'Mom, go upstairs. We're all liberals.'
Ouch. Monday night was the first time I heard my daughter apply that label to herself, and the word didn't please me. She and six friends/coworkers were about to watch the final Obama-Romney debate on the large-screen TV in our suburban basement.
These twenty-something kiddies were enjoying our hospitality because it was free. They're a company (founder, partners, contractors, trainee), part of the start-up trend whereby young persons hang out at coffee shops, staring into laptops, trying to start the next Foursquare or Fab and make a billion dollars. Until that happens, they can't afford things like airfare or hotels. So in order to attend a conference in the city near us, they had driven cross-country in a minivan and were staying at our house for four and a half days.
Up to this point, neither my husband nor I had said a word to them about politics or cultural norms in general. When they brought in large quantities of beer and liquor and stayed up late consuming it, we said nothing. We did not inquire about the marital status of the couple cohabiting in the main guest room. On Sunday, we went to church but did not try to recruit them to go with us. We were not merely nonjudgmental, but supportive, stocking up on groceries to meet their various dietary needs and keeping quiet while they occupied the kitchen, "co-working."
Tolerant I am. But being told to leave my own basement did not cut it.
I sat down in front of the television and asked the kids to turn up the volume.
The Preezy and his opponent appeared onscreen with the moderator in between, ready to debate foreign policy. The kids sat with laptops open like students at a lecture, in rapt attention, whereas I was in interactive mode, ready to fact-check and commentate, holding a bowl of snack food to throw at the screen should words fail.
Obama went straight into prevarication, claiming he had made the Mideast more stable by siding with the moderate elements of the Arab Spring.
"No, he didn't. He helped the Muslim Brotherhood take over Egypt."
"The Muslim Brotherhood are moderate," the trainee opined.
"No they're not. They're all about sharia law. It's barbaric."
Blank stares. They didn't seem to know what I was talking about.
I would not be shushed. I could have gone upstairs and watched the debate by myself, but I stuck around. Having to listen to me was the price of my B&B. I sensed there might be potential for mind-changing, should I shine more light o'truth on the murky rhetoric. I kept on pointing out Oby's departures from truth.
Obama took credit for taking out Osama.
"It was the Navy SEALs who did that."
Obama took credit for success in Afghanistan.
"Then why has the casualty rate been going up? And why, after we've been there over ten years, is Afghanistan still producing 90% of the world's heroin?"
Obama criticized Romney's budget.
"How can he do that? Obama hasn't had a budget in four years." I tried to keep my comments brief, talking about the coming "fiscal cliff."
And so it went. No one argued back; they just stared at me blankly or shook their heads dismissively. I got the impression that they were looking at the world through different lenses from mine. When Romney said "I'm going to go after the bad guys and kill them," some of them laughed. Meaning what? They've been so indoctrinated with moral relativism that "bad" and "good" are comical? None of them seemed concerned about the advance of Islamic extremism, or Iran getting a bomb, or the soon-to-happen massive cuts in the military, or the many-trillion-dollar debt.
Despite their attitude, they kept on half-listening to the debate (the other half focused on their laptops, possibly "working"). At one point, reacting to a Romney statement, one of them said, "There's our meme!" At that, two of them started typing furiously, I suppose defaming the former governor on Twitter. Apparently, finding Romney stuff to make fun of was their reason for tuning in.
Nothing Romney said seemed to please them -- not even his plan to pursue economic policies to help small business or get a handle on deficit spending. These are matters that affect their personal economic prospects.
I might have said (but didn't), "Obama's economic policy is the reason you guys don't have a real job!"
After an hour, when Romney and Obama started agreeing with each other about how to handle the Mideast and China, I gave up on being the cheerleader for truth. From my guests' mutterings, I didn't get the impression I had changed any minds.
As soon as the debate ended, I went upstairs, feeling alienated and defeated. I asked myself, what dire things will have to happen to these people before they see the light? Inflation busting their budget? Business failure? Moving back in with their parents? (Seriously, that prospect is why we empty-nesters still own a large house.)
I also felt defeated because my daughter has turned out to be liberal. Either she's been that way for a while and hidden it from us, or else she's given in to the left-wing culture that surrounds her in the blue-state city where she lives. I had previously thought she was libertarian, as I am. Big diff. Her being a lefty puts a distance between us that wasn't there before.
This morning, the kids packed up the minivan and drove away. On the way out, three of them thanked me for our hospitality. The other four, including the anti-Romney tweeters, said nothing.
I took out their trash, and now I'm laundering the sheets and towels they used.
Is all of this not indicative of the relationship between the youthful left and the rest of us?