s friends (The Sweetheart, a woman) as if to bring her into the attack on me... to help me see the light and be a better father to my son. The Sweetheart immediately gave a look to me as if to say, "Please don't let her bring me into this." At another point I said, "Why do you have to act like this? We were all having a great time before you learn where I stand on private property rights and the environment, but because I come from a different angle you become unpleasant, difficult, and rude." She said something about "people like you" needing exposure to "people like her". I could have gone in a direction that involved the statement, "if I wanted exposure to assholes I'd go back to high school"... but I merely pointed out that Hip J., The Doll, and our friends at the table all pretty much disagree with me on most social and political issues, but every time we get together we enjoy the whole evening regardless of whether we talk religion, politics, or nonsense.

Once she was completely unstoppable regarding the world going to Hell because of my careless and ignorant beliefs I told her, "Don't worry... my generation will save your generation." I don't think she got it. It's just as well.

Since then neither Hip J. or The Doll has mentioned it. I suspect they either don't know what to say, they don't want to take sides, or it wasn't that big of a deal. (It might involve more than one of those possibilities, or something else entirely.) Some of Hip J.'s other friends (who are good friends of mine, too) eventually asked, "What was that?" I explained that it came out of no where, but that I wasn't going to just sit there and get scolded... and that I was never mean. They wondered if I was keeping my cool while manipulating her attitude. (This surprised me quite a lot.) I pointed out that Miss Dowdy didn't need any help.

Last month Hip J. and The Doll married. We had a great time. At one point Hip J. came over to whisper (with a smile and a cocktail), "Don't be mean to Miss Dowdy." We laughed and while looking straight at the harridan I said, "I'm not the one you need to worry about."

She lived up to her name. She scolded me a couple of times during the ceremony. That's fine... I was dressed to the nines in a new tuxedo (new to me at least) with my wife in a lovely new dress. A few folks commented to the Dutiful and Beautiful Mrs. Badda-Blogger that Miss Dowdy looked like a train wreck out of the 80s. Now we like the 80s, but she wore leggings or pants or stockings made of some strange shiny pink material, some God awful top with a jacket (I think), and a hair style that would make an eagle homesick.

In any case, that's enough. Stick to your guns... be pleasant if you can help it. If you can't, be pleasant as long as you can stand it then hold out longer and kill 'em with kindness.

Whatever you do, just hold your ground. Don't quote nonsense... admit when you don't have the facts or when you're going on anecdotal evidence... and let them be the bad guy. Most of them (I suspect) won't, which is great news.

That's more folks to go out and have a few cocktails with.

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