Bloggers Who Lunch

Turns out neither of us has horns.

Ryan Evans and I had lunch Wednesday at Gramma Bonnie’s coffee shop in Amery, Wisconsin. Ryan’s one of the heartless right-wingers who climbed all over me for my tasteless liberal drivel when I wrote about taxes and the bridge collapse. On the blog we excoriated each other’s world views and souls.  Across a table we liked one another and found stuff we agree on. And when we disagreed, the world didn’t end.

But if we can’t demonize one another, what fun is writing or reading a blog? What’s more entertaining and enlightening — a Bill Moyers interview or a Hannity & Colmes yelling match? Well, folks, fulminating might make me feel good for awhile, but for long-term mind and soul sustenance I’ve got to take Moyers. Not that Ryan and I rose to that intellectual and spiritual level at lunch, but I was moved by what I heard from Ryan about his experiences that have formed his views. And I like that he listened to me.

I learned some lessons about blogging, and about being a human:

  • Spouting off dehumanizes. We’ll say things about another person on a blog that we’d never say to his or her face. Face to face, it’s hard to totally diss and dismiss another person.
  • Closed-minded people are a drag. Ryan reads several lefty blogs, because he’s curious. He went on Daily Kos not long ago, saw everyone was agreeing on the truth as they saw it, and had the guts to give his dissenting views. He got hooted down for it, called names. Nice and welcoming, liberals, real open to discussion. Good luck ever changing anyone’s mind, or learning something new yourselves.
  • Passion (sorry, Joe) and emotion can be heard and felt by another person, and can maybe even be attractive. Judgmentalism pushes people away. So writing with passion, not judgments, could be more effective at drawing in people who don’t agree with you.
  • Both Ryan and I dislike being type-cast, tossed in a box labeled “lefty” or “righty,” which can happen easily based on our short blog posts. I criticize some things about America and can easily be dismissed as someone who whines all the time about how much America sucks. Ryan criticizes some things about government and can easily be dismissed as a “heartless greedy bastard,” as he said. But he’s not heartless, and I’m damned glad I was born in America. We have divergent views on many things, but agree, for example, that we have too many abortions in this country, that abortion is a lousy form of birth control, and that a woman should have the right to choose an abortion. So am I, a lefty, anti-abortion? Yes and no. Is Ryan, a righty, pro-abortion? The terms don’t fit, and until you actually talk with and listen to someone, you can’t know how he or she thinks — or why.
  • Telling personal stories connects. Ryan served in the Navy, and military budget cuts weren’t just numbers to him. With trimmed budgets, he ate powdered eggs and slept in 1940s cinder-block barracks. With more military funding, he was served real eggs and slept in new barracks. Doesn’t change my view of the war in Iraq or Bush’s policies, but it makes me have more compassion for the soldiers and sailors on the front lines and the chow lines.

So what does this mean for me as a writer? I still want to shoot my mouth off, but spending a couple of hours with someone I disagree with but enjoyed getting to know may knock down some of my self-righteous certitude. My co-Rowdy Joe Loveland worries that a blog with too-civil discourse will be boring; he’d have made a great Roman when the lions were let loose in the Colosseum. I’m going to try to find a way to say something lively and thought-provoking that doesn’t close off the possibility that another view exists. Loveland, actually, is already good at this.

Thanks, Ryan. This was very cool, having a political viewpoint morph into a human being before my eyes. Let’s keep talking.

— Bruce Benidt

26 thoughts on “Bloggers Who Lunch

  1. By the way, you’re all assholes.

    Every time I see new post from The Same Rowdy Crowd pop up in my news reader, it’s as if someone handed my job a cease-and-desist order. Productivity plummets; happiness soars.

    (The “asshole” comment was sarcastic, or facetious, or something like that. If it didn’t come across as crude but funny, I’m sure I could get lessons in linguistic delicacy from the folks at the Kos.)

  2. jloveland says:

    I grew up in South Dakota, where liberals are viewed with bemusement, like an exotic pet. If you didn’t have conservative friends, you didn’t have friends. And yes, even I had friends. We would disagree vigorously over beers and never change each others mind, but still bring over a hot dish when the guy’s grandma dies. I don’t want to lose the vigorous part, but I fear we’re losing the hot dish part. Here’s to more lunches.

  3. Seems like both you and Ryan understand that discussion and debate is good. If we all agreed on the issues, the world would be frighteningly scary. Simply remembering a few of the basic Forensic guidelines when writing a blog post is all that’s required. Your views will be aired and they’ll still prompt response and discussion. Rabble rousing through thought provoking topics is a positive thing, after all you DID name this blog “The Same Rowdy Crowd.”

  4. For what it’s worth, my first comment (“posted” before the a-holes joke above) must of not actually been submitted properly. I had intended to express my appreciation for the Same Rowdy Crowd, which I honestly think is one of the best little sites on the Web. Thanks to all.

  5. It was a good time had by both, and will certainly be something we will be doing more of. We only spent two hours, and while that sounds like a decent amount of time, it flew by and we hardly scratched the surface of things to talk about. Very exhilarating to say the least. Good conversation is hard to come by these days, and maybe we need to start looking beyond our own little circles of comfort and engaging the people we ordinarily would firmly stand against.

    If you’re at all interested, read my take on the lunch. I think communication and common ground is the only thing that will be able to gap this divide, and I think Bruce and I, despite being passionately on different sides of the divide, made some progress in (if nothing else) at least understanding why we stand where we do. And heck, at this point of political stalemate I would consider that to be a huge step in progress.

  6. The Lib and I by ArclightZero about his coffee with Bruce Benidt
    August 24th, 2007
    “ArclightZero’s”, Ryan Evans and “THE SAME ROWDY CROWD’s” Bruce Benidt locked horns over the 35W bridge collapse. A Conservative and a Liberal fighting, defending their own views of the tragedy. Except they did what many of us will not do. They sat down for coffee to discuss their viewpoints. Something very insightful revealed itself to us.

    read more | digg story

    Posted in Grizzly Groundswell Action in Your Backyard!

  7. Bruce, Ryan,

    I think Bruce’s idea about some sort of coming together may be refreshing. It is a definate gimmick we could all use to lift ourselves out of the common ordinary piss and vinegar blog scene. Who knows?

    How about this. I could offer a place and something to remove us from ourselves. I am a raku clay artist. There is nothing better than a beverage of your choice and a raku experience. What if I invite Bruce and two of his liberal leaning blog pals of his choice, with Ryan and Two of your conservative blog pals. I will invite two grizzly groundswellers and we will be a party of 9. I can host it if everyone brings a beverage of their choice, something to grill and a dish to pass. I will scare up some bisque ware that we can glaze and take through the raku process as a shared experience and that will give everyone something tangible to take home with them. The Grizzly Groundswell will put this on for all 9 of us. You just have to get in your car or bike or hummer or solar car and get up to Princeton, MN. We will plan it for a day most can make it, so hopefully everyone can get up here and we can find where this takes us. Bring your labtop, bring your camera’s or whatever you need to capture the fun and not only will this remove you from your common ordinary, you will also get to pet a turkey, a chicken and maybe a goose if you are so lucky.

    The offer is on the table. Normally I charge $50 each for a Raku Event. This one is on the Grizzly Groundswell if you help with food and drink.

    Let me know on the Grizzly Groundswell. I am sure you will want to hammer out some details.

    ~Teddy Bear

  8. Bruce, that sounds great!

    I have not heard if Ryan is in or not. Let me know who you are bringing.

    I could make room for Silverback as well on Across the Great Divide. That is an interesting site.

    Get a hold of Ryan!

    ~Teddy Bear

  9. bbenidt says:

    Pretty easy to set aside one’s differences with fresh Mahi Mahi, fresh pineapple and fresh Hawaiian breezes.

  10. Thats tourist crap ! I’m a professional chef and have the lo down on all the local cuisine.
    But the Mahi and pineapple are still good.

    The mix of cultures would blow your mind.
    This state should and probably is a shining example of tolerance. And politics doesnt apply to the mindset at all, it’s just the way everyone is.

    I’m married, but the women here never cease to get my attention. I’ve been all over this country and the women here by far are the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. My first love at 12 years old was French, German, Vietnamese ,English and Phillipino. My wife is Hawaiian, Scottish, Portugese and Chinese.
    The mutts are everywhere. {I use mutts in a good way}
    Our Governor is a republican and the rest are all democrates, go figure.

  11. Indeed, Hawaii has a huge Raku festival that my friend Steven Branfman always presents at. He is the guy who wrote the Raku Textbook.

    I will have to write him and see when that is. I just got a card from him today. His son died of spinal cancer and his family bikes in an annual fundraiser out in Mass. I just got an update that this year’s event went well.

    Hey, professional chef! That is an art onto itself! If you ever need any raku handmade tile in your kitchen or home, let me know! Maybe I will have to go out there and install it! LOL!

    Hey, Bruce do you have any ideas on who you are bringing? Is Old Silverback on of the lucky few? I think he would be a great asset to the conversation since his site really deals with the topic.

    I have the sayanythingblog Rob from North Dakota may be able to attend if we can find a date. He will see. I was hoping to get North Dakota, Minnesota, and Wisconsin representation in this little event. Is there any Iowa, South Dakota bloggers out there that would fall into our template?

    I am an ambassador for North Dakota through a program they have to bring back business to North Dakota so I CC’d my contact there to give her a heads up so that maybe we can help Rob get some gas money or atleast send some promo stuff with him for us!

    Hey, I started the tripod dialog on my blog. It is hard to let go of my baby.

    I would post a pic, but I am not sure how to do that here. Here is the url:

    A lot to talk about, I am off to the fair tomorrow but you can call me anytime tomorrow evening or at your earliest convenience. 763 – 856 -8923

    No moonbats please! LOL

    Talk to you soon!


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