Let me start by saying that living in Arizona, surrounded by a lot of retired wealthy people who feed on a steady diet of Fox News and CNBC is hard. But it certainly presents a lot of teaching moments as well. These people most definitely lean way to the right side of the political spectrum and fear of losing their hard-earned money to "socialistic" ideas like supporting the "moochers" and "deadbeat lazy leeches" is their main concern, with fears of "illegal aliens" and Obama taking their guns away running a close second.
I confess, it is often really, really tough to maintain my composure when having a conversation with some of these people, but I work damn hard at doing just that. You see, I actually like most of these people. Deep down, they are pretty decent people (other than their odious political views), so I work really hard to keep my cool and not lose it. Listening to them parrot the nonsense drivel they've heard from the likes of Bill O'Reilly or Sean Hannity gets kind of old, but it's really a small price to pay if I can maintain a friendship and possibly change their minds on an issue or two.
I listen, I engage them in spirited debate, and I remain respectful and calm (which for me can be a real challenge, cuz I can be a hothead). I make damn sure I have my facts down straight. I have no idea if I succeed in moving any of these people to reconsider their stances, but I do know I get them to think of things in a new light. So who knows? I may occasionally be changing some hearts and minds along the way.
But today something happened that really got me ticked. And I almost lost my cool. A gentleman I've known for many years came over to say hi. He had a bunch of band-aids all over his face and arms and when I asked him what had happened he told me he'd just been to the dermatologist and had a bunch of skin cancer excised or frozen. The many years of unprotected sun exposure had finally come back to haunt him.
I asked him who he went to and if he liked him. He scrunched up his face and gave me the doctor's name and told me he wasn't crazy about him. When I asked him why, he told me he was too gay.
Uh boy. I had to take a very deep breath before responding. And upon exhaling I asked him if it was because the doctor was gay that he felt the man was a bad doctor. He got very defensive and very embarrassed and quickly began assuring me he really wasn't homophobic or anything like that. And then he added that he had a hard time talking to this doctor and that is why he thought he wasn't a good doctor, to which I responded that maybe it was him that had the problem and not the doctor. He looked me in the eye and said, "maybe you are right".
Did I give him food for thought? I'm not sure. Will he make a homophobic remark like that to me again? For his sake, I hope not. But one thing about this conversation did give me hope. I don't believe this man is a froth-at-the-mouth homophobe, confronting him on his discomfort being around a gay man embarrassed him. Real homophobes wear their homophobia with pride. This man did not.