I have sat politely while listening to my coworkers blithely discuss their varying degrees of Bush Hatred and Kerry Ambivalence during a pleasant afternoon tea at the Mayflower Hotel with no awareness of the possibility they may not be in like company, let alone regard for basic social etiquette. I have sat drop jawed over a game of Apples to Apples as one of my friends indignantly screamed how I could possibly be a Republican who is familiar with the Bible AND has played Dungeons & Dragons. While at a mutual friend's housewarming party, a girl (who happened to be a NARAL employee) said I was "the coolest Republican she'd ever met", and in the same breath asked me how many black people I had killed that day.
While these examples merely outline the instinctual lapses in good taste that the assumption of the majority inflicts upon the minority, what happened to me last night truly was amazing. I am amazed.
We arrived at Dr. Dremos for our weekly Thursday night beer pong. As we approaced the downstairs patio, we see the bar is littered with Kerry/Edwards posters and there is a donations table set up next to the bouncer. Disappointed but not disheartened, we collected our beer and cups as though nothing were different, set up at our usual table, which unusally had a giant screen airing the DNC behind it, and played on. A few of the folks who were clearly there for the fundraiser and not the Beirut came by, curious about the game, but mostly watched from a bit of a distance.
A few hours into the night, a nice middle-aged lady wearing a Kerry/Edwards '04 T-Shirt and a couple of "Fire Bush" or "Flush Bush" or "Re-Defeat Bush" buttons on approached and asked me how the game works. I explain, and while she was surprised that we'd actually drink the beer after the ball had landed in it, I encouraged her to put her business card on the table and pony up to play. "I don't have a business card," she pouted, "I'm unemployed."
We chitchatted for a while about how much I reminded her of her favorite cousin Anita, how coincidental that both Anita and I are from Morris County, New Jersey, how funny it was that there was another woman with the same first and middle name as she at her hair salon the other day, and how her father named her what he named her because he's a psychologist. She then asked me if I had ever played the drinking game 'I Never'. Sure, I say, plenty of times. "Let's play that!" she says gleefully, "I always stay sober during that game. See this halo?"
I laugh, and said I had a halo too but it was down around my ankles. "I wanna play with you then!" she squealed. I smirked and said "see, that's my problem. People say they want to play with me, I agree, and down that halo goes." She chuckles, "that's okay. I'm a Democrat. I've got an open mind."
Oh boy here it goes. I could have been the good little conservative. I could have smiled and turned the other cheek as I do every time I have to sit and listen to what inspirational women Hilary and Theresa are. I could have blown it off like I do so many uninvited conservative bashings or "evil Republican" digs. But I had already played three games and I haven't been much for taking bullshit lately.
So I smile calmly and warmly and say, "it doesn't take being a Democrat to have an open mind."
Honest to God, this woman, old enough to be my mother, leaned back and sneered at me.
"Let's be open-minded now," I pleaded, "there is a chance that there are open-minded Republicans out there. You just have to be open-minded to see them."
"Butbutbutbut...this is a Democratic event!"
"Yeah, but we're all Republicans at this table."
"Why would Republicans come to a Democratic fundraiser?!?!"
"We didn't come to a Democratic fundraiser. The Democratic fundraiser came here. We're here every Thursday."
"Well, that guy watching the game has a Kerry button on."
"We don't know that guy."
And then, if the sneer wasn't the most amazing thing I had seen all night, the woman literally began stepping back away from me, her eyes fixated on mine as she backpeadled.
"Whoa, whoa whoa!" I said, stepping towards her and closing the gap. "What was that part about you being open-minded? I have been standing here talking to you for the last ten minutes while you have that shit all over your chest, and now that you know I have different views than you, you're running away from me? Who's got the open mind now?"
"uh, well, I, uh," she stuttered, stepping further and further backwards.
"This is not very open minded of you."
"Um, I have to go talk to my sister now."
And with that, she and her open mind scurried away from me and my differing opinions. Amazing.