An Exercise in Restraint….

The other night, at a dinner party, I practiced biting my tongue. Hard.

One of the couples present was visiting from Texas, and they looked—and drawled—the  part. Forgive me the stereotype, but if you’ve ever wondered who in the world votes for people like Rick Perry or Louis Gohmert, I think I know…

Parties aren’t the place for unpleasant behaviors, so I actually participated in two conversations: one verbalized, one in my head.

After some general chatter from those present about the unusually brutal winter, the wife smirked, “I guess that shows those liberals who are always talking about global warming!”

I was quiet.

I didn’t say, you twit. It’s climate change, and the escalation of unusual weather patterns is precisely what “those liberals” have been warning about.

A few minutes later, someone mentioned news coverage, and the wife once again spoke up. “I never watch NBC or CBS or—of course—MSNBC. I watch Fox, because Fox gives both sides.”

I choked. “Really?” I said mildly, wondering what my blood pressure might be.

I didn’t say, I guess you aren’t aware of all those studies showing that Fox audiences know less than people who don’t watch any news at all. (My husband, sitting across the table, later shared that he’d barely suppressed the impulse to tell her he prefers Al Jazeera. I would have given a lot to see her reaction….)

I remained pleasantly noncommittal when she speculated that Pakistani Muslims had probably hijacked the missing plane.

At that point, everyone at the table became aware of the husband, who had stopped explaining to a couple from London why “the King’s English” isn’t really proper English, in order to pontificate about America’s descent into socialism. After sneering about “those people” who were “going through” the assets of the entrepreneurs and “makers” who had earned them, he let out a knowing sigh. “They’ll never learn.”

I asked him—sweetly—what he’d done prior to his retirement. He’d worked for government.

You know—the institution that pays its employees with tax money that has been extorted from the makers.

I murmured something about a migraine…so sorry…and left.

My jaw should unclench in a day or so.



  1. I hear you. I am going to a family wedding in Texas next weekend, and I expect to either sprain a jaw muscle keeping my mouth shut, or I will engage in a very nice verbal altercation. But I have a liberal cousin who formerly lived in Austin, so perhaps he will have my back.

  2. And, once again, we confirm how much more restraint you have than I do. I would’ve let 2, possibly 3, comments go… But if they were not trying to follow the same rules of respect and restraint that others were following (ie, simply making room for the possibility that others might have different views), I’d have likely given in to my innate sarcasm — not always the best choice, I know. I wish Bob had said the Al Jezeera comment, just so you could report how far their jaws dropped.

  3. Why remain silent? Isn’t it better to engage in a way that educates (or at least plants seeds) while allowing the other to save face? Although I would likely remain silent, too (or lose control and say something crude) then think up all the best retorts as I fall asleep. I aspire, though.

  4. I understand propriety … but so long as we allow these viewpoints to remain unchallenged they will spread like wildfire and their proponents, hearing no challenges, will presume both that they are right and that everyone agrees with them. It may make me an asshole, but I’ve given up on propriety for the sake of society.

  5. I would like to gently (using restraint) remind everyone that not ALL Texans meet this stereotype. There is a large number of us who have NEVER voted for Perry, Cruz, etc. But I do have conversations like the one you had at the dinner party too…

  6. Ah, the stereotypes of people with Southern accents. I’ve met lots of Hoosiers with Midwestern accents who hold precisely the same beliefs as those held by the Texans you met.

    When I moved to Indiana from Tennessee more years ago than I care to admit, I found myself suppressing my accent because some people who heard it assumed that I fit another stereotype — that I must not be very bright. After I realized what I was doing and why I was doing it, I occasionally exaggerated my accent, sometimes to mock those people (although very few of them recognized the mockery for what it was) and sometimes to mislead them into underestimating me. Today I sound almost like any other Midwesterner.

  7. I am obviously much less refined than you are. We have a standard ban on political and religious discussions at family reunions as a cousin of mine and I almost degenerated into fisticuffs at a reunion. I am kind enough not to start the discussion, but once it is started, I make sure it gets finished.

  8. Michael, I’m with you. Parties may not be the place for “unpleasant behaviors,” but they are a great place to deliver a little civic education in a friendly tone. If not there, then where is it OK to try to correct ignorance? Only in the classroom?

  9. Greg,

    Make sure you pick up a Wendy Davis for Governor button and wear it to the wedding.

  10. Wrong dinner party, Sheila! It sounds as though you were a model of good behavior though you were about to explode. As for the woman from Texas, stupid doesn’t know where state lines are. Stupid can be anywhere, and it is. Besides, wherever she is…it’s really dark there.

    ‘Global’ for her is likely what the weather is doing from the garage where she parks her BMW all the way down to the nail salon. Not a clue does she have about what’s going on with the weather or on any other channel but Fox…and there’s NOTHING going on at Fox.

    We’re all getting ready to run into that stuff at parties, at the office water cooler, on the phone, and especially in our e-mail inboxes. Just get ready for what’s coming with the 2016 election. Whoo, boy! We ain’t seen nothin’ yet!

  11. Even though these conversations irritate me and cause me to question one’s intelligence, I have always been one to keep my opinions to myself when someone (specifically family members) begin to pontificate about the “truths” presented by FOX news and the tea party. I too bite my tongue and listen in awe as “facts” that are actually untruths are spewed with an air of certainty and sometimes, superiority. Recently, however, a dear friend asked if perhaps I didn’t have a responsibility to speak up and share my beliefs and convictions when in these social situations. She noted that perhaps someone on the fringes of the conversation may hear my opinion as well as those of the FOX supporters and be open minded enough to weigh the merits of both arguments and possibly by educated or at least challenged to investigate further . My new goal is do just this, with the hope that I can do so in a friendly, educational way ….and still remain on speaking terms with family members and friends!

  12. See that’s what I hate about Fox Spews. It’s those ‘liberals making up stuff ‘ that these people spew out of their mouths that sends me into hysterics. I’ll never forget my sister doing the same thing and ruining multiple family gatherings with her (always) drunken b.s. about “liberal this and liberal that” when Mother finally said – No politics. None. Just don’t even go there! Thankfully, my nieces and nephews (her children) are all married now and have their own political views that don’t match hers.
    I’ve had to stop watching MSNBC because there it is ‘the GOP do this’ and I’m sick of the divide and conquer method of presenting their headlines. Thankfully, they present facts but their habit of framing the facts like the GOP are always wrong was just too much for me and I had to shut it off.

  13. You and Bob must have both been suffering monumental cases of acid reflux by the time you left that dinner party. Hope the food was good!

  14. I avoid watching CNN, FOX and MSNBC. I also favor Al Jezeera as TV Source of news. A friend of mine in my Activist Days once said you wasting your time trying to convince those who believe in Rush, or Fox News they are wrong. They believe the distortions with the fervor of those who believe Noah packed all the animals of the earth in a Ark. They want simple solutions to complex problems. Just bring back School Prayer, Corporal Punishment in Schools and the Good Old Days will return.

    I suppose I would not have been silent and would have verbalized my disagreement.

  15. “So, Molly, I’ve been reading a new book about democracy and pervasive political ignorance, and the author says that citizens most interested in political matters tend to seek out information sources that confirm their beliefs rather than looking for information which may be more objective, yet may tell them that they are wrong, and that makes them vulnerable to being manipulated. Do you think that is true, Molly?”…”Oh, yes, political ignorance is pervasive. You know that thing by Marx about property going from people to people? 38 percent think that is in the Constitution. And states refusing to obey Federal laws? That is against the Constitution. My. My. Ignorance sure is pervasive.”

  16. I’m kind of terrible about the global warming thing. I like to sarcastically joke about global warming when it’s cold outside–though, I believe that it is a symptom of climate change and recognize a difference exists between weather and climate. Sometimes I wonder if people choke back retorts to my jokes, or think “That must be one of those conservative wacko-birds.”

    I can sympathize with the blood pressure rising. Some family, and a lot of my military-family, are extremely conservative. Sometimes, I just bite my tongue to avoid an argument.

    Conservative talk radio is my guilty pleasure when I drive home to St Louis from Indy. There is nothing else on the radio (almost literally) in Central Illinois, so if/when I start to get drowsy I turn on Fox Radio. It makes me so angry I yell at the radio and that keeps me from falling asleep and crossing the center line.

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