The following is a true story in two episodes, occurring some two weeks apart, with no formal relation to each other aside from the stunning light it shines on partisan "thinking".
Two weeks ago, I met some friends at a local coffee shop. We had taken two tables, and between sips of our chosen drinks were having a discussion about the emergence of civilizations throughout history. It's a fascinating, worthwhile subject; how peoples set up shop by rivers and grew their villages into towns, their towns into cities, their cities into empires. At one point I made an observation. "It's an interesting question as to why a Rome or Athens or Babylon didn't arise in ancient North America."
A lady occupying the table to my left spun around, the coffee in her mug violently swishing. "What, you think you're superior to Native Americans?"
"No," I said, turning to regard the new participater. "I'm just asking -"
"Are they lesser people? Did they deserve having their culture wiped out by European imperialism? What kind of fascist are you? Did they -"
"First of all," I interrupted, "I'm not passing judgment on Native Americans. I'm not judging their civilization or applying an inferior label to it. I'm just making a historical observation, and wondering what external pressures and forces produce a technologically-advanced civilization like China or Mesopotamia or Egypt, and why North America didn't develop one."
The lady only heard up to my words "making a historical observation" before she stormed out of the café in a red-faced huff. Now that I think of it, I'm pretty sure she stole that coffee mug.
With her departure my friends and I continued the discussion, citing how violent competition over limited resources (like in Mesopotamia or Greece for instance) results in an arms race of technology. One tribe brandishes flint axes, the other develops bronze to defeat them and take their land. Someone else makes iron, or the chariot, or the sarissa, or the phalanx, and on and on the contest goes. In North America there was quite a different situation: resources were abundant, and all a group had to do was push eastward into the vast plains, mountains, and forests to obtain them. It wasn't necessary, as it was in Mesopotamia, to engage in unceasing warfare from which sprang a Persian Empire. Our discussion wasn't a judgment; it was an exploration of ideas.
Why couldn't my friendly-neighborhood PC Enforcer join into this discussion? It was like a switch went off in her head, and insidious programming kicked in. rendering her deaf to the conversation's specifics.
Two weeks later I was attending a surprise birthday party, and I ran into the Bush Propagandist. Same genus as the PC Enforcer, different species.
After we had shouted "Surprise!" to the allegedly-unwary birthday girl, a political topic was broached. Specifically, a gentleman near me made some comment about how Bush was the only thing saving our country from disintegration, and that Democrats wanted to erect shrines to Osama bin Laden.
I introduced myself and asked him his political affiliation. He thought I was joking, but I pressed him until he told me he was a Republican. I asked him why. He gave me the small-government/fiscally-responsible advocacy line.
"Do you think Bush is fiscally responsible?" I asked, astonished.
He laughed. "Well, not really?"
"Is he for small government?"
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