Friday, June 29, 2007

Three Men, Two Points of View

Every other Sunday or so, I have one of two visitors over. Over coffee and tea we speak of “things.” Sundays, especially those Sundays, have become my most favorite day of the week.

One of my two Sunday visitors, “E-Man,” matches up almost perfectly with me and my worldviews; the other, “Tommy Gun,” likes to argue about nearly everything. So, Tommy-G is “Mr. Contrary,” while E-Man is “my choir” (and conversely, I am his). I enjoy conversing with both of these fellows, but there is a marked difference on how I feel during and after our lengthy discussions, depending on which of them it is that comes over that day.

E-Man, my intellectual “bird of a feather” is just plain fun to talk to. Our “speak easies” start at noon and end only when the sun’s light has faded. Sometimes it seems we come to our senses when it starts to get dark out, having lost all track of time. Without his own transport, he doesn’t like to be on this side of town trying to catch jeepnies home in the dark. I don’t blame him; this part of the Philippines can be dicey even in the day.

Now Tommy-G, well, he challenges me on almost every subject. As far as the two of us goes, no two people could possibly be so seemingly opposed in viewpoint; therefore, I’m sure he purposely “goes adversarial” on me mostly because it’s his nature. That’s why I call him Mr. Contrary. The time goes by pretty quickly with him as well, but I’m tired and mentally used up when its time for him to jump astride his motorcycle and roar off into the evening.

Both men are a study in where they come from. E-man is from the Northern Midwest; he’s exceedingly polite, diffident and self-effacing. Tommy is from the Northeast; he’s brusque, impatient, and strident. If you had to characterize the people of those two stateside regions, both men’s personalities would match up as expected with the average profile of the region where each comes from. In other words, to put it succinctly, Midwesterners are nice and Northeasterners are ornery! I wonder what it says about me that I’m also from the Midwest like E-man, but my personality more mirrors Tommy’s aggressive persona than it does E-man’s more serene one.

These days, Tommy and I have an unspoken agreement to NOT discuss Middle-Eastern politics, including and especially Iraq and Afghanistan. However, on his way out the door last Sunday Tommy-Gun snuck in a couple jabs at me stating snottily, “9 more of our brothers died the other day—did you see that?”

What Tommy-Gun believes is quite simple: The Middle East is a screwed up place filled with mean spirited people that have been slaughtering each other for millennia and not one of them is worth even one American GI’s life.

Tommy is a military veteran just like E-man and myself; so all three of us have that in common. Tom’s dad was a marine in the early 50s and his pop is vociferously against us being in that part of the world even more than his son is. For Tom, perhaps it’s a case of “sometimes we are who raised us.” Now, that is somewhat true with me too; my parents are very traditional and I absorbed many of their worldviews, but my views ALSO come from my own world travels and travails.

In the case of E-man, who is a fellow from one of the most liberal States in the union, HE (like me) is definitely a man who has BECOME decidedly conservative BECAUSE of what he has seen in the world, and he has lived in and seen a lot of it. When college professors told us how we SHOULD feel about things, neither of us made our minds up based on the lectures of these mostly half-baked theoreticians who had never been anywhere or done anything. Both of us have spent years (hell, decades!) in college classrooms, but because we have very pragmatic backgrounds, unlike most of our easily impressed and inexperienced younger classmates, we did NOT simply swallow every professorial opinion we were subjected to.

So, with Tommy-Gun I find myself mostly debating, defending and arguing. He’s a very smart guy (just ask him!) and I rarely feel like I’ve ever made much, if any, headway on convincing him of anything. Of course even if I did manage such a thing he’s so headstrong that he’d never admit it. The good thing is that in going through my points in my arguments with him—by being forced to give voice to them—in the light of day they either make sense or they don’t. So, once spoken, there are times that my line of reasoning doesn’t seem quite as vigorous as I thought. It is then that I find myself “evolving” and even rethinking my positions. This is especially true when Tommy finds “holes” in them. (Call me a flip-flopper if you must; I call it being thoughtful and open-minded).

History and culture are E-man’s forte; in fact, he has a degree in history. I love history; and I can’t get enough of being around others who love it as much as I do, especially since fellow lay historians are so few and far between. With most folks, once I start into my “lectures” on some historical aspect, I can practically see the glaze come over their eyes. When E-man and I start “swapping knowledge,” as I call it, before we know it, six hours has flown by. If you can imagine sitting in the same chair through 3 extra long movies and not even noticing their length, THAT is how a Sunday afternoon passes into evening when E and I have our discussions.

The funny thing about E-man is that even though he comes from such a socially and politically liberal place, he has been taught by his experiences of living in the 3rd World that most tenants of progressive liberalism are faulty and untenable. Based on E’s viewpoint, Katana, one of my fellow bloggers and a very nice person, would undoubtedly label him a “neo-con,” which, by the way, is liberal-speak for “moron.” These days, anyone with a strongly traditional or conservative belief system is called the “n word,” which seems to be a tag with negative connotations made up by “progressive” academia for anyone with whom they disagree. (The left loves to label people negatively and then dismiss them outright as being contemptible and stupid).

A final point on my “Sunday conversations” with both E-man and Tommy-G are our blatant and persistent lack of observance of political correctness. We trust each other implicitly, thus, we are totally comfortable with using any words and expressions we desire, no matter how racist, sexist or otherwise inappropriate they would be in any other setting. Generally, we don't say too much that would be considered anti-social, but if one of us "slips," we don't jump down the other's throat over it. I have to admit; being free to say anything, no matter what, is cathartic; I recommend it to anyone every so often.

After all, there’s a time and a place for everything… For me, its Sundays.


KA said...

I had a long reply, but I just shrugged it off cos I started to segway. Bottom line; I hate the extreme left too. Both extremities are filled with hateful, lying morons who spend more time causing problems, tearing people down, and destroying careers than actually trying to solve problems. There's my issue with neo-cons and whackjob progressives. No compromise, no solutions. All altimatums. Everyone would rather ARGUE the point, and get votes than to actually come up with a solution. Doesnt anyone else think that it's sickening? For example, forcing christians to leave their religion out of City Hall and state schools is as dumb as telling a black man to quit being so black. However, teaching christianity in schools and forcing everyone to pray christian prayers is just as dumb. There's my one example.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Katana, sounds like you'd fit right in over here during our Sunday "debates" and "knowledge sharing" sessions. ...Open invite for ya!

KA said...

LoL, I'll be vacationing in the Philippines when my husband gets home from Iraq (a very belated honeymoon) so there's a shot. It also depends on my US-based extended family (did I mention they were coming?)

PhilippinesPhil said...

Ha! I know how those visits work back to the "old" country. You'll have no time gallivanting around these parts. It should be fun for you though...

KA said...

I wouldnt know, I'm what people call "white washed", and almost all of my family live on this side of the Pacific. I havent been home since we left when I was 6.

Hmm, is there something I should know?

Doug said...

Thought of you when I saw this Heinlein link, Phil.
Long time since you were at Belmont Club.
You might stop by 2164th's Elephant Bar bar to argue Iraq w/another Hard-Headed AF Vet!

Free Heinlein [John J. Miller]
There may be no such thing as a free lunch, but here's a shortened version of my tribute to Robert A. Heinlein, which is in the current NRODT.

It appears in the Free Lance-Star of Fredericksburg, Va.

Ed said...

I'll make a note to visit when Tommy-G isn't around so that you don't get overloaded. :)

Back in college, I used to have a debate buddy. We would spend hours in the commons talking about all manners of things. I've never met another person quite like him but I would give a lot to find someone. Your Sunday afternoons with E-man and Tommy-G sound like a dream come true.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Hi Doug, I'd forgotten all about the Belmont blog after I left my position in the vets service office. That's where the pc was that had Belmont's site bookmarked. I'll start checking in again. I'm flattered you remember my two Heinlein posts. I love that guy. Thanks for sending the tribute.

Ed, you're right. I'm very lucky to have these two fellows to debate and discuss with. Truly thinking people with thoughts to express are hard to find incarnate.

Amadeo said...

I like the part about your articulating your belief and having it “tested” in the public arena. I too try to cement my beliefs in like manner, see how they stand under public scrutiny. And I believe we are the better for doing so, rather than with blinders keeping our beliefs to ourselves and not letting them see the light of day.

And I appreciated the little juxtaposition of political beliefs with which US region one resides. And it never was as heated as the last presidential elections when this was front and center in the political debates, the flyover states versus the bi-coastal blue states.

And you will understand my appreciation when I tell you that I have lived in San Francisco since we landed here in 1980. It took me over 15 years to wrench myself away from the Number One SF talk radio, finally realizing not only how one-sided the views were but how angry and demonizing a number of the hosts were against those who espoused other sides.

PhilippinesPhil said...

I appreciate your appreciation my friend. That "SF view" you spoke of reminds me of a friendly run-in I had a while back with a young Filipino from there. He was on a visit back here after being inculcated and steeped in the SF viewpoint for more than 10 years. We had QUITE the conversation. It was mostly him voicing what he'd heard from the SF talking heads and me picking him apart like an over-stewed lambchop. Poor guy.