Thoughts with Richard Bleil
Recently I read an article laminating a new crisis in loneliness, targeting in particular older white men, specifically those who are staunch conservative Republicans. And, yes, you read that right.
Apparently, a lot of these men are finding themselves distanced from their children (and therefore grandchildren), and, specifically, uninvited from holiday celebrations. The stated reason is that the family doesn’t want to be exposed to the toxic, biased and intolerant opinions and ramblings of these men. As voters become younger, they seem to be embracing open, accepting and supportive attitudes towards others, creating a clash with the older generation who tend to still lean conservative.
When I was an active member in the Masons, there were two subjects that we were forbidden from discussing when visiting a Freemason Lodge, those topics being religion and politics. To be a Freemason, it is a requirement that the candidates believe in a power higher than themselves, but there is no specific requirement to be of any particular faith. And it makes sense that religion is considered a topic out of bounds for discussion as so many people are so passionate about their beliefs, not only defending their own opinions but being willing to attack those who do not agree with them. Politics is no different, and perhaps worse.
The last relationship that I was in was with a woman whose family was very conservative. No doubt they knew that I was liberal, but it wasn’t through anything that I said. Whenever I visited with them, I adopted the Masonic rule of simply not speaking about politics and would quietly sit and listen when they brought it up (which was rarely as they knew I would disagree).
But, I must admit on an even more personal note that the same friction happened between my father and myself. My dad was a racist intolerant staunch conservative to the point that he would advocate for poisoning marijuana so people who smoked it would have a chance of dying from it while drinking beer. Of course, this is advocating the death sentence for smoking marijuana. He was so toxic that eventually I just had to walk away from our relationship altogether. I was always open if he wanted to call me, but I stopped reaching out to him almost altogether. There were a few times that I did try to call him, but he so hated talking on the phone that if he wasn’t expecting a call, he never answered the phone. Still, I didn’t try hard, maybe only three or four times over a decade or two, but I made my efforts. The last time I did try to call was when he was in hospice. Not sure if he wanted to talk with me or not, I just left my phone number with the nurse and told her that if he wants to talk, I would like it. This same nurse that was so helpful the first time I spoke with her had shut down and very defensive when I tried calling back quoting patient privacy. I suspect somebody had told her not to discuss anything with me if I called back, so he died without my ever having had the opportunity to say goodbye.
He more or less exemplified what I see as the common problem with staunch conservatives based on what I’ve read and seen. He was not only intolerant with offensive opinions, but he was so sure that he was absolutely right and had no qualms about letting others know. He was intolerant of anybody who not only disagreed with him, but he also would goad others if he knew what they disliked. He continued to use the “n*” word in my presence even after I had asked him to stop and told him how offensive it was to me. The last time he said it, I asked him to stop saying it. “Saying what, n*?” And I went off. “Yes, dad, stop f*ing saying that.” “I don’t like that word,” he snapped. “I know you don’t like that f*ing word, dad, that’s why I don’t f*ing say it around you. It doesn’t f*ing bother me, though, it’s just a f*ing verb, but knowing that you don’t f*ing like it, I don’t f*ing say it out of f*ing respect for you, so why don’t you ever show me the same f*ing respect?”
Yeah, not my proudest moment, but it got the fucking point across.
So, in the end, should we really feel sorry for these staunch conservatives for feeling lonely and isolated? If they didn’t spew their toxicity around families, they would still be invited. I never tried to argue my liberal opinions to my ex’s family because I knew it would result in a fight and I would change no opinions anyway. So why do people like my dad feel it is so necessary to be so verbally toxic around their own friends and family? I don’t blame the families. They’re trying to raise their children and don’t need them to be exposed to such anger.
Ultimately, I’m not saying that these toxic conservatives are wrong or need to change their opinions. What they believe is personal and as Americans, they do have the right to this opinion, but something that they should agree with is accepting the consequences of their own actions. If their families feel uncomfortable having them around, it’s because of their own actions, not those of their families. In a civil discussion there is a place for such debates, but if their families are so uncomfortable, it’s an issue of grandpa raising inappropriate opinions at the wrong time, or having trouble being civil. Either way, it’s grandpa’s fault.