April 12, 2012 | 7:00 pm
Posted by Tamara Shayne Kagel
I was in New York for most of last week with my family. We had a great time visiting friends, catching up on the art scene, sampling new restaurants and celebrating Pesach at Sammy’s on the lower east side, to which all I can say is one of the Real Housewives of New York sat at the table next to us.
In any case, I was there when I read the response to my last blog post I Don’t Want to Date a Republican! from Dennis Prager, who I have the utmost respect for. In addition to his column on the subject which I’ve linked to here, he spoke about it on his popular radio show last Wednesday which resulted in flooding my inbox with comments from both sides on the subject. Not that I didn’t also appreciate the less restrained responses from the blogosphere as on the Jane Dough or elsewhere, where tongue in cheek writing does not seem to be readily understood.
In any case, Mr. Prager has very graciously allowed me to come on his show in the near future to discuss the subject more seriously and in more depth and once I have the date on that, I will certainly let you know. (Although I’m having a hard time believing that I’m going to be speaking on the same station that a few hours later will play Glenn Beck.)
In the meantime, I wanted to give you all a little more background on the subject. Firstly, I want to challenge one specific notion Mr. Prager makes, that en mass all liberals are taught disdain and contempt for all conservatives as illustrated by my personal experience.
My personal introduction to Mr. Prager was at a very young age. I went to a conservative Jewish elementary school and I remember very distinctly in our ethics class being presented with a “Denis Prager” question. If memory serves, I believe the question went if you were in the ocean and on your right, your own beloved dog was drowning and on your left a stranger’s child was drowning, and you could only save one, which should you save? Of course, being very young at the time, too young in fact for you to judge me, I was one of the few who vocally asserted that saving your own dog was justified and I made an emotional plea for my cherished dog, Snookie. After being allowed to discuss and discuss as all good Jewish education requires, in the end we were given Mr. Prager’s answer and taught how valuable each individual life is. So I must disagree with him at the outset and contradict the assertion that we liberals were taught to dismiss all conservatives.
However, I believe Mr. Prager’s notion that liberals do perhaps live in an insular world that could benefit from a broadened discussion may be appropriate. Again by way of illustration, at this same school that extolled a very religious life, the constituency was mainly made up of Democrats. This I can attest to because, in 1992, the year President Clinton was elected for his first term, my Jewish school set up a “mock election.” In order to learn about the process of elections and secret ballot, every student in elementary school could vote for a Presidential candidate on a ballot that listed Clinton, Bush Sr., and Ross Perot. I remember the results very clearly because when we found out the final numbers were Clinton 300 and something, Bush about 60 something, and Perot less than 10, instead of thinking how odd it is to have such a one-sided result, my only thought at ten years old was “who were those 60 something people who voted for Bush.” I truly expected the number to be 0 and realized literally for the first time that I might be interacting with some Republicans only because of that result.
This I believe does lend some weight to his assertion that I may live in a liberal enclave with an at-times myopic world-view. However, I also feel that part of the reason for this lays at the feet of the Republican Party specifically. Democrats have completely excised far-left liberals from our party, case in point – our contentious primary was between two moderates Clinton vs. Obama (that’s why when Gingrich wants to align Obama with a liberal, he has to name Saul Alinsky who nobody has heard of. Liberal extremists don’t have a place in the Democratic party, at least not any more.) Contrast that with the contentious Republican primary of Romney vs. Santorum. The far-right racist extremists not only have a place in the Republican party, but they dominate it to the point that Romney has to spend months trying to appeal to them and become more conservative. If only the Republican primary would also excommunicate their extremists, I believe we could all be compromising all over the place and watching our country improve.
And yet, Mr. Prager is very correct that this view is precisely why I’m so shocked to find myself in a great relationship with someone who might vote for Mitt Romney. Because of the extremists in the Republican party which I spend way too much time focusing on and not enough time reading David Brooks and Tony Blankley, I’ve allowed my image of conservatives to be shaped by caricatures like Ann Coulter, Pat Buchanan, and Michelle Bachman. And now that I spend most nights saying I love you to a man who doesn’t like the word liberal, I’m forced to admit that some conservatives aren’t all that bad and can actually be scrupulous generous people who I want to be with all the time.
Thus, I’m looking forward to fleshing this all out with him in the future. Are my boyfriend and I star-crossed lovers simply because of our politics? If you have specific questions or comments you’d like me to mention to him, I welcome your thoughts below. Stay tuned for the details.
With that, I’m off to Coachella for the music festival tomorrow, which I doubt is a bastion of Republicans but if I run into any, I promise to keep an open mind and will work to keep an open heart.
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