How do I reconcile this?
May 28, 2020 9:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I reconcile my beliefs with my actual experiences ?

I am a minority, a woman, a poc and left of most people I know. For a very long time, I really believed that liberals and progressives were the good guys. But in my lifetime, I have experienced bullying, lying, gaslighting , surveillance, disrespect and manipulation from progressives, liberals, immigrants and minorities.
No Republican has ever harmed me.
The worst company I have ever worked for with the most gaslighting, bullying and surveillance was in a progressive Liberal company run by two lesbians and had an employee makeup almost exclusively of poc and liberals. I have had a similar experience in a company of mostly liberals and immigrants and minorities. But the best treatment I’ve ever had at a company, the people that were the most respectful - I was the only democrat ; everyone else in the company was a Republican.

So I need help in reconciling my beliefs with my actual experiences. Because I walk around in a rage all the time because in my experience, my team are not the good guys.
posted by gt2 to Human Relations (46 answers total) 25 users marked this as a favorite
You are allowed to hate multiple people! It's one of the things that makes humanity great.
You have permission not to trust anyone or any group.

My personal many years experience of...let's say a largely homogeneous group of conservative that they've just been socialized not to be shitty to your face.
posted by phunniemee at 9:47 AM on May 28 [74 favorites]

I challenge your statement that "No Republican has ever harmed me" as it is utter rubbish. The right in general, and US Republicans in specific, are the architects of one of the meanest and most cruelly extractive "human capital" systems the modern world knows. Maybe no individual Republican has shined you on personally but that's just luck. The same kind of luck, now bad, that sees you fighting with your comrades.

People get hard to deal with when resources are constrained, in challenging environments. And if it's a bunch of lefties banding together to beat back the oppression, it's going to get fraught even though you're all on the same side, because the man is breathing down everyone's neck.

Remember to absent your own personal experiences from the truth that our society is truly stacked against us and if you're getting shit from people who should be your trenchmates, all I can suggest is push back with kindness, understand the pressure, and if you can't cope, find another scene.
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:52 AM on May 28 [49 favorites]

At the risk of being facile, people are people. Progressive values may be better, but that doesn't make the people better or more pure. One really important thing for me has been to get rid of the idea of "good guys" and "bad guys" altogether, especially when it comes to entire groups. It's become more important to think about who I feel safe and/or myself with, who are my people, etc. How does this particular person or community make me feel? Does this person's actions line up with my values (and action can mean the things they choose to say, as well, ie racist speech)? Do they line up with their own?

Another thing that's been helpful is to remember that someone can be on my team in the theoretical sense but not be my friend. I can stand in solidarity with that person but that doesn't mean I need to be their friend.

Depending on the kind of abuse you've experienced, this essay may ring true for you.
posted by lunasol at 9:59 AM on May 28 [43 favorites]

Although my experience overall does not match yours, I have also grappled with this in regards to specific people. One of the things that I have realised is that for most people, their political beliefs are only somewhat correlated to their everyday behavior and attitudes. Someone can support a party with hateful damaging policies AND be a kind and supportive friend, family, and community member. Some people don't even question their political affiliation- it's just what they grew up with. Others are one-issue voters who cannot see past their one beloved issue, in my experience usually abortion, and basically accept the rest of the bullshit as collateral damage even though they do not espouse other traditional Republican values.

Similarly, supporting leftist policies/parties at a macro level does not necessarily mean you are a good person in your everyday interactions with others. Again, plenty of people are socialized into their political beliefs without thinking very much about them, or vote based on one particular issue. While some people's beliefs and behaviors are more or less in line, often they are not. And just because someone espouses leftist values or is a member of a minority group, it doesn't make them immune from being an asshole.

To deal with this, I have tried to start seeing people with more nuance. This means working to accept that people's political beliefs and ways of being in the world are not always congruent. Someone can do damage in the world by supporting the Republicans AND be a truly good person to those around them in their local world. I find this hard to put into practice sometimes, because my immediate assumption is that anyone who supports Trump must be a horrible person... but have been working on adopting a view of individuals that is more grey than black and white.
posted by DTMFA at 10:06 AM on May 28 [29 favorites]

Just because a person has "good" politics doesn't mean they'll actually practice them or be a good person. And businesses with toxic people at the top tend to cultivate a toxic culture throughout.

And just because a person has shitty politics doesn't mean they'll be shitty to you as an individual -- even if they will absolutely go step into a voting booth and vote to take away your rights to marry, vote against the social safety net because they think it benefits "them," and so forth.

One famous example being Brendan Eich of Mozilla donating money to oppose gay marriage. There are plenty of people who said he was a decent person to work with and they didn't experience his bias day-to-day. But I'd have trouble saying that he didn't "hurt" anybody at Mozilla when he apparently was happy to try to fund efforts to deny some of their legal rights.

I've worked with people who are absolutely lovely to work with, and they don't have a bad word to say about anybody due to their skin color, sexual orientation, gender identity, etc. But their views on broader political issues are downright horrifying and they will quietly admit to voting for Trump if pressed.

People often dissociate their collective actions and support from their personal actions. Most people who vote for Trump wouldn't personally abuse immigrants the way ICE does. But they won't stop supporting Trump even when made aware of those abuses.

Maybe part of reconciling your beliefs to experiences is to consider whether you believe in a team or the ideas. I believe in the ideas / ideals and I'd have a hard time accepting someone as a personal friend who is against gay marriage or who supported HB-2 in North Carolina (the anti-trans bathroom law). But just because somebody agrees with me on those two things wouldn't mean they're necessarily a good person.
posted by jzb at 10:09 AM on May 28 [13 favorites]

How many hard right republicans do you really spend much time with?

I mean I’ve never got malaria but that’s because I’ve never spent time in a place where I could.
posted by SaltySalticid at 10:10 AM on May 28 [19 favorites]

I absolutely understand your perspective. I helped to unionize a progressive nonprofit and that was quite an education. I’m really glad that no individual Republicans have been assholes to you in person. A conservative cousin I have was warm and loving and supportive toward me and my dad as he was dying. She also posts nightmarish bullshit on Facebook, does not understand why mentally ill people cannot just try harder, and votes for racist Republicans who support racist policies, voter-suppression, and forced births.

Some of the biggest assholes I have met in person profess to be progressives. They tend to be arrogant white men but occasionally they are female and occasionally they are not white. This is absolutely a problem.

But if you think that the Democratic Party is as bad as or worse than the Republican Party, I invite you to watch this video made by a state representative in the house of representatives for the state of Pennsylvania. It runs about 12 minutes and is worth watching every minute.

I am sorry that you have had shitty treatment at the hands of self-professed progressives and others who are supposed to be on Team Justice for All. I honestly don’t know what to do about that apart to encourage you not to give up and to find a group more true to its ideals. And then please come post about it here, no kidding. Good luck!
posted by Bella Donna at 10:10 AM on May 28 [13 favorites]

Assholes are not restricted to one side of the political spectrum. In many cases, political beliefs are completely separate from interpersonal skills.
posted by gnutron at 10:11 AM on May 28 [7 favorites]

You're experiencing a logical fallacy. People's behaviors don't always align with their beliefs. We human beings get caught up in logical fallacies all the time, it's part of our nature. Don't feel too bad about that.

I do think your example is important because it's rooted in capitalism (e.g. your workplace), which is a system that is built on the oppression of women and people of color - the system itself, not necessarily the individuals who are participants in that system.
posted by juniperesque at 10:13 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]

As most people, I tend to view things on a spectrum.. where that middle of the spectrum falls for people is the question.

I find people, regardless of their politics, can either be strict and authoritative or thoughtful.

But even though I may find *myself* thoughtful, I still hold some authoritative views, like "Nazis are bad, anything with Nazis is bad." And I'm uncompromising about that.

Others are not compromising in much stricter ways. Both liberal and conservative.

For example, while detestful, I find it hypocritical of liberals that look to censor speech they do not like. Now, there is argument about hate speech, inciting to violence and all that. And social media platforms has made distribution of such much easier. However, the balance is hate speech is deplorable and horrible, but censorship doesn't make it go away.

Inciting to violence and screaming fire in a theater obviously crosses a line. But, then, what if the inciting to violence is a valid revolutionary call to arms? It's all relative to where you stand.

I find those most on the edge about ensuring everyone (that they have determined are OK) is accepted and 'free' is that they tend to be most militant about forcing me to do what they want, and not respecting who I am.

I find the general stereotyping to be the first problematic thing. Just the two first responses have already gone on to talking about how all Republicans are the man, and you're just collateral damage from the good fighters trying to keep you from being oppressed.

Some people see this as a war. I don't have absolutes. I have friends who I can't understand why they have certain beliefs or support a particular political candidate, but we're still friends. And there are people who, in essence, I support everything they do, but I find the way they go about it completely immoral and wrong.

Lunasol has excellent points (I'm thankful I'm such a slow thinker for all the posts coming before mine now) as do those that followed..

Politics don't follow morality, on either side of the fence. *How* is typically more important than "why" or "what for" in my mind. I find it intolerant saying I'm intolerant or a bad person because I made a mistake on someone's chosen gender, when I do not know them, know nothing about them, have never been introduced, and have no information about them. Once I know their preference, I have no problem using that.

People can twist their behavior as being 'necessary' to support 'the greater good.' This occurs on all sides. You may have just gotten lucky with the one company - or it was just more bureaucratically structured to have an HR policy to ensure they didn't get sued.

Once people start getting their backs up, they become more immobile in thought. That's happening more on the right currently, but everyone could do with a little "live and let be."

The 'right' tends to 'insult' the left's sensibilities. But, to be fair, the 'left' tends to get easily offended over the slightest 'offense' and has no nuance to that offense.

In the end - if you're good with your views and beliefs, don't let yahoos corner you into boxes of labels and affiliations.
posted by rich at 10:20 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]

Besides all the above, two thoughts:
- small data samples often don't match more general observations
- I'm a woman and have worked, in at least two cases, with men who were known for being incredible and often toxic jerks to the people around them - who were almost all men. The guys in question seemed to go out of their way to be nice to me and to the (few) other women in these settings. Sometimes people actually find it easier to be terrible to people who are like them and will be uncharacteristically gentle toward people who are not. Maybe it's because the different people are few in number and therefore non-threatening to them; maybe it's because they want to see themselves as chivalrous or as non-sexist, non-racist, etc.; maybe they're afraid of "getting in trouble" for picking on someone from a protected class - who knows.
posted by trig at 10:22 AM on May 28 [7 favorites]

What about expanding your beliefs to actually encompass your lived experience?

In your experience, people who espouse liberal political beliefs turn out not to necessarily be good people. That means that performative espousement of those beliefs cannot be taken as evidence that a person is good.

In your experience, people who espouse Republican political beliefs have not harmed you and you have seen no evidence that they are bad people. That means that holding those beliefs cannot be taken as evidence that a person is evil.

I am boggled by the idea that one should disbelieve the evidence of one's own eyes in service to an absolutist belief system that contradicts it. Who knows better about your own life than you?
posted by fingersandtoes at 10:31 AM on May 28 [16 favorites]

There’s a depressing finding that people tend to cut themselves some slack morally when they believe they’ve `already paid up', so to speak, and that most of us are really good at over-estimating how much good we’ve done. The experimental evidence is, I forget, choosing the bird-safe coffee correlating with littering more or something. But I suspect it applies more broadly and supports the famously awful behavior of nonprofit management.

Conservatives stereotypically play this out sexually (eg higher divorce rates) so I should hope it didn’t come up much at work.
posted by clew at 10:34 AM on May 28 [3 favorites]

I completely agree with the simple and true "People's behaviors don't always align with their beliefs." But I think there are two other possibilities.

First, people can not understand the effects of abstract policies. Tip O'Neill told this story about Ronald Reagan:

Back in 1981, I told him a disturbing story I had recently heard about a girl who had just graduated from high school with top honors. Both of her parents had died, and she was receiving a small Social Security check. But the Reagan budget had wiped out her college benefits, and she was stuck.

''That`s terrible,` said the President. He called in Ed Meese and asked me to repeat the story. ''Ed,'' he said, ''let`s see if we can take care of this girl.''

''Mr. President,'' I said, ''I`m not here to talk about one girl. I`m using her as an example. There are thousands of people in that situation.''

Second, people can see collective action as substituting for individual action. Republicans, for example, give more to charity than Democrats (though obviously different charities, overall). Libertarians often say that they believe in voluntary charity, but not "forced charity." Some actually act that way. Conversely, some liberals may justify being assholes because they voted to be nice.

Whatever the reason, the conclusion remains: Make no assumptions.
posted by Mr.Know-it-some at 10:59 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]

My experience (as a woman and not poc) occupying activist spaces was not dissimilar to yours. What draws people towards activism is often having strong feelings about the injustice they see around them, and also the feeling that their feelings (that this is injustice and needs reconciling) are RIGHT. Which is good, or can be good, for working on those issues.

However it can fall apart spectacularly when dealing with intersectional issues (feminism AND anti-racism, domestic violence work AND GTLBTQIA+ issues, Black Lives Matter AND immigrant rights issues, disability rights AND the digital divide). Not to say that many groups don't do this kind of stuff well, but sometimes the factionalism of activist work can make for worse outcomes, not better ones. And dealing with more conservative or Republican spaces which, I often think of as more "Don't make a thing about things and we won't make a thing out of things" are nice right up until you try to unionize the workplace or push for gender neutral restrooms. Like, one of the values of conservativism I think is "Don't make waves"whereas liberal/progressive values are more "Things need fixing"which can inherently lead to more conflict.

It may be that you are to the "left" (as is commonly seen) of leftists and progressives and are more of a radical. Which is absolutely fine but you may have to work a little harder to find your people and realize that, to the radicals, liberals and neoliberalism are as much of a challenge and obstacle as conservatives, somewhat depending on who is in power where you are.

So I think your beliefs and experiences line up in a way that doesn't seem "wrong" to me, it just may be that you are viewing the "Who is available to choose from?" pool as too limited and by expanding it you might be able to find more people who align with your viewpoints more closely and don't have to feel like you have to "make do" with liberals or progressives.
posted by jessamyn at 11:12 AM on May 28 [17 favorites]

Why should I help people that are harming me?
posted by gt2 at 11:17 AM on May 28 [4 favorites]

As a rule, it is not accurate or good to form strong opinions about enormous groups of people based on your personal experiences with a few people within that group.

If you meet many more people of any particular group, you will eventually correct for sample size and drift closer to the truth, which is that fairly-good people and fairly-bad people both exist in almost any group you can imagine (with certain notable exceptions like hate groups). It's best to judge each person only by your experience with that actual person, and base your voting on the policies you prefer rather than the party you think has nicer people.
posted by randomnity at 11:30 AM on May 28 [6 favorites]

Why should I help people that are harming me?

I think that's a self-acceptance thing. At least it would be for me. Because I know that no matter how hard I work at it, I am always going to live in a world where I am causing harm.
posted by aniola at 11:36 AM on May 28

I really believed that liberals and progressives were the good guys.

You are very free to make friends with anyone you like, and I support any decision you can possibly make that will keep you away from those who are terrible to you and bigoted towards you. Nothing is stopping you from having personal friends who are all Republicans, if you live in a strange and mythic place where they are all nice. That doesn't have anything to do with how you should vote, or what political party you should join, or what beliefs you should hold.

You don't join a party because your nicest friends are in that party, or I hope you don't. You, with the help of your good conscience and right reason, decide what it is you think about policy, and then you choose to align with or vote for a political party that shares the most important of those policy positions. If no political parties like that can be found, you assess individual candidates and causes and throw support behind them, on the basis of what they do (politically, not how nice they seem as delightful(?) Republicans or how prettily they talk as two-faced liberals).

making politics and anti-racism activism about "good guys" is massively misguided, pointless, and ultimately harmful. Organize your belief system first and choose your friendly affiliations second. Don't confuse one for the other, and don't confuse a nice person for a right one.
posted by queenofbithynia at 11:40 AM on May 28 [28 favorites]

Why should I help people that are harming me?

I truly don't know how you make that judgment personally. But in the world we are in, you may find it necessary to choose between people who are harming you (or others) a lot more and people who are harming you less.

A lot of women are not happy about the idea of voting for the current Democratic candidate for president because of his behavior towards the women around him, even if they don't find the actual rape charges made against him credible. However, the vast majority of those women also find the president so unbelievably awful on so many axes that they would hold their noses and vote for almost anyone else.

But, again, where the limits of that argument are, I truly couldn't try to determine for you.
posted by praemunire at 11:41 AM on May 28 [8 favorites]

Why should I help people that are harming me?

Because supporting progressive/liberal positions, causes, policies, and politicians is about helping people that you will never meet.

It's not about a personal transaction. It's about working to create a more equitable society, even for individuals that you personally dislike or have treated you badly.
posted by soundguy99 at 11:44 AM on May 28 [33 favorites]

We should all act to reduce suffering for all sentient beings. Some of them may be hurting you personally intentionally or unintentionally. That doesn't change the path of justice we should walk. You also must apply the intention to yourself: as necessary, reduce your own exposure to harm -- while continuing to reduce the harm you and others do.

Why should you do this? If there was a more definitive answer to that than "Life is pain, princess. Anybody that says different is selling something" I dunno what it is. (Yes, the Dread Pirate Roberts may be a Buddhist at heart.)
posted by seanmpuckett at 11:49 AM on May 28 [2 favorites]

So I'm coming at this a different way, as someone who used to be a Republican. I spent a long time in Republican circles, and met a lot of really nice Republicans. I still have a high opinion of a lot of them. As other commenters have mentioned, Republicans give more to charity, and especially evangelicals do a lot of volunteering. They're serious about that. But...

Your experience is basically the "but I have black friends" argument. The thing to keep in mind is individuals vs. groups. A lot of conservatives will see individuals and be empathetic. That empathy disappears once you lose the specific individual, though. "My black friend" is one thing to them; "black people" are another. The Ronald Reagan story someone posted is quite illuminating.

Another thing to consider is that you've only seen these people around you; you have no idea what they're saying when you're not around. Your Republican colleagues have probably made rude comments about you after you left a room; it's kind of a thing - think of how many Republicans have gotten shit for saying something inappropriate when they thought they were in private.

Finally, since you are a woman and person of color, people who don't want to be seen as racist or sexist are on their best behavior around you. Were you a white man, you might see a different side. Specifically, the things that I mentioned are probably happening when you're not around.

Liberals and Democrats may protest, but I don't think your experience is unusual. Just look at all the left-infighting that happens in political posts here on Metafilter. People on the left (and yes, this is a huge generalization) do seem to have a real thing for being vicious towards other people on the left. I don't know why. It does happen on the right (e.g., the term RINO), but not as... personally as on the left.

But yeah, that ultimately doesn't matter much when you're voting. You vote for who you think is going to bring about the kind of society you want to live in. That's, ultimately, why I "switched" sides. I still believe in the same goals I did when I was a Republican; I just don't think the means they espouse will lead to the ends.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:53 AM on May 28 [26 favorites]

And maybe you're not aware that Klansmen and neo-Nazis always vote Republican? They certainly didn't vote for Obama.
posted by Rash at 12:01 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]

One other thing: Until recently, being a Republican was not a particularly important part of most Republicans' identities. Think about how Bill O'Reilly always refused to describe himself as conservative, insisting he was "independent". Most Republicans aren't even that. Most, especially the small business Republicans, only really care about taxes and stuff like that. They're not Republicans because they're ideologues (indeed, ideology *should* be anathema to conservatives, which is why I don't think the GOP can be considered conservative anymore); they'd be perfectly happy to vote for a Democrat if that Democrat's policies would make it easier for their businesses to make a profit. That's changing with Trump, but I would bet that's the background of the people you've worked with.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:03 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]

You don't have to help people who are harming you. You can stop. You can do what you need to do to take care of yourself.

You're not wrong. The notion that we liberals have the moral high ground in all aspects, that we're as a matter of course more honest and kind and self-aware, is - while rarely spoken out loud - seductive, convenient and popular but simply not the case. Being honest and kind and self-aware takes constant work and has nothing to do with the party on your voter registration card. I know Republicans who would help a stranger in a heartbeat, and I know Democrats I would absolutely never want to be alone with.

I feel like there's a lot of depth behind your question that I'm not able to recognize or adequately respond to, but it sounds like you're in a place of genuine pain. You are not required to remain there for the good of the DNC.
posted by bunderful at 12:04 PM on May 28 [15 favorites]

A lot of conservatives will see individuals and be empathetic. That empathy disappears once you lose the specific individual, though.

Were you a white man, you might see a different side.

Quoted for truth.
posted by soundguy99 at 12:07 PM on May 28 [8 favorites]

I’ve definitely seen politically left people being big jerks. It’s maddening. However, I don’t think I’ve ever cast a vote out of spite and not regretted it later, at least a teensy bit. Your mileage may vary, of course.
posted by eirias at 12:41 PM on May 28

Why should I help people that are harming me?

Something I've seen in most of the right-wing people I know, in different countries, is that they often have personal stories about "those people". Which people those actually are depends on the country we're talking about. But for example I know and am close to American Republicans who know and are close to a few Latinx people - but will readily explain to you that "Mexicans" are all violent and incorrigibly anti-education, anti-self-improvement, anti-contributing to society, etc., using the example of some Latinx people they interacted with a long time ago who scared them or, in one case, actually harmed them. If I say that you can't generalize over a whole population just because of some individuals, they'll agree 100% - "I would never do that!" - and immediately, with no dissonance whatsoever, go back to their main theme, about how Mexican culture is just no good, is ruining the country, etc. Ask them about the Latinx people they know and like and trust, and again they feel no dissonance - those are good, responsible people, but they count for little against the bad ones.

This willingness to decide "I had a bad experience with some people, therefore I'll nurse that grudge for the rest of my life, see every person similar to them through that lens, support politics that actually harm them, adamantly insist all of this is justified, etc." is, I think, one of the worst things there is. It's a need to externalize hurt, an unending need to punish people to avenge yourself. It's natural - I've had bad experiences with specific people and found myself irrationally hating other people who remind me of them. But it's terrible. I think it's something to actively work against and guard against all our lives.

I also think that basing political or moral beliefs on who the specific people are who are being helped or harmed is pretty much the definition of unethical. That's obviously not a universally held view. But it is the golden rule, the veil of ignorance. You described yourself as relatively far to the left - why has that been your position until now? Is it only because you felt those politics would benefit you personally? Or is it because you want everyone to be able to live in a world that treats them as well as possible, whoever they might be?

Whether you should help or not help specific people who did you wrong is up to you. But if you find yourself nurturing a feeling of disillusionment and generalizing against other people on that basis, then that's pretty much two wrongs being worse than one. If you feel better working among or living among Republicans, go for it. If you want to change your social circle to one that's less explicitly political, or to actively cut off friends or acquaintances who hurt others - that makes sense. If you're asking if it's right to add shades of grey and multidimensional layers to your moral judgements, and to stop seeing the world in terms of teams - then yeah, it's about time to do that. If you're just letting off steam, I feel you.

But if your question is really, actually, whether you'd be justified in writing off, or hurting, or refusing to help all "progressives, liberals, immigrants and minorities" - then no, sorry. Don't punish people for your grievance.
posted by trig at 1:20 PM on May 28 [8 favorites]

There are symbolic gestures and labels like liberal and conservative, and then there are beliefs that manifest themselves through actions. It's worthwhile to distinguish between the two.

Someone might care about animal welfare and abstain from animal products but then actively engage in wage theft or discrimination against vulnerable employees. Someone else might vote Republican but be an active advocate for immigrant rights. Contradictions abound and one act or perspective does not preclude the another.

So there's talking the talk and there's walking the walk. The thing is none of us fits a label exactly and it's never going to be cut and dried. My takeaway would be to not to rely on labels as shorthand for understanding who someone is, and to continue to seek allies where you meet them. If there is overlap and alliance in some areas and someone proves themselves to be trustworthy, work on growing more areas of overlap and alliance over time however an individual chooses to label themselves.

Also agreed that individuals who donate to causes or otherwise advocate for harming the social safety net or reducing basic human rights are harming you, even if they are not actively gaslighting you in your presence.
posted by Goblin Barbarian at 1:23 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]

Why should I help people that are harming me?

I can't tell you why you should do it, only why I might.

I consider it a cornerstone of my sentience that I can evaluate and adapt. If something burns my hand a few times, I can decide to touch it again if I decide that it's important enough that I do. Other living things don't really have that level of consciousness (if there are examples, I apologize, I'm mostly telling a parable here), and it seems like most people don't keep that part of them active much either. I am pretty sure it's going to burn my hand, it has every time before, but I am going to touch it anyway.

If my hand doesn't get burned, well, that's just another lesson to consider, I guess. It really sucks and hurts to have your hand burned a lot by things that should've, by all reasonable expectations, been cool.
posted by OnTheLastCastle at 1:36 PM on May 28

I think you reconcile this with acceptance that the individual is not the group. If a lesbian is mean to you, does it follow that you should vote for politicians/policies that would be harmful to all lesbians? I'm gonna have to say no.

What if ten lesbians are mean to you? Or twenty? There are still a whoooooole lot of lesbians out there who've never been mean to you, who don't deserve to have their freedoms limited because you've met twenty unpleasant lesbians.

As for how to deal - avoid any person who is mean to you, and try as hard as you can not to link it to the groups they may belong to or identify with. The individual is not the group.

As for Republicans not harming you... I think it's important to realize that votes can be harmful. If someone is kind to you every time you meet them, but votes consistently and whole-heartedly for politicians/policies that will limit your freedoms and your ability to succeed and/or be happy in the world -- that person is harming you. They're just doing it while smiling at you.
posted by invincible summer at 1:37 PM on May 28 [11 favorites]

Sounds like you need to vote for the people who will enact the policies you want (i.e. the left), and be friends with/work for conservatives.
The goal of politicians is to get elected and thereby gain wealth and power, whereas the goal of voters is to get policies enacted. No matter who you vote for, someone is going to get that undeserved wealth and power.
posted by 445supermag at 1:43 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]

So many smart answers here, I am not sure how much I can add....But a few thoughts:

I had a great uncle who was a Catholic priest. Never met him, but the family consensus was he was an asshole. We were telling some of the younger generation about him, and they were shocked. Priests are supposed to be nice! Priests are supposed to be kind and loving, not drunk jerks who mistreat their family.

Also, I once had upstairs neighbors who were very political, both worked at nonprofits that focused on corporate accountability and human rights. They advocated for and lived with Mexican farm workers at one point. But they did not ever haul out the household trash, they never helped to shovel the driveway, and generally were rude and unfriendly neighbors.

So, I think it is a mistake to assume every republican is bad and every democrat is good. First of all, not everyone votes, so the premise ignores the 40 percent (not sure if this number is correct) eligible voters who don’t vote….which doesn’t really answer your question, but how do you judge them?

For your question, let go of the idea that there are only republicans and democrats. I have a friend who comes from a Republican family, has always tended to vote republican, but is not a trump supporter at all…. If this friend treated you well, you would say, hmm, another Republican who is nice to me…. Some folks who voted for Obama also voted for Trump. Go figure.

Since you are talking about work place setting, I don’t see it as “helping people who are harming me”—you are getting paid to do a job, how is it helping their agendas?
Don’t limit your "team" to the party you vote for. You seem like a thoughtful and caring person, don't fall into the Trump fueled polarity that is causing so much grief right now.
posted by rhonzo at 2:39 PM on May 28 [1 favorite]

The question speaks to a lot of my lived experiences, too. It sucks to be disappointed in the people who are supposed to be on "your team."

I have also experienced a lot of the avuncular kindness from conservatives as a young woman and wanted to chime in on that.

Have you seen Parasite? There is a moment when one of the characters is marvelling that the family they work for is so nice-- "they are rich, but nice!" and his wife snaps back, "they're nice because they are rich. If I had that kind of money I would be nice, too."
posted by athirstforsalt at 2:41 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]

But in my lifetime, I have experienced bullying, lying, gaslighting , surveillance, disrespect and manipulation from progressives, liberals, immigrants and minorities.

Are these most of the people you’ve spent time with in your life then? Because then it’s only natural that most of the shitty people you’ve met fall into these groups. And there are shitty people in every demographic. Besides the one company, how many Republicans do you know?

I have been involved with activism a bit over the years and have noticed a ton of really obnoxious assholes involved in leftist activism. So much infighting and bullying and purity politics goes down in these circles. But guess what? I’m not involved with right wing activists. Having read a little about them, they have their own dramas. I’m not going to use this as an argument against the left. I am, however, not going to be friends with fellow lefties that I find insufferable.

My advice: vote for what you believe to be right. And don’t hang out with people you hate even if they share your politics.
posted by vanitas at 2:51 PM on May 28 [5 favorites]

What may help you square this circle is: there's a difference between the ideology of a group, and the actions of a person.

When it comes to the ideology of a group, you can look at what the intentions of a group are, and look at how the policies would impact you. There are government policies that could potentially cause you harm - for example, if this were the 1950s, you would not be allowed to purchase contraceptives on your own, and someone who supported the continuation of that policy would be doing you a disservice, in the sense that that policy does you a disservice. However, when you look at the actions of a person, that's a separate thing. It's very possible that someone in the 1950s could vote against giving you the right to buy contraceptives - but then invite you over for tea on a weekly basis and trade recipes with you and so on.

People often have blind spots when it comes to their own perceptions about groups of people; it's kind of human nature. They may have sweeping ideas about groups of people - for instance, and I'm being completely silly here, "all Brooklynites live in townhouses and have DIY chicken coops in their living rooms" - but if you were to point out to them that they actually know someone in that group who isn't like that, they would probably sputter, "well....obviously I didn't mean Sid, Sid's different." And sometimes this blind spot can be about themselves - they might tell themselves "I volunteer at an animal shelter and that makes me selfless and good", but then the same person might be in an all-out war with a neighbor who has a yappy little chihuahua because the dang thing won't shut up.

I don't know if I'm explaining myself well. What I'm getting at is that people can be contradictory in their behavior; not all "conservatives" are 100% moustache-twirling meanies, and not all "liberals" are total saints. And also that not all people see others the same way either.

So - all you can do is, try to differentiate for yourself about whether you are dealing with a person, or you are dealing with an ideology. What I mean is - if the president of the ACLU cuts you off in traffic or something, or spills coffee on you at a Starbucks and then accuses YOU of being clumsy, the fact that that person is the president of the ACLU doesn't change the fact that they were being a jerk at the Starbucks. Also, if the head of the NRA was the person who loaned you $5 when you were short of change at the ice cream shop, the fact that the dude was head of the NRA wouldn't change the fact that loaning you $5 was a nice thing to do. However it is they treat you is a separate issue from the ideas they support sometimes, and it's okay to respond to them based on how they treat you, independently of what their political affiliation might be.

Similarly, it may also be good to start thinking of different ideologies as separate from people - because that may actually help you and the people not like you come to a common-ground over some ideologies. If your neighbor is a strong Republican, but you're very friendly as neighbors, it might serve to make any discussions about politics that you might have more productive - because you already trust each other, and that would make you each more open to having your views questioned and examined and challenged. They'd be more willing to listen to how their party's politics are affecting you specifically, and it might change their mind. (And, you'd get more of a perspective into what concerns they have that they feel are best addressed by the GOP, and might know how progressive politics could also address them.)

Good luck.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:59 PM on May 28 [3 favorites]

From your brief bio it sounds like you’ve sought out people on the left who were, shall we say, enthusiastic about their agendas. You don’t say, but I’m guessing your right leaning company wasn’t explicitly organized around a political view and wasn’t full of people who thought it should be.

I think that’s the difference you’re seeing. People who believe they are doing Important Work are capable of just about anything. They will lie, cheat, steal, and treat everyone they come across like crap because they believe they are on a Mission From God and everything they’ve sacrificed (which is often other people) will be worth it in the end.

If you read the history of social movements you’ll find such a litany of backbiting, betrayals, schisms, and general ugliness that you’ll wonder how we ever make any progress at all. And if you work for anybody with an implicit or explicit political agenda you are signing up to be a part of that.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 3:48 PM on May 28 [25 favorites]

I'm a white American woman, a lifelong feminist, with a tremendous amount of privilege, and I want and try hard not to be like the folks you've described. But I don't think it's as simple as saying that people can be assholes on any side of the political spectrum. I do think there's some acculturation on the left that has led to what you have experienced.

I think that people who have lefty values desperately want to believe they are living those values, and they think that they are, and it's a lot harder for them to self-examine and see how they benefit from and are perpetuating systemic injustice and especially racism. Yet! Yet, what can be infuriating is that they know and use the language of social justice and equity. I live in Portland around a lot of white people who really truly want to be the good in the world and who really truly believe they want and are working towards a world without racism. I've also seen these same folks use super left language of equity to justify something that will mostly benefit wealthy, white kids. I don't think they are insincere or malicious. I think they just don't get it, that they can't see themselves as part of the problem.

People like this--like me--sometimes trip up and think that racists and sexists and homophobes are other white people or white men or what have you. I think it's really hard, for example, for some liberal, very well-intentioned white men to see how they are sometimes being sexist. Because they desperately want not to be sexist, so they feel even more defensive if accused of sexism because it's so contrary to their values.

Frankly, I think some of this defensiveness is showing up in some answers here (I'm not trying to parse the race of people answering, but I'm guessing there are white folks here challenging your lived experiences because it is incredibly uncomfortable for us to think we might be that way).

I'm in a bit of a different situation than some other white folks in that my family is multiracial... and I've seen plenty of white folks in multiracial families think that that also somehow exempts us from being racist, when it does not.

The American Civil Rights movement was pretty sexist. The second wave American feminist movement was quite racist. White suffragettes specifically argued against voting rights for black men and tried to appeal to white men by saying that white women should be ahead of black men in line to get the votes. We know that gay men can be incredibly misogynistic.

People who have good lefty values don't necessarily manifest those values consistently for a range of reasons, and sometimes it's because we believe our own hype and we don't critically self-examine. Or we think that because we experience oppression in some form that we don't need to understand how we might be acting in oppressive ways in other situations where we do have privilege. Sometimes we are just jerks. Sometimes we aren't as comfortable as we think in interacting with a range of people. And sometimes we just can't get past the unconscious bias we learned.

I'd like to think that we move forward when we teach the values we aspire to. My parents are white liberal folks from the northeast who are solid Democrats. They taught me explicitly anti-racist, egalitarian values (as in, we actually talked about race and racism growing up, which was pretty unusual in a white family at the time). Both my parents can point to how racist their parents, my grandparents, were, and how they didn't want to be that way. However, I sometimes see one of my parents behaving or talking in a way I think is racist, and I sometimes see my other parent behaving in a way I think is a bit homophobic. But they are miles ahead of their parents. And I hope I am miles ahead of them. And I hope my kids can see my bullshit, too. The mistake is if my parents think they aren't racist because they aren't like their parents, or if I think I'm not racist because I'm further ahead of mine.

I'm truly sorry for the awful experiences you've had, which are traumatic and real.
posted by bluedaisy at 3:50 PM on May 28 [12 favorites]

You described the two gaslighting companies as having "an employee makeup almost exclusively of poc ".

Were the executives also people of color? You said one company was started by two lesbians. If it was two white lesbians who hired many people of color, the leaders may not have actually understood the lived experience of the employees. If the top management are white, and the labor force is immigrants, it's easy for that situation to slide into being exploitative.

In the case of the Republicans, if the top management and the workforce were in the same demographic (conservative white men), it is easier for the executives to identify with the workforce. They have the same lived-experience.

If this rings true, you may want to consider working for companies where the top management also contains people of color, immigrants, etc.
posted by sandwich at 5:36 PM on May 28

I think it's important to realize that votes can be harmful. If someone is kind to you every time you meet them, but votes consistently and whole-heartedly for politicians/policies that will limit your freedoms and your ability to succeed and/or be happy in the world -- that person is harming you. They're just doing it while smiling at you.

Quoted for truth
posted by M. at 9:14 PM on May 28 [4 favorites]

Let me just be another voice saying that you don't know what 'nice' people might be saying about you (or about 'those people') when you're not around.

In other words, the shit people think it's ok to say in front of me because I'm white is astounding.
posted by inexorably_forward at 11:07 PM on May 28 [8 favorites]

1.) I've had incredibly civil, nice Republican bosses who were unfailingly decent to their employees and then privately went home to their actual, real, heavily armed race war bunkers, which they've been building and maintaining for years. Whenever they had to cut back jobs or deal with an employee dispute, they would fire their poc employees first. They actively planned and discussed the necessity of shooting these people themselves if it came to it. For some of them, this was a weird fantasy life; others were involved with local racist gangs; one guy like this worked at a newspaper and was smart enough to keep quiet that all the men he periodically got into fights with at gas stations or parking lots or in road rage disputes were black.

2.) I've known and worked with plenty of Republicans who were legitimately good people who were raised with a right wing value system, who would defend anyone they knew from oppressive behavior, often in more meaningful ways than professed leftists, but did not have the social tools to expand that out into protecting strangers, so they were in a strange paradox of voting and monetarily supporting laws that directly harmed the people in their real lives that they would (and had) go to the mat for. I feel like a lot of progressive spaces have the opposite paradox-- they can see the big picture, and act to minimize harm on a macro level, but they fail at person-to-person support or at understanding how their behavior harms people on a micro level in the same way my former Republican neighbor would go out of her way to care for and protect queer and migrant people she knew but couldn't understand how voting for Trump and Republican local officials was actively hurting these people she cared about, and causing the problems she was helping with and outraged over.

3.) You aren't crazy or a bad person for having this issue. The current left does in fact have a major, major problem with zealotry and purity culture that translates IRL to, as you described, gaslighting, bullying/harassment, and surveillance culture. Many of my queer artist friends have had to disconnect from their local LGBT online communities or NGO centers because they were either themselves excommunicated/"canceled," for offences like "didn't smile enough and said no to a second tinder date with me, is probably an abuser, we should get them fired so a more worthy person can have that job," "consumes problematic media, which I found out by stalking them online," or the general atmosphere of harassment and witch hunting of "problematic" people and behavior became too stressful to handle. Anyone who has spent time on local LGBT facebook groups is familiar with the bizarre purges in the form of callout posts that go on with disturbing regularity. A petty example of this: when I clicked through a link to twitter on a wholesome, cute She-ra thread on the blue, I noticed that I had half the accounts blocked-- they were all people who have engaged in "fandom police" behavior, ie prolonged harassment, doxxing, death threats, and suicide baiting people for purity crimes that range from consuming problematic media, being a short adult in a relationship with a much taller adult ergo "normalizing pedophilia," being a trans woman writing a story dismantling a right wing meme about trans people and attack helicopters, or any number of trivial, manufactured, and increasingly bizarre transgressions against a strange form of progressivism that's become more and more authoritarian in recent years.

Why are there so many of these people engaging in this kind of aggressive moral abuse in the twitter She-Ra fandom? Is it because there's something wrong with a sweet children's cartoon full of minority, female, and LGBT characters? No-- it's because so much of current progressive community standards are, mostly subconsciously, about escaping the injustice of the world as it currently exists by creating utopias, where everyone lives righteously according to their political ideals, and where anyone who doesn't conform to that is seen as an existential threat. Utopias are defined not only by who is allowed in, but who must be exiled in order for that perfect place to be able to exist. She-Ra is a great kid's show, but for a lot of people, it's a vision of that progressive utopia whose purity must be defended. I suspect your lesbian-run workplace might have been a similar utopia for the people working there-- a place where everyone needed to be constantly surveilled for any deviance from the common vision, and purged if they were found lacking. The more systemic, political stress people are under in their real lives, the worse authoritarianism on the left gets-- I do not think it's a coincidence that this current wave of purity culture is happening under Trump, and that radical anti-porn feminism peaked during the AIDS epidemic under Reagan. Progressive people are not immune to conspiracy thinking and conformist behavior.

If I had to explain why this is happening, I would say that progressives, who are usually secular and have cut ties with organized religion, have been using their communities as a maladapted spiritual outlet, and that they are rerouting behavior and impulses that have traditionally existed in toxic religious environments into their secular communities. Many of these people come from abusive right-wing fundamentalist backgrounds, and while they've inverted the good vs bad judgments of homophobia, sexism, and white supremacy, they haven't actually dismantled that value system and way of relating to the world-- they have retained the black and white thinking, obsession with labeling, finding, and punishing sinful behavior and thoughts ('being problematic'), and other kinds of obsessive moral scrutiny and moral abuse of community members. If you line up the kind of controlling, purity-obsessed behavior you find in toxic progressive spaces with Evangelical purity culture, the similarities are striking. Leftist spaces that fall into this kind of culture often become more concerned with controlling their own members than they are with accomplishing their goals; their activism becomes less effective, because their goals stop being real and material, and become as intangible and spiritual as the Christian concept of being worthy in the eyes of God.

The flip side to these utopian/religious communities is that they don't really care about the moral status of outsiders, who are already considered subhuman or bound for hell. My aunt lives next door to an Evangelical community in rural Florida; they're nice to her, but brutal to their own members. In all the facebook community LGBT drama and people attacking queer artists I've been talking about, nobody ever goes after straight white men, even though they're considered some of the biggest social/moral offenders, because they are not part of the community, and they don't have a place in the community's hoped-for utopia. My atheist aunt and the cis straight white guys aren't going to be part of either of these authoritarian communities' heavens, either in the afterlife or on earth, so nobody is interested in bullying, gaslighting, spying on, or controlling them.

I don't have a solid answer about why the Republican workplace was nice to you, was the least toxic. Maybe they were actually decent taxes/abortion-only people who weren't particularly passionate about any ideology. Maybe they were closet race war psychos like my old boss. Maybe they all thought you were going to hell, but the job site was not part of the sphere in which they cared about exerting moral and spiritual control. I think it's very likely the Republican workplace was nice to you because you weren't part of their church. The surveillance and bullying and gaslighting going on at your lesbian-run, majority poc workplace was happening because that workplace WAS those people's church.

Hot Allostatic Load is an article about this kind of purging behavior in the queer community, it might resonate with your experiences. You do not have to stay in a place where you are being morally abused. Leaving planned progressive communities that have this utopian/authoritarian bent might be an answer for you. I wish you luck; you aren't alone in this.
posted by moonlight on vermont at 5:57 AM on May 29 [15 favorites]

I need help in reconciling my beliefs with my actual experiences. Because I walk around in a rage all the time because in my experience, my team are not the good guys.

Seems to me that the belief that's actually giving you grief here is the apparently unexamined assumption that being good and being bad are inherent properties of teams. They're not. They're emergent properties of teams.

No team deserves to be labelled "the good guys" simply on the basis of its declared positions. There are many, many good people for whom politics is a matter far more of habit than of conviction. Most people are almost completely disengaged from it in their daily lives, scarcely ever think about it in any kind of depth, and simply consume the same kind of media, express the same kind of opinions and vote the same way their parents did and/or friends do because that's the Done Thing.

Good and bad are qualities of actions and/or choices before anything else. The politics that people present themselves as affiliated with is not, in general, predictive of the quality of the choices they make around personal interactions with other people.

To the extent that a person or a team can be said to be good or bad, that evaluation is a summary of the aggregated net effect of all the choices and actions made by that person or that team over time. Expecting a person to be pleasant or unpleasant to deal with on no more information than their stated political affiliation is cart-before-horse thinking.

I used to think the same way that you do now, and I was absolutely gutted to discover at first hand the amount of time and effort that the organizing committee for the Down To Earth Confest hippie festivals I'd been happily attending for years was wasting on dealing with the underhanded machinations of the same kind of self-serving glad-handing ego-driven arseholes I had first encountered in student politics.

What I learned from that experience is that arseholes are everywhere. They exist as a small but disproportionately influential minority in every community, there is no organization free of them regardless of how high-minded or peace love bells beads its organizing principles might be, and they are the reason we can't have nice things.

It's unfortunate but in my experience true that organizations whose founding principles are all about egalitarianism, consensus, peacemaking, trust, diversity and mutual support are a total honeypot for a particularly toxic and underhanded brand of abusive arsehole, mainly because giving the benefit of the doubt is baked so deep into the organizational culture.

The correct reaction to this is rage, which acts as a strong motivator to unmask, disempower and if possible even eject arseholes. The incorrect reaction would be switching teams. Because when a team's founding principles are all about intolerance, freedoms to at the expense of freedoms from, social stratification, and permanent hierarchy maintained by relentless othering, its arseholes don't need to infiltrate and hide amongst the workers at the coalface; they fucking run the thing and operate with total impunity in plain sight.

The risk in the correct reaction is that spending too much time enraged carries a strong risk of forgetting oneself and becoming an arsehole because it seems like beating the fuckers at their own game is the only way to beat them at all. It isn't, because beating them doesn't help. Best that can be achieved is getting better and faster at repairing the inevitable breakage they will always and everywhere keep on causing. Practise appropriate self-care, cultivate strong and mutually supportive relationships with non-arseholes, dump any arsehole you find yourself entangled with, and do your best to rise above.

I'm sorry it's hard. But it just is. Arseholes are hard work.
posted by flabdablet at 8:45 AM on May 29 [6 favorites]

I'm coming back to say one more thing, which is that I don't think your pleasant experiences with conservatives are likely to continue. So-called "movement conservatism" is gutting the Republican Party of nice people. Rush Limbaugh is not nice. Ann Coulter is not nice. Grover Norquist, whose reputation is based almost entirely on approvingly analogizing his policy proposals to infanticide, is not nice. And, more than just being unpleasant themselves, they encourage their followers to be unpleasant, and they set up institutions to *train* people to be unpleasant. It was one thing back in the 90s when they were a fringe element shouting and hoping someone would hear, but now they're in the very heart of the conservative world. Stephen Miller is one of the five or so most powerful people in the world right now, and he seems to revel in his dark reputation. That is, sadly, not uncommon in my experience.

The proverbial straw that broke the camel's back for me was in 2016, when Mark Kirk made the comment about Tammy Duckworth's ancestors. That was so gratuitously mean that it shocked me past the point of deniability. It was part of a pattern of uncivil behavior among Republicans both national and local that I could no longer ignore. Even as I drifted further from the Republican mainstream in terms of policy, I could deal with policy differences, because that's to be expected in any group. But the meanness was too much, and it was becoming institutional.

What I'm saying is that, while there are still plenty of nice Republicans today, they're endangered. The conservative movement is working hard to ensure that the Republicans of tomorrow are not friendly or pleasant.
posted by kevinbelt at 11:04 AM on May 29 [4 favorites]

In college I dated men who said all the right things- but never, ever washed the dishes. For all their rhetoric they never saw me as a person, just as a concept.

It's important to see people as people, and to judge them by their actions rather than simply by their words.
posted by Arctostaphylos at 9:58 PM on May 30 [3 favorites]

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