I find it pretty difficult to be a “progressive” thinker and avoid letting criticism leak into my consciousness. The nature of the work I’m doing with Summer of Solutions-Twin Cities causes me to encounter comments along the lines of “these kids don’t know what they’re doing” or “what the heck is environmental justice?” pretty frequently. [Don’t read the comment thread in the Star Tribune article that our dear Martha wrote unless you want to have your faith in the Minnesotan people trampled on a little bit]
I tend to label, for better or for worse, this kind of response as “conservative” (though not Republican). When I think of these views, phrases like, “if you’re not conservative by 40 you have no brain,” and “guns don’t kill people,” and “the politics of fear,” pop into my head. The term “haters” usually comes to mind, closely followed by the uplifting message in Kanye West’s Stronger.
I find it hard not to get bogged down by the Haters. I find myself slipping into an oppositional mindset of “Us vs Them,” labeling people I meet “us” or “them”.
I realize that this mindset is pretty unconstructive. Especially in doing research about rural energy infrastructure and trying to engage rural communities as well as urban populations, I’ve learned that there are no friends or enemies, there are only opportunities for collaboration. Nevertheless, I have attempted to further my understanding of the conservative point of view (and thus advance my quest to become a Rural Minnesotan) by picking up the following read at the local library’s used book shelf:
A short book that follows the originally liberal Seattlean author on a one-month journey to discover if, by immersing himself in his perception of conservative culture (that includes a wardrobe change, country music soundtrack, and interviews with conservative pundits), he can convert to the right.
While the book is mainly targeted towards the sarcastic, Northwestern US reader (who I identify heavily with), it is a wonderfully humorous example of the art of “listening to understand, not to respond.” Highly recommended to fans of caustic wit and others who have wondered “WHY?” in the face of conservative media.
It’s been a good reflection tool for me this summer, especially when pondering how to include everyone in the green economy.
This post cross-posted from Solutions, shamushions by Natalie Camplair