I was at a holiday party recently. A small one that was really a dinner party, with all the guests (about twelve) gathered around a dining room table.
It was a pleasant and convivial evening. Would have been, anyway, had I been one of the crowd, one of the gang. And if it had been twenty years ago it probably would have been that way for me.
Maybe. I’m not sure I was ever one of the gang.
But what happened the other night was that every now and then, like a reflexive and habitual tic, someone either made a remark bashing Trump and/or Trump voters, or one bashing the US.
These were just throwaway remarks. We weren’t having any serious political discussions. We were talking about travels, or the aging process, or telling jokes and stories, or praising the food. But somehow it seemed obligatory to most of the people there (not all, by the way) to throw in the odd anti-Trump or anti-US remark now and then just to let everyone know what side we’re all on.
At least, what side they thought we all were on.
Nor were these people particularly political. They were definitely all highly educated and accomplished in their fields. The hostess is a good friend of mine, and I knew three other people there mildly, but the rest I was either meeting for the first time or speaking to for the first time.
Although I was enjoying other aspects of the party and didn’t want to leave, I became more and more uncomfortable and very weary. The exhaustion came from three things: the feeling of estrangement I felt, the realization of the overwhelming difficulty of ever trying to challenge their worldview and get them to actually listen to what I might have to say rather than merely reject what I had to say, and the awareness that it would be impolite of me to even try in that particular venue. These were mostly strangers to me (and I doubt I’ll ever see most of them again), I was a guest in my friend’s home, and it was a holiday party and I would be disrupting it.
I’ve been in that position before, and I’ve learned to choose my battles. This wasn’t the time or place. Once during the evening, though, I got up from the table and went into the bathroom to cool down for a few minutes when one woman had made a remark about how helpful Russia had been to Cuba and how mean we had been, and I found myself starting to make remarks like, “Oh, they were helpful, all right” with rising ire.
Later, I realized what I should have done instead. I should have asked how they knew there were no Trump voters in the room. And I should have described to them how, in similar groups, people have sometimes come to me afterwards to reveal they are in the closet about being on the right or being Republicans, because they are afraid to speak politics in groups where they are being repeatedly trashed.
I doubt it would have done much good, but it would have been a way to bring up the issue without causing a fight. Maybe.
Afterwards, I described the party goings-on to a friend of mine on the right, and he said, “Ignore it, they lost; they’re irrelevant.” But losses can be very temporary, and these people are still so numerous and vocal everywhere that I don’t find them the least bit irrelevant. I think it’s an error to think they’ve lost, either, because their ideas are still being very much perpetuated.
Remember that Gramscian march? Don’t think for a moment that it’s lost its force. In fact, it’s gained new impetus. Many of the more politically active people I know on the left are flush with the vigor of protest, feeling themselves to be standing up to extremely evil and almost-Hitlerian powers. They may be depressed, but they are energized as well.