Monday, December 06, 2004

Am I a bitch or is she stupid?

This weekend I visited my friends up in Milwaukee because it was Peter's 30th birthday party. The party was quite fun, but I am going to rant just a bit about an incident that is annoying me.

Andy, one of the Milwaukee Crew and I often have interesting social/political discussions. Saturday night was not an exception. However, Jill--Kyle's new girlfriend, joined our discussion. This girl was the liberal people love to hate. She wasn't the slightest bit concerned about the cost or reality of social programs; she was completely wrong about many facts; she became hysterical several times, and; often admitted that she didn't have a solution, but that "something needs to be done."

So our discussion became quite heated at times. Both Andy and I tried to calm her down several times. Admittedly, some of my techniques to get her to calm down were probably condescending ('you are trying to argue with volume rather than facts', 'why do you keep yelling', and the simple 'calm down, calm down'). However, there were several times that she was blatantly wrong and wouldn't admit it: "the majority of Americans don't have health insurance", "the majority of Americans are Catholics", "the majority of Americans are unemployed." NO--these are all plain wrong: about 42 million of the country's 280 million people lack health insurance (still way too many), the largest religious group is protestant and unemployment--even during 2002, 2003 was only around 6%.

Andy and I pointed out these facts and she simply refused to accept them, but instead asserted that what she 'knew' was correct. Andy is going to grad school for sociology and I was a sociology/social science major, pscyhology/philosophy minor before going to law school. Together we have a pretty good grasp of basic demographics and theory of social programs. I don't know what her background is (or how much her presentation may have been affected by alcohol) but she certainly couldn't argue. She took the conversation way too personally, constantly yelled and interrupted and didn't listen. Finally I left and went into the basement because I was frustrated and not having any fun.

In poor form, I muttered "that girl is not smart" when I went into the basement. The next morning, Shalan chastized me for being mean (and implicitly elitist) to Jill. True, my comment was uncharitable and out of line. However, I feel like Jill was more ill-behaved than I was. She entered a conversation uninvited and turned it sour. She was the one who was yelling and interrupting. (When it was only Andy and me, it was an interesting, but very friendly discussion). I was the one who finally walked way--not her.

Unlike basically everbody that I know, Shalan is the only person who accuses me of being a snob. This is very weird for me because previously Shalan used to be quite critical towards people who didn't or weren't going to college. This was a sore point that eventually destroyed some of her friendships. She is much better now, but I feel like she still has a bit of disdain for people without college degrees. So I get rather cranked out of shape when she implies that I am being a snob. At the same time, I wonder if she is right.

I am very spoiled when it comes to having smart people in my life. My housemates and friends from law school are all extremely intelligent, the men I date are always intelligent, my former co-op residents were PhD students and super-smart, my brothers are smart and thoughtful and so are Shalan, Steph, Peter, Steve and many of their friends in Milwaukee. I am very used to being around people who can think critically and discuss topics calmly and intelligently. Most of the people I know are also extremely good arguers.

Am I completely out of line to value these traits? I hope not, but at the same time, there are many interesting, kind people who lack this skill and are certainly valuable people and friends. What does it say about me that the ability to argue well ranks so high when I evaluate people? The boy who I adore the most from my past is the boy with whom I spent hours discussing and arguing about economic and social policy (free market v. socialism, in a nutshell), and it is these conversations that I miss the most. Is this normal?

So maybe the answer to these questions is that maybe I am a bitch and she is stupid--there is no reason that both or neither are not true.

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