Jose de la Isla: Many in the GOP are feeling bullied by fellow Republicans because of their moderate views.
At her urging, I met Anabelle for lunch at her country club where two weeks earlier a Tea Party event was held. She was upset because e-mails continued arriving from friends, who she thought knew better. Many of them are seniors, all Republicans, and mostly very well off. The missives, spreading virally, are caustic, inflammatory, and make unseemly accusations about communists and socialist takeovers, alleging the menace comes from Democrats and President Barack Obama.
The lack of an acceptable normalcy bothers Anabelle. She tells me about having attended a precinct meeting and feeling bullied by fellow Republicans because of her moderate views. Because of her independent thinking on religion, politics and church-and-state matters, she is close to losing a dear friend as a consequence.
The squabbles, she says, don't seem any longer about differing perspectives but are weakening the mortar that held together parts of the Republican Party she knew. Like-mindedness has become a matter of loyalty, and Anabelle was feeling she was right but fundamentally lonely out there.
Her invitation was especially timely because just the day before I had run into a Republican friend who was a spirited but hopeless candidate for a county position during the March primary. She told me about how she was coordinating an initiative to recruit more Hispanic Republicans. She began her rap about how Hispanics are basically "social liberals and fiscal conservatives," or some variation thereof.
All that has always sounded like high falutin' rationalizations to me, and I listened politely. Then she confessed about the struggle with the local party leaders who have the levers of power and make the path for moderate Hispanic Republican advancement difficult. The number of Latino candidates fielded during the primary was nonetheless impressive, given the party impediments and having to fight party members who believe they have the right to define membership narrowly.
Over lunch I told Anabelle about Oregon writer Robert Leo Heilman, who set out to explain why it is that someone splattered a bucket of feces one night on the front window of the local Democratic Party office in Roseburg, Ore., which had a life-size cutout of Obama inside.
I realized I should have waited for another time, not over lunch, to tell her about the dreck, leading Heilman to recount about a gorilla at Griffith Park in Los Angeles 50 years ago.
Sometimes one or two "yahoos," he wrote in the Oregon Quarterly, would taunt and agitate the isolated and incarcerated ape, until it would fling excreta as an expression of its fearful and stress-driven life.
Apes, Heilman tells us, have highly active adrenal glands from which their fight or flight instinct comes while humans have the capacity to remain calm in the face of adversity. This quality to remain calm separates humans from apes and has allowed social evolution and civilization instead of brutish lives in the bush. "It is only the trusting and loving who are humane," says Heilman.
The current political mudslinging is less about ideology and more about lack of trust. "To trust no one is, perhaps, worse than insanity -- it may be atavistic, apish, less than fully human," Heilman writes. Distrust, as a political implement, raises adrenaline, inducing frustration, and separates "out" groups from those who are "in."
Since last summer, we have witnessed at town hall meetings, rallies, conferences and conventions, the raised voices, the high decibels, the ugly slogans, brandished weapons and unseemly cliches -- all intended to upset. The dour looks, the visage of vengeance and retribution, the lack of serenity and calm -- those politics are not about reasoning, understanding and building but about flinging and slinging.
The best advice available for those brave civic-minded heroes who are trying to introduce change to their party is to duck when they see something aimed in their direction.
Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.