OB Convert: Confronting the Political Divide Across the Fence

by on April 27, 2011 · 11 comments

in Ask an OB Convert, Ocean Beach, Popular

Dear OB Convert,

I recently moved next to a pair of conservatives. While I wasn’t expecting everyone in OB to be fun-loving hippies, I certainly wasn’t expecting such a great political divide to form so close to home. Should I have that conversation, or should I look the other way?

Dear Politically Divided,

Oh, I so feel your pain!  It is very dismaying to learn that even OB is riddled with more conservatives than we’d wish for.  Unfortunately, instead of being frightened away by our eccentric little town, conservatives seem to want to sterilize it and make it into La-OB-Jolla.

In my mind, conservative attitudes are against anything challenging, mind-opening, imperfect, and different.  Conservatives try to sanitize, compartmentalize, imprison, and outlaw anything they are frightened of.  It was the conservatives who put a stop to drinking on the beach.  When they did that, they took away a unique part of OB and made it like any other beach in America.  It was a sad day.

I don’t think you should look the other way but I don’t think you should confront them either.  There are different ways to fight conservative thinking and choosing the way depends on who you are fighting and what you are fighting.  Since you didn’t give me a specific example of something your neighbors are doing, it’s never a bad idea to start by asking what would Gandhi, Mandela or the Buddha do?

I believe in putting myself out there, allowing people to not like me, standing up for what I believe in but I’m at my best when I state my beliefs and my boundaries  without attacking other’s beliefs or boundaries.

Here is what I did the other day when  I was talking to a seemingly great couple at The Harp.  Fun, happy, open people who’ve lived here for 6 years.  I liked them a lot until they spotted a person walking by who appeared may be houseless, their faces closed up and tightened.  They casually expressed their beliefs that the homeless here in OB were just lazy and irresponsible.  They told me they believed that helping them just enables them to not take responsibility for themselves.  I listened, feeling sad but didn’t argue.  Years of being a liberal in a conservative family has made me feel that arguing does little good.  I waited for an opportunity to say a version of the following:  “All I know is that, given my own emotional and physical problems, if it wasn’t for a series of many lucky circumstances and a family that supports me, I believe I would be out there on some street somewhere – or worse – hoping someone didn’t simply judge me as just lazy and irresponsible.  This didn’t change their mind but it kept communication open with them and someday, perhaps I will have an influence on them.

Mind you, my reaction would have been different (more quick and direct) if they had said something I considered racist.  I’m not saying this is right, just that I have a clear boundary about racist comments and not about other things I also find offensive.

So, no, I wouldn’t advise any conversation with your neighbors that is directly confrontational or that places you on one side and them on the other on anything as generic as “conservativeness.”  This will just create a bigger divide.

Instead, I suggest trying to listen to what they are saying.  Making an effort to understand their fears and angers will help win their good-will and will give you powerful information. For example, knowing what scares them personally might give you insight on what you might do to lessen their fear.  With the couple I met at the Harp, because I didn’t alienate them, someday I may get them to join me for an event that works with the homeless or tell them stories of real homeless people.

If you find your neighbors doing something you find particularly hurtful, then it’s  time to “have the conversation.”

But, I’m just an OB convert and feel free to, as a friend of mine says, “take my advice, I’m not using it!”   I invite others to chime in and give their opinions to “Politically Divided”

{ 11 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar jettyboy April 27, 2011 at 9:56 am

This just in; Donald Trump refuses to show birth certificate, Americans split on whether Trump was really born in USA!

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avatar editordude April 27, 2011 at 10:05 am

Jettyboy, thanks for the heads-up. We just posted it. Good work in figuring out how to use the internet while only on your 2nd cup of joe.

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avatar Frank Gormlie April 27, 2011 at 10:04 am

OB Convert, great graphic! Where did you get it?

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avatar Shane Finneran April 27, 2011 at 10:06 am

I think this is good advice, indeed. It’s almost always worth it to let people know when you think they’re disrespecting others. And doing so in a friendly way that doesn’t demand instant agreement makes it more fun for everybody. Kudos, Convert!

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avatar Seth April 27, 2011 at 10:30 am

I’d be wary of putting anyone, and especially an Obecian, into a neat little category. Not directed at you personally, Convert, but typically, I find that people who try to frame things in terms of simple dichotomies are being lazy intellectually. No one is going to agree on everything, even within the same political mindset, but 90% of us probably agree on 90% of everything regardless of who we choose in the voting booth. We all want clean beaches, no traffic and a good place to grab a bite of food. My own experience in OB is that there is a ton of overlap in thinking among people of all walks of life. We probably gravitate to that 10% of disagreement more often than we need to given how much we all have in common. Something else I have noticed about OB is that it is often where the far right and far left meet. You have people who vote for Ron Paul that support historical preservation in our neighborhood, and Kucinich voters who regularly take stands against government intervention of any kind.

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avatar dave rice April 27, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Well said – I like both the original response and Seth’s reply. I’ve had a tricky time navigating a political tightrope in life, seeing myself as a liberal-leaning moderate and being an unabashed sports fan and off-roading enthusiast raised in ultraconservative East County. I’ve learned over the years that there’s a lot more to be gained by taking the middle ground, choosing your battles, and trying your best to resist the urge to demonize your enemies – kind of a ‘you catch more flies with honey’ kind of thing…

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avatar The Mustachioed OBecian April 27, 2011 at 10:47 am

Yes, as one of the awful conservatives, the horror of it all, living and owning in OB, might I bring up a small point? Isn’t it ironic that the premise is based upon the dismay of conservatives living in OB, yet the author in nearly the very next sentence says, “In my mind, conservative attitudes are against anything challenging, mind-opening, imperfect, and different.” Maybe there’s more to viewing everyone and thing through a political spectrum. I know, I know. It might lead some to have to alter their pre-conceived ideas that conservatives are a strange, weird breed of people.

As an aside, the mention of racism is a total non-sequitur and pretty much nonsense on stilts.

And no, I don’t want OB to change into La Jolla, or anywhere else for that matter. It is the greatest town on earth in my humble opinion, NYC excepted. Nor am I any more fearful or angry than the next person than the author or the individual asking the question who, by the very nature of their question and answer, are fearful of the big bad conservative.

Go figure.

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avatar Shane Finneran April 27, 2011 at 11:16 am

There’s a lot of interesting research that suggests the brains of conservatives and liberals work in different ways. For example, some have pointed out that liberal moral reasoning tends to be based on concepts like harm and fairness, while conservative reasoning tends to draw on concepts like authority, in-group, and purity.

One interesting study showed the real-world implications of these differences using two interesting survey questions. One was about public restrooms, which conservatives tend to be much less comfortable using.

The other question asked about a hypothetical family gathering where you are asked to take part in a humorous skit with your father … the script calls for you to pretend to punch your father … given that your father has agreed to participate in the skit, would you participate? Liberals generally say yes, while conservatives generally say no.

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avatar Allen Lewis April 27, 2011 at 11:28 am

Growing up in OB in the 50’s and 60’s there has always been a strong conservative side, so for those of you that think when you transplanted to OB everybody would be thinking like you…you were dreaming. Take a close look and you will see that there is some La Jolla in OB, and always has been, it’s called Point Loma. You can’t have a right with out a left, I think finding the middle is what we should hope for.

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avatar Rick Ward aka mr.rick April 27, 2011 at 1:59 pm

You know, Allen, I was in OB back then and there were alot more Navy and USMC people living of the NCO level and it seems to me to stay in the service that long,you would have to be pretty conservative. But alot of the surfer and bikers I know from the beach are pretty right also. Surfers are generally green but after that it’s a toss up which way lean. Then there are some of us that are pretty much liberal or conservative issue by issue.

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avatar Terrie Leigh Relf May 11, 2011 at 12:28 am

OB Convert! You would get a good grade in my class with that approach!

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