Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Dear Discomfort Czar, #3

Dear Discomfort Czar,
Thank you for answering the questions from previous weeks. This has encouraged me to write in with my own question. Here it is. A few years ago, after Obama was elected, one of my neighbors hung that ugly poster of Obama-as-the-joker on his front porch. It bothered me because it's so insulting. When Bush was president, I didn't like him, but I would never hang one of those Bush-as-chimp posters, or anything like it. This neighbor is a very right-wing type (maybe even Tea Party; I'm not sure) living in a very Leftie kind of town, which I'm sure isn't entirely easy for him. He's actually a really smart guy, and a friendly guy, and an admirable guy in many ways, and kind of self-conscious about certain things, but also a bit of a clown. I know he's worried about this country, and he especially fears that the Muslims are going to take over and impose Sharia Law. He is definitely not stupid. This is just what he believes.
Anyway, a few months after he put the poster up, I noticed that he had taken it down, which was a relief, to not have to see it all the time. But I noticed a couple weeks ago that he put it up again. Probably has something to do with the election season getting into gear. When the poster was up the first time, I thought about going to talk to him about it, not to ask him to take it down. I believe it's his right to hang whatever he wants from his house (within limits, of course). My purpose would be just to ask him why he put it up and to tell him why I didn't like seeing it. What do you think?
A neighborly neighbor

Dear neighborly neighbor,
As your post highlights, ideological diversity can be as uncomfortable as any other kind. How do we talk about our differences? Can we talk about our differences? There are no right answers here. The first step might be an examination of your own motivation. If you think you can approach your neighbor in an open, nonjudgmental way, with willingness to listen to his position, you might learn something and/or feel more connected with him.

Now, this might not be at all relevant, but I wonder if your neighbor knows that the person who created that image did not do it with a demeaning political agenda in mind. According to the LA Times, he was a bored college student experimenting with Adobe Photoshop software. He posted the finished image online, et voila, as they say in the digital age. And he does not see what the connection with socialism is, which is the label that somehow got attached to the image he created.
Even if you don't end up talking to your neighbor about the poster, I'm glad to hear that you're thinking about it, and that you can see your neighbor's good qualities even if he might be a bit buffoon-ish in how he presents himself to the world.


Jim Poznak said...

Your post brings up this memory. One of my high school teachers displayed a photograph of Richard Nixon (then the President) in his classroom. When we students asked why (we hated Nixon), he said it was out of respect for whomever was the President. But then, this same teacher ranted about having seen a white girl walking with, and I quote, "A big black buck." (His words, people, not mine.) He kept saying it over and over. We students went nuts with outrage! I wonder, would he have hung a nice photo of Obama in his classroom, the Obama-as-joker photo, or no photo?

Susan Messer said...

I wonder how he felt about Nixon. Not sure from your comment whether he was a supporter or not. But re: the "black buck" comment . . . I guess we can surmise that some progress has occurred in this country in the matter of race. I don't think a teacher would dare say something like that today in a classrom, which doesn't mean they wouldn't think it, just that they'd know enough to keep it to themselves.