*From Webster's New Millennium Dictionary of English, meaning "to slap someone with an open hand, esp. in an attempt to put them in their place or cause humiliation." An unfortunate term, but you'll see it's the most accurate one in this case. Before the accusations of misogyny fill the comments, please know that I'd sooner perish than strike a woman, and that I was--Scout's honor--slapped twice this past weekend by one. So, on with the essay.
Remember when you were a kid and some jerk first told you that Santa wasn't real? Or maybe, in your case, it was the tooth fairy?
For me, the first truly shocking revelation came when the gold chain wearing, Marlboro smoking, tattooed kindergartner (okay, I'm exaggerating slightly... we were at least in the second grade) Vince T. cornered me in the playground and proclaimed that Lion-O the Thundercat wasn't real.
Remember your reaction when you first learned that something you'd believed your whole life was wrong? For some of you, it may have been tears (you are now likely working in the non-profit sector), for some of you disbelief (you are now likely Richard S. Fuld). Or, if you were like me, it was anger. Pure, seething hatred. It felt like Vince T. had just smacked me in the face for no good reason. Which, in turn, led my hand to uncontrollably flailing out and b***h-slapping him right back.
Which, in turn, led to Vince T. making me eat mulch.
I was reminded of this the other day when I received an email response to my previous article, in which a friend and self-proclaimed "big Republican" defended Sarah Palin. Specifically, by comparing Ms. Palin to Theodore Roosevelt, due to their mutually short tenures as governor before being nominated to the vice presidency.
To those of you who just sprayed coffee all over your computer monitor, pets, or loved ones, I apologize. But I swear, my friend actually compared the first American winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with the winner of Miss Wasilla. I responded with an encyclopedic list of TR's accomplishments -- which I'm sure I don't have to catalog here -- before McKinley put him on the Republican ticket, then reminded her she ought to think twice before reducing one of our greatest Presidents' innumerable achievements to a few years in office and a love of hunting.
She deemed my response a "typical knee-jerk liberal reaction." Which, to me, is like telling the English teacher who corrects you in front of the class that it's pronounced "Heimlich maneuver" not "Heineken manure" she's a stupid ass-face and you hate her, then running out of the room, tears streaming, and spending the rest of the period hiding in the bathroom carving mildly pornographic graffiti in the stall.
Upon reflection, however, I realized something important: nobody likes finding out a deeply held belief is wrong, including Republicans. And that usually we greet that new, correct information much in the way the Kubler-Ross model -- reverse referenced in Ellis Weiner's article last weekend -- predicts how we deal with grief: first denial ("McCain is a maverick!"); then anger ("At least he's not some elitist smarty-pants!"); bargaining ("Well, he supported the surge, and that's going pretty well..."); depression ("Oh God, bin Laden's still out there, thousands of Americans have been killed in Iraq, I'm about to lose my house, and McCain's positions are becoming more like Bush's every day... where'd we put those razor blades, honey?"); and, finally, acceptance ("Obama-Biden '08!").
And, for all you cynics, that last stage does happen. One of my closest friends was just telling me of his Greenwich, Connecticut grandfather (cue the Masterpiece Theater theme, Chihuahua collars that cost more than my yearly rent, and the annual matchbox jump competition) who's voted Republican his entire life, but is finally putting his Gucci loafered foot down to say "enough!" Yes, he's voting for Barack Obama.
So, tell your Republican friends that it's okay. That they can remain a fiscal or even a social conservative at heart while putting the better of the two candidates in office. That those conservative beliefs, as manifested by the Bush administration and as they will continue to be manifested and magnified in the McCain-Palin administration, have been warped into such a cynical, death-spreading, rights-violating, economy-completely-fucking-up wave of destruction that they've been tainted beyond recognition.
Then stand back. Let them scream and spit and holler. But like a good teacher, don't just shrug your shoulders as they run off and hide in the bathroom. Talk to them again after class, once they've calmed down. Don't get angry -- shouting may make you feel better, but it's not going to change any minds -- but instead talk, then listen, then talk some more, honestly and openly. And see if you can't get them one step closer to that final stage. To acceptance.
And, if at the end of the day they still won't listen to reason... make sure the little bastards spend the fourth of November locked in detention.