On Bookstores And Bubbles

As I was walking the streets of Olympia today, I decided to stop at some of our local bookstores, Last Word Books and Orca Books. For those who are not native to this area, “local bookstores in Olympia” means left-wing. Very left-wing. The typical clientele of these establishments are the type who will criticize President Obama for not being liberal enough. They are the sorts who long for a socialist revolution, and think that conservatives are the ultimate in stupidity and/or evil. Into this environment I went, without hesitation.

The walls and shelves at Last Word Books were plastered with posters celebrating anarchy and socialism while decrying capitalism. In addition to the usual bookstore sections of fiction, history, self-help, etc., Last Word had extensive collections of books on sex, gender theory, feminism, and counter-culture. There were many fliers for various left-wing causes. Personally, I could never support any of the groups that were promoted there. However, I found a book on farming by my hero Victor Davis Hanson for only $6, even though the same book was $16 on Amazon. I happily purchased my book and went on my way. Last Word is now free to use that $6 for whatever they wish. Capitalism: Learn to love it.

Folks are often comfortable living in ideological bubbles. Imagine that your parents, schoolteachers, and college professors all carry similar political beliefs. Imagine that the television you watch, the news you read, and the bloggers you follow all support those same beliefs. Encountering someone with different beliefs can be as disconcerting as a visit from space aliens. This sort of insular life can lend itself to caricatures. The common left-wing view of conservatives is either that of an uneducated, racist hick who acts like Archie Bunker; or a rich, evil oil baron in the guise of Thurston Howell. If you caricature your opponents, it makes it easy to dismiss their points of view without bothering to argue.

The downside of living in this bubble, however, is that your own position becomes weak. Someone who never has to defend their beliefs does not spend a lot of time thinking about why they believe what they believe. On the other hand, someone who lives outside of a bubble constantly has to defend and refine their own ideology. I live in a blue city in a blue state. Most news is slanted to the left, and most of my friends and coworkers hold liberal or progressive beliefs. Because of this, I know more about the reasons for my beliefs than I did when I was a naive kid in school. Iron sharpens iron.

My advice is to step out of your bubble. Those of you on the left, turn on Rush Limbaugh or Dennis Prager. Read a post by Victor Davis Hanson or Jonah Goldberg. For those on the right, watch Jon Stewart or Rachel Maddow. Read something on the Huffington Post or the Daily Kos. Step into a left-wing bookstore. You probably will not be converted, but it will force you to sharpen your own arguments. Pop your bubble.

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