Loyalists & Liberty
Last updated 3/1/2022 at Noon
Political tribalism crops up everywhere these days. Last month, I traveled to Savannah, Georgia, for a newspaper conference. With a free Saturday in hand, I figured to indulge my historical proclivities and headed down to the Savannah History Museum in the beautiful city’s lovingly cared-for historic district.
The fellow at the front desk — a gentleman of retirement age and appropriately gregarious demeanor — asked me where I hailed from. I told him I had traveled from Sisters, Oregon, on the east slope of the Cascades. Then he said something strange:
“I consider myself a liberal kind of guy — the kind you probably hate.”
I told him that he was making a mighty big assumption and asked what made him think such a thing. He replied that, “All you people east of the Cascades want to join Idaho.” He didn’t mention it, but I suspect he had also profiled me on the basis of my hat, which some folks can’t seem to help seeing as an ideological emblem.
This was all a preamble to a friendly sermon on the importance of neighborliness regardless of ideologies and politics — a point of view I heartily endorse. But that’s a really strange lead-in which read to me like: “Let’s be neighborly, even though you probably hate me for my politics, which you wouldn’t have known a damn thing about if I hadn’t told you. I know you probably hate me because, well, just look at you, and everybody knows what those people that live on the east side of the mountains are like… Enjoy the museum.”
But this, apparently, is how we roll in the USA these days. A friend of mine was welcomed to a new neighborhood with a query as to what he thinks of Donald Trump. I thought the standard was, “Welcome to the neighborhood; here’s a rhubarb pie,” or something like that. I guess it’s more important to know right away what little ideological box we should stuff people into — in a neighborly way, of course.
This wacky sort of discourse is annoying. I have political views and policy preferences, of course, like any citizen should. Like many people, my views are actually pretty heterodox, and don’t fit neatly into prefabbed ideological boxes. Being profiled and stereotyped by somebody who just clapped eyes on you two seconds ago is obnoxious.
But what’s really irritating is that people feel compelled to shove their politics in your face at the drop of a hat, under any social circumstances whatever. I may have my opinions, but I don’t look at the whole wide world through a political lens, and a person’s political and ideological leanings are way down the list of things I might find interesting about them. I sure wasn’t interested in a political discussion with the greeter at the museum and visitors center in Savannah, Georgia.
I agreed with the fellow that neighborliness is a good thing, and he pointed me to the museum entrance.
I spent a couple of enlightening hours there, and enjoyed a tour with a reenactor of the Spring Hill Redoubt American Revolutionary War battle site. The program was called “Loyalists & Liberty,” and it was all about men trading musket fire and sticking each other with bayonets over their political differences.