April 26th, 2012

Welcome, girlfriend!: Janine Turner at PJ, on how to convert a Democrat

I’ve long been a Janine Turner fan because I’ve long been a big, big “Northern Exposure” fan. And I’ve been aware that lately she’s became a conservative political commentator, because I’ve seen her now and then on TV in that capacity. Now I’m happy to report that she’s joined the PJ network as a writer, so I guess I could say that in a very general sense we’re colleagues.

You may notice that her very first PJ article is on a topic very much after my own heart: “Girlfriends: let’s talk about how to convert a Democrat.” Aha! I’ve written on that idea before, in particular here, as well as here and here.

Turner is a fan of reason and rationality. She lists a bunch of points Republicans can make when talking to Democrats, and ends with this statement:

We can convert Democrats to Reason — the Republican Party. But we have to enter the fray to do it.

We are smarter than the propaganda we are being sold. Times are serious. To win in 2012, we must be vocal.

I admire Turner’s courage and feistiness. I’m in agreement with her on so many things, including the fact that women in particular can be very reticent about speaking up and yet need to (a topic I’ve written about in some of my linked posts above). But I’m afraid I’m far less optimistic about the chances of results, especially when approached in this “giving them the facts” manner.

Politics is a hugely emotional issue, as I’ve written many times before. People are born into it for the most part, and become members of a group with which they tend to hugely identify. This can include demonizing the Other, so that even merely revealing oneself to be a member of the opposition party can be an occasion for ostracism rather than openness and curiosity.

I don’t want to reiterate the content of about 100 posts and thousands of comments here, so I’ll just quote myself on the topic of political conversion and say:

The first rule [from this Owen Harries article] is one with which I’m personally quite familiar, but it bears repeating:

Forget about trying to convert your adversary. In any serious ideological confrontation the chances of success on this score are so remote as to exclude it as a rational objective.

In my observation, this is true not only of the committed ideologue but even of the less politically invested and less well-informed person. That’s why my series is called “A mind is a difficult thing to change.” Politics has some things in common with religion, in that it is partly an article of faith. In addition, it is also an edifice constructed of many building blocks of information— some of them dependent on one another but some independent—plus years of habit and/or commitment and/or investment and/or social networks. It is often a profound component of one’s identity.

Putting even a small dent in this structure can take some doing. Harries goes on to write:

On the very rare occasions when [political conversion] does happen, it will be because the person converted has already and independently come to harbour serious doubts and is teetering on the edge of ideological defection. This is due, more often than not, to some outrageous action by his own side or some shocking revelation…

True; it most definitely can happen in just that way. Harries cites the example of those pro-Communists who were disillusioned by Khrushchev’s revelations of Stalin’s crimes.

It strikes me, however, that it’s possible to nudge that process along a bit by providing information about the existence of such events that might constitute the grounds for disillusionment. Many people are quite simply unaware of the facts that could spark a change of mind and heart. After all, those “outrageous actions” or “shocking revelations” on their side have no possibility of being seen for what they are unless they are brought to awareness. That can be part of the function of the blogosphere.

The MSM is rather good at informing us of those revelations that would challenge our view of the actions of the Right. They are generally less likely to broadcast revelations that would discredit liberals or the Left, although it does happen.

Which brings us to Harries’s rule number nine:

When bolstering the authority of what you are saying by the use of quotation, give preference wherever possible to sources which are not identified with your case. If you can, quote someone who is considered unimpeachable, if not omniscient, by your opponents. This will not convince them, but it will embarrass them and impress the uncommitted.

In talking to receptive friends or occasionally sending them emails with links, I’ve always tried to follow rule nine even before I knew it existed. I had noticed that it was very easy for people to discount as unreliable any information that came from a source perceived as being on the “other” side, even a reputable publication. Although it takes a lot more work to find something from the often-liberal MSM that bolsters an argument on the Right, it can be found and is well worth the effort because of the extra clout such an article has.

You’ll note that in the above quote, Harries differentiates between the reactions of opponents vs. the uncommitted. It’s a useful distinction. The former are ideologues who are very deeply committed to their point of view and are loaded with facts and authorities. Sometimes the facts are true and the authorities have some validity, but sometimes they are spurious and dubious. In the first case, a productive and mutually respectful argument can often be had, although it’s mostly an exercise in debating technique because minds are still resistant to change. In the second case, however, it will probably devolve into a shouting match and be of no usefulness whatsoever, unless the goal is to exercise the lungs.

The people Harries calls the “uncommitted” bring us to rule four:

Never forget the uncommitted: almost invariably, they constitute the vast majority. This may seem obvious, but intense polemical activity is often a coterie activity, and in the excitement of combat and lust for the polemical kill the uncommitted are often overlooked. The encounter becomes an end in itself rather than a means of influencing wider opinion. Yet what works best in throwing the enemy off balance—cleverness, originality, pugnacity—is often counterproductive with those who are neutral or undecided, who are more likely to be impressed and convinced by good sense, decency, and fairness.

The blogosphere tends to be populated by bloggers who are fond of the sort of coterie activity Harries describes so well. That’s not really my style, however, either in this blog or in person.

Although most of my friends have a political affiliation, some hold it far more tightly than others. Those others would fall into the general ranks of Harries’s uncommitted: they hold viewpoints, but they are flexible and open to new information. It is among these people that fact-based, logical political argument has the most chance of finding a receptive ear. That’s what I try my best to offer.

[NOTE: If you've looked at the photo of Turner at PJ, or seen her on TV lately, you may be surprised---as I was---to see she's left the brunette fold and become a blond. Now, there's another change for you!]

33 Responses to “Welcome, girlfriend!: Janine Turner at PJ, on how to convert a Democrat”

  1. Curtis Says:

    She epitomized what was special about Northern Exposure.

    I hope she has similar success converting the uncommitted.

  2. stan Says:

    re: the use of the unimpeachable source

    During the Clinton scandals, I corresponded with an ardent liberal. Every time someone like Dick Morris spilled the beans, he immediately became a suspect source. Anyone who was critical of Clinton was, by definition (and catch 22), a biased and unreliable source.

    As for arguing with liberals, I think there is something important that can be gained even when it is impossible to change a mind. A very large part of the liberal belief system revolves around the conviction that conservatives are evil, stupid or ignorant. Any time you can make a liberal confront the fact that a moral, ethical, well-reasoned argument supports the conservative position, you chip away at that conviction. You don’t change their mind on the issue that is being argued, but you start to make them confront the reality that they can’t simply dismiss opponents as evil.

  3. Mr. Frank Says:

    Ms. Turner looked better with short dark hair.

  4. Occam's Beard Says:

    It can be useful simply to ask questions, in a non-aggressive way, as a way to jump start the process of ratiocination.

    For example, with a liberal dismissing Clinton’s offenses, one might ask the liberal what offenses he would condemn, if he was willing to overlook perjury.

    As another example, with someone who opposes the war in Afghanistan, one might ask under what circumstances he would support going to war.

    Death penalty opponents are especially easy to wrong foot. Most start out their opposition on the grounds that a mistake might be made. It’s usually pretty easy to get them to plump for the death penalty when the crime is particularly heinous. The flaw is, of course, that there’s no necessary connection between the heinousness of the crime and likelihood of a miscarriage of justice. (In fact, arguably a particularly heinous crime is more likelihood to give rise to a miscarriage of justice, because the public will be howling for someone to be convicted.)

    Most liberals don’t reach their conclusions through thinking, but rather through feeling. Forcing them to draw a line somewhere precludes feeling as a basis, and makes them posit a more reasoned position.

    Ideally, those questions will be internalized, and ultimately trigger a re-examination of the person’s entire philosophical edifice.

  5. T Says:

    I read Turner’s article, too. I agree with the sentiment of Neoneocon’s post, that it’s very difficult to change an opponents mind. That doesn’t mean we should shy away from the fray. As Stan notes above, we chip away at the argument. Just announcing that a counter argument even exists to leftist philosophies is an important battle to engage in.

    The problem I’ve noticed is that an argument between a conservative and a leftist oftentimes seems to be like two philosophies passing in the night. It’s difficult to use facts to dispute an ideology that is not fact-based. Likewise, a leftist will never convert a conservative because such facts are usually absent from the left’s perspective.

    An interesting companion article to this topic appears in PJMedia today by Rand Simberg. here’s the link:

    http://pjmedia.com/blog/the-asymmetry-of-ideology/

  6. expat Says:

    I tend to agree with people that there is or may be a problem and then express doubt about a certain course of action proposed to remedy it. I also mention any personal experiences that informed my doubt. I don’t try to convince anyone that I have all the answers. I don’t know whether I’ve ever changed any minds, but perhaps I let them know that those who question the conventional wisdom are not a homogenous bunch of red neck idiots.

    I am more firm when talking about someone like Al Sharpton, who is a race-baiting, loud-mouthed sleaze, or Wasserman-Schultz, who is an idiot.

  7. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    As always, a well rendered presentation of why it’s difficult to change a mind.

    From time to time I try to challenge my own beliefs. Why do I believe that smaller government is best? Why do I think market solutions are generally superior to centralized command and control of markets? Why do I think charity and welfare work best when administered as close to the receiver as possible? Why do I think wealth cannot be created by government? What is my explanation for the way wealth is created? Why government spending is not investing? Why do I believe that CO2 is a minor influence in the warming trend that has occurred since 1885? And that is just the short list.

    The answers to those questions would require a major essay on each one. And that is the problem in convincing the uncommittted or independents. It requires them to look at the evidence, make some judgments, connect some dots, and realize that the MSM is not an unimpeachable source of information. That is a difficult step for them. Most of them do not want to think and reason when it is so much easier to accept the MSM’s propaganda and go with the flow.

    That does not keep me from trying, though it seems fruitless, to educate those that are not ideologues. I agree with Janine Turner, we have to keep speaking up even when it seems we are getting nowhere.

    By the by, Janine has been appearing regularly on O’Reilly’s show, and has been giving a good account of herself and conservative women’s views. However, I also agree that the change to platinum blonde has not, IMO, been a fortuitous move for her. I know it’s stereotyping, but the racy blonde look (Think Jane Mansfield or Mamie Van Doren), does not increase her gravitas.

  8. T Says:

    Expat,

    I don’t know whether DWS is an idiot or just a committed member of the leftist tribe. I think it’s really hard to determine how intelligent she really is because she simply spouts tribal talking points. Soliciter General Verrilli has had the same problem twice at SCOTUS; how does one defend the indefensible without looking like a complete moron?

    Now, those of us of the “Rightist persuasion” would immediately assume that anyone willing to so vest themselves in the tribe is a buffoon from the get-go, but that’s not necessarily the case. Remember it was Lenin who reputedly said that if one repeats a lie often enough it becomes the truth, and he was certainly no idiot.

    In Western PA the Steelers reign supreme; in Cleveland the Browns. I am amazed each and every football season how some idiots from either side are actually willing to through punches to defend their “tribe.” It’s the same mindset as DWS. People like us just don’t think that way and find it odd that anyone does. That observation returns to my post of 4:04 pm above.

  9. George Pal Says:

    The group identification to which we were born had as its great unifying feature family loyalty, which, if not easily overcome, could be softened by lessons learned, in school and life. But we have lost the schools.

    The group-think with which our children are inculcated in the schools is more difficult to overcome because political and social differences are now anathematized and opponents, even parents become suspect if they should think other than what they ought. The group and its members once contended with another group and its members – contending ideas that did not convert but could compromise. Schools once mitigated our contentions; now they aggravate them.

    This isn’t as bad as it gets but it’s bad enough. Taking back the schools would greatly diminish the need to convert anyone – or deprogram them – then we could get back to tweaking each other.

  10. T Says:

    JJ formerly . . .,

    A few thoughts, if I may. One difference between Conservative and Progressive thought is (IMO) that, like the founders, conservatives recognize that life is imperfect. The left seems to believe that life can be made perfect (utopian) by govt structure and regulation (do this–don’t do that–can’t you read the sign?).

    I believe that the single biggest mistake that the left makes is that it fails to recognize that life is dynamic while bureaucracies and bureaucrats are static. Dynamism simply can not be regulated by a static bureaucracy except in the most general sense. That’s exactly why black markets have always existed. Create a static organization and the dynamics of life and commerce will find their way around it. That’s why socialism is doomed to be forever unsuccessful. That’s why in a society founded on “from each according to his ability; to each according to his need” Leonid Brezhnev had an antique automobile collection. He wanted it, refused to accept the dictum of a static bureaucracy and he found a way around it. This made him (redundancy alert!) a communist hypocrite.

  11. carl in atlanta Says:

    “… it will probably devolve into a shouting match and be of no usefulness whatsoever, unless the goal is to exercise the lungs.”

    Great observation and well-put. That’s certainly been my experience. Political orientation is very much like religion. But it’s even more like an addiction in that it’s impossible to talk an addict into kicking the addiction. Reason alone simply does not work because the element of “Will”(or lack thereof) trumps “Reason”. Seems to me that the will to change — or at least evolve from being an ideologue to being”uncommitted”– must originate from within. I take it that Neo and most others here agree with that?

  12. Sgt. Mom Says:

    I met her once – at the first big San Antonio Tea Party rally, three years ago. She and her teenage daughter were a last-minute add to the speaking schedule, so there were a handful of us sitting on equipment cases behind the raised stage.
    (full acoount here – http://www.ncobrief.com/index.php/archives/riding-the-wave-tax-day-tea-party-wrap-up/)
    She was a really down to earth, charming person … also, very tiny, in person! Agree that she looked better with dark hair.

  13. expat Says:

    T,
    You are absolutely spot on about the static/dynamic differences. When I worked for the welfare dept in the late 60s, I found that to get help for someone with a real problem, you had to learn to work your way around the rules, procedures, and bureaucrats. It was quite a challenge, but I became pretty good at it because i had a supervisor who always made me read The Manual rather than giving quick answers to my questions. I learned that one who reads can also interpret and that the more one has to read the more options one has to interpret. Fortunately, Mr. B seemed to enjoy my creativity and signed off on things.

  14. Jan of MN Says:

    “It can be useful simply to ask questions, in a non-aggressive way, as a way to jump start the process of ratiocination.”

    Such good advice. I could have used that yesterday, with three close friends who expressed disgust with George Zimmerman. I managed to inform them of the NBC editing of Zimmerman’s 911 phone conversation, and commented that we didn’t have all the facts yet. A barely discernible chill descended for a moment — after all, we are friends — and there’s no way to know if my info had any impact on their thinking. I would guess not, because I generally see such intervention as futile. Later I emailed them a surprisingly balanced and extensive Reuters analysis of the case, with a great deal of previously unreported information.

    Next time I will try the questioning strategy.

  15. gcotharn Says:

    The only thing I would add: if you have a left person who seriously wishes to discuss with you, you must first determine whether or not they believe that objective truth exists. Many do not. If a left person does not believe that objective truth exists, then the left person will consider your conversation to be a mere contest of propaganda. The result will be that the left person simply keeps going, and going, and going, in attempt to create the biggest pile of, ahem, propaganda. They will keep going and going, beyond several points at which they ought have been stopped by evidence and reason. If/when completely trapped in a box canyon of evidence and reason, they will declare: “that is just your opinion!” If they do not believe in truth, then they do not believe they ever have to give in to truth and evidence. To them, your conversation is not a search for truth, but rather a contest which will be decided by volume of propaganda.

  16. J.J. formerly Jimmy J. Says:

    T said, “Dynamism simply can not be regulated by a static bureaucracy except in the most general sense. That’s exactly why black markets have always existed.”

    Excellent example! The free will of people is somewhat like a flow of water. Put an obstacle before it and it will eventually find a way around.

    Occam’s approach is a good one. Raising questions that make them do the thinking and connecting the dots on their own is less likely to engender anger or dug in resistance. I’m going to have to remeber to use that technique. It’s more like judo as opposed to the brute force of hammering them with mountains of facts and data.

  17. SteveH Says:

    Seems to me the democrats are doing the bulk of the work in changing liberal minds. I mean for the past 6 years the borderline liberal became disgusted with sleazy democrat politics and the die hard liberal has been forced into some bizzare positions that just aren’t sustainable.

    Liberalism is likely a bubble that’s going to burst.

  18. Capn Rusty Says:

    Occam’s observation, supra, that “Most liberals don’t reach their conclusions through thinking, but rather through feeling,” finds support in Ben Franklin’s observation that “You cannot reason a man out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.”

  19. Randy Says:

    I’ve converted my self-described “liberal California” ex-pat friends by:
    1) Not fitting into their stereotypes of conservatives
    2) doing only soft sell
    3) emphasizing that I’m conservative, not because I want to let winners win and let losers lose, but because I believe that conservatism is the best way to help most of the people in an economically sustainable way.

    One asked me, while discussing Obamacare, did I think that medical care would suddenly become awful if Obama care was passed, I said no, I didn’t think so, and added that for some it might get better at first. The day after it was passed there would still be as many doctors, nurses, hospitals, MRI machines, drug companies, and that they would continue on as before, at least for a while. But the new law would effect the future, and that slowly but surely things would degrade and we would all have a medical care worse than what we have now. I told him that I thought the goals for Obamacare were admirable, but just not workable in the real world.

    He said “I get that, that’s a valid reason to be against it.” He is “plugged in”, but had never heard this argument. I fault our leadership. They say “socialism” but fail to paint it in a way that the other side can understand. Most people don’t care if it’s socialism, they just want the problem solved. My friend was not immediately converted, but a seed was planted.

    In other words, my message to him is that “compassionate conservatism” is not a form a softened conservatism as Bush might have sold us, but is instead it’s a redundant term. Conservatism is compassion.

  20. Curtis Says:

    Thinking of the awesome Nature shots in “Northern Exposure” and how beautiful Nature can be:

    Nature’s Look:

    I looked and because I looked
    I found a mountain top hooked
    Upon a line that was strung
    From a line that I was from.

    I looked again; the image vanished
    Police were called; clawed the wall.
    Said I’d suffered a troubled fall
    My thoughts and cranium perished.

    Still, then, how could I think
    the thoughts of this paragraph
    If I’m dead or lying in sync
    I’m dead with Nature’s loving laugh.

  21. Richard Aubrey Says:

    Every now and again, there are opportunities. I happened to provide some YA hist novels to a couple of nieces. Due to current ed levels, I felt it necessary to provide a historical overview and to comment on how the author (a Brit) had used current conventions to allow her readers to understand the issues.
    So, as I said, in book number three the Frisians were leaving–harvests had been poor–for England instead of raiding and returning because of the onset of the Dark Ages Cold Period following the Roman Warm Period. Since the folkwandering had really happened, there had to have been a reason and…Aubrey presented it.
    The adults in the family are enviro-nuts.
    It was done in a venue far removed from political arguing.
    In addition, they think I’m okay because of a couple of out-of-the-ordinary things I’ve done. So they can’t demonize me without severe cognitive dissonance.

  22. Occam's Beard Says:

    From time to time I try to challenge my own beliefs.

    Me too. As a constitutive scientist, in politics as in chemistry, I use my model to predict outcomes. If the predictions are not borne out, then the model needs revision or rejection. If they are, then the model seems, provisionally, to have utility. For example, I consider feminist and environmental groups inter alia not to be advocacy groups but rather to be fundamentally communist front organizations organized to undermine America. That model then predicts that those groups won’t squawk about what should be sweet spot matters for them if the matter has no utility for undermining America. Feminist groups don’t care about women in Islamic countries, AGWers don’t care of Chinese CO2 – exactly as the model predicted. So the model survives the test. The alternative model predicts that those groups would be up in arms in each case, and that clearly is at variance with the data.

  23. Occam's Beard Says:

    The group-think with which our children are inculcated in the schools is more difficult to overcome because political and social differences are now anathematized

    A pet peeve is the regard of being non-judgmental as the apotheosis of personality development. My response is that rendering judgments is what grownups do; this is good, that is bad, this is indifferent. Of course, given the judgment most liberals evince, it’s probably just as well that they don’t exercise it any more than necessary.

  24. Curtis Says:

    Except they do.

  25. Occam's Beard Says:

    The only thing I would add: if you have a left person who seriously wishes to discuss with you, you must first determine whether or not they believe that objective truth exists.

    Absolutely critical. I did not express myself well, but that test is implicit in the questioning method mentioned above. The answer one’s interlocutor gives to the question, in essence, of what would make him change his position, provides insight into whether he recognizes the existence of objective reality.

    For example, re AGW, one might ask whether a rise in CO2 partial pressure combined with flat or decreasing average terrestrial temperatures would change his mind, since such data would cast doubt on the assertion that the greenhouse effect of CO2 causes global temperature increases. The most likely response will be that the data of a year or two are inconsequential. One then asks how many years’ data of such kind would he consider sufficient.

    The point is not to win the argument. That’s impossible, and the attempt is counter-productive. The point is to goose the person into starting to think for himself, and to set up his own, more objective, criteria for the plausibility or otherwise of a proposition. If he does that, I am confident we’ll soon be in agreement.

  26. Curtis Says:

    or goose the cook, if you’re Henry the VII.

  27. Jan of MN Says:

    Many liberals who tippy-toe around the necessity to make judgments about anti-social behaviors, including terrorism, don’t feel the need to restrain visceral judgments about people who disagree with them.

  28. expat Says:

    When I helped mom cook dinner as a kid, she always told me why she did things a certain way. Sometimes her reason was pretty absolute (get the lumps out of the mashed potatoes before you add the milk) and sometimes they were preferences (your aunt likes her … sweeter than I do). I could always test the former reason, and later, when I was running my own show, I would be free to choose about the latter. I guess it sunk in that if my mom wasn’t simply dogmatic about mashing potatoes, others also owed me a pretty good argument before trying to tell me what to do. Plus, knowing the whys gave me freedom to experiment and master even more skills.

    This is probably why I think the biological signals between the mom and the offspring (and husband) she feeds are a powerful force in raising kids. No school lunch program will ever compensate for missed opportunities at home.

  29. texexec Says:

    Neo: Thanks for pointing me towards Janine Turner. You informed me that she’s a Texan in a comment in the other post about “The Fantasticks” today. That got me interested in her and I checked out her blog.

    I don’t remember what was going on in my life when “Northern Exposure” was a hit but I somehow missed most of it. What I did see, I liked but somehow didn’t get totally hooked. As a result, I didn’t know much about Janine if anything.

    She seems like the kind of Texas woman I like most…beautiful, smart, strong willed, no nonsense thinker, a doer of things rather than a talker about things, strongly supportive of her offspring. I have long felt that the best asset of Texas is Texas women.

    It interested me that she’s an avid breeder of longhorns and is a member of the Longhorn Breeders Association. A past president of that association has a ranch near where I live and I used to chat with him at Friday night HS football games. Texas fans’ beloved mascot Bevo lives on his ranch.

    Heck…I may well have missed a chance to see and meet Janine when she surely must have visited his ranch.

    I agree with you that it’s almost impossible to convert a committed liberal. IMHO, the strongest predictor of a person’s political commitment is the culture he or she lives in.

    I live in a rural community where most of my friends are retired engineers, lawyers, accountants, etc. Most of them have lived in Texas most of their lives. It’s very easy for me to be a conservative and speak out my libertarian/conservative views.

    On the other hand, there is my oldest son and his wife…sigh. He’s a very successful and recognized photographer who’s work is being purchased by public museums and whose work is exhibited in galleries all over the world. His wife does very artistic printing and her father was a tenured professor of music.

    They are part of what I call the “Keep Austin weird, arty, neo-hippie subculture” in Austin. Even though my son shares a lot of the same DNA with me and was raised by me, there is no way he could be a conservative. He and his wife are the token liberals at our Thanksgiving dinner table. He and his friends laugh at Fox News, thinking it’s a joke.

  30. Teri Pittman Says:

    Do you remember that one Northern Exposure show where she met the woman fighter pilot? And her character made some remark about the pilot being her “sister” as in feminist solidarity? It was a great show. The pilot informs her that she is not her sister and basically makes it known that just because they are women doesn’t mean that they think the same way. I’d stopped being a feminist by that time and was struck by how different it was from what you normally heard on TV.

  31. neo-neocon Says:

    Teri Pittman: my favorite Janine Turner episode was the one where she goes off on her birthday to camp out alone, becomes ill and delirious, and imagines a picnic table where all her old boyfriends get together and talk about her foibles. It was so funny!

    And of course, any scenes between her and Rob Morrow.

    And here’s the clip:

  32. gcotharn Says:

    The you tube clip is completely entertaining. In the beginning, she is singing an American folk song, “In the Pines”, which has been recorded by many artists, maybe most famously by Leadbelly, whose version was covered in 1983 by Kurt Cobain. Many American artists have performed their own version: Monroe, Baez, Dylan, Grateful Dead, Parton, and more. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_the_Pines

    The song is perfect for Maggie and her past and her predicament. The complete first verse of the Leadbelly version sets up Maggie’s scene better than the fragment she sang:

    “Black girl, black girl, don’t lie to me
    Where did you stay last night?
    I stayed in the pines where the sun never shines
    And shivered when the cold wind blows”

    Note, Maggie did specifically sing about pines, which, in context, can represent “sexuality, death, or loneliness”. Given that Maggie’s boyfriends all died (sometimes in unforseen ways), it is funny that the folk song usually contains a reference to a person being beheaded (usu by a train).

    Wikipedia, summarizing Eric Weisbard in NYT in 1994:

    As well as rearrangement of the three frequent elements, the person who goes into the pines, or who is decapitated, is described as a man, woman, adolescent, husband, wife, or parent, while the pines can be seen as representing sexuality, death, or loneliness. The train is described as killing a loved one, as taking one’s beloved away, or as leaving an itinerant worker far from home.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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