Opinion | A Chat With Conservative Men – The New York Times


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Some liberals were surprised by how much they agreed with members of the focus group, while other readers were more critical.
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To the Editor:
Re “Eight Conservative Men, Zero Apologies” (“America in Focus” series, Sunday Review, April 17):
It meant a lot to me to hear what these men feel. I’m closer to being progressive than conservative in my politics, but I feel a lot in common with these men, and it reinforces my belief that we all have more in common in our fundamental beliefs and values than you would imagine from the amount of disinformation and outrage that is peddled at us (largely for profit).
I believe that Americans should not see one another as the enemy, but come to recognize that we have numerous forces making life harder, and that if we don’t start to bond around shared values, we stand to lose everything.
Let’s start talking across the political, cultural and racial divides about the issues and how to deal with them, and not get absorbed in the culture wars that are mostly whipped up by manipulative politicians and opportunistic misinformation outlets.
Paul Hernday
Santa Rosa, Calif.
To the Editor:
Why did The New York Times think we needed yet another story about the grievances, insecurities, delusions and weaknesses of conservative men? That story got more than its share of ink during the Trump years with endless “white men in Ohio diners” stories, and has continued to this day.
We know what they think. We, frankly, don’t care.
What is needed are more stories about women who cannot access health care in red states. Stories about L.G.B.T.Q. kids who are being bullied, marginalized and abused. Stories about people seeking asylum.
Please, give us stories about the marginalized and forgotten, not about angry conservative men who think that it is their God-given right to impose their narrow, outdated worldview on the rest of us.
Peter Lotto
Fayetteville, N.Y.
To the Editor:
I appreciate that The New York Times is offering venues for different groups to express their views of America today, and the chance to understand how so many men feel like “a stranger in their own country.” A few also want to see more “compassion” in our society, which seems so vital at this time.
And yet this conversation also made me “worry for our democracy.” One man observed how he voted for Donald Trump and was upset that people “had a problem with it,” without expressing any curiosity or awareness of why some people might have had legitimate disagreements with the previous president. Another expressed concern with the country becoming “feminized” without acknowledgment of the variety of gender experiences that may exist for people different from him and his family.
Another noted how the country has “lost the ability to have civil discourse and be able to learn from different opinions.” And yet there is very little in this piece to show that these men themselves are interested in or curious about “different opinions.” So, in the end, they too are just all about “me, me, me.”
Sharon R. Wesoky
Meadville, Pa.
The writer is a professor of political science at Allegheny College.
To the Editor:
Such an interesting article. It’s clear that these men feel marginalized. However, as a 70-year-old gay man, I found it difficult to feel much empathy for them as they experience what many of us have felt over our lifetimes.
My takeaway was that they are whining and grieving about the loss of power and dominance. Let them grieve and support one another through the process. For them this may be the most difficult time of their lives. Not so much for the rest of us.
Gary Springer
Dallas
To the Editor:
This article should be read by all left-leaning Americans, and particularly members of the Democratic Party who are worried about being battered in the midterm elections. I consider myself a liberal Canadian, but I found myself in agreement with these men on 40 out of 58 points I could tease out. Many of their values are probably common to most thoughtful Americans.
Wake up, progressive America!
Vern Paetkau
Victoria, British Columbia
To the Editor:
These eight men are not trying hard enough. It doesn’t take much to lift ourselves out of the blame game.
As Donald Trump governed I grew so distressed that I called the most conservative cousin I had and asked, “What am I missing?” Two years and umpteen Zooms later, our conversations have expanded to include two evangelical right-wing Christians, a conservative Catholic, a Quaker, three progressives, a moderate and a high school junior, ranging in age from 16 to 79.
It’s been hard work. But we have learned a few things. First, no matter what the issue, we ask one another what can we say “yes” to with this “other” point of view? Second, we identify our objections and explore them.
What is fascinating is that we often misunderstand one another’s intent. We seem to either come from a context of “help others” or “help yourself” and then mistakenly frame the other as either enabling the victim or being selfish. So we keep asking for clarification. Then, we listen.
People just want to be heard, seen and recognized. If we can do that, we have a chance at saving this beautiful experiment in democracy. Hard? Yes! But oh so worth it.
Susan Lindsay
Stanford, Calif.
To the Editor:
This was an excellent piece. I am a 77-year-old woman, a liberal all my life, and yet I happen to agree with these conservative men on many of the issues they brought up. I also feel out of sync with today’s left wing in the Democratic Party. Throughout history people on the far right and far left seem to have similar concerns, and it is sometimes hard to differentiate between them. I feel that we are in that place in America today.
Mary Lou Hennebry
New York
To the Editor:
These eight men have no apologies for not accepting the fact that things change. People like them exist all over the world and always have, because change presents challenges that can make us feel vulnerable, confused, angry and, perhaps worst of all, undervalued.
Adapting to change is not a sign of weakness, but I sense it feels that way for these men. It’s as if they want to believe that their views must be tolerated and accepted for as long as they wish to hold them. What they apparently fail to understand is that no one’s views are accorded that deference.
Rick Diguette
Atlanta
To the Editor:
As a 68-year-old social liberal (but fiscal conservative), I volunteer to be interviewed for your sequel “Eight Progressive Men …” I’m extremely disappointed and saddened, but not surprised, as I’ve watched the United States steadily deteriorate since I was a kid — its growing fascism, its monetization of everything, its extreme economic inequality and the hollowing out of Main Street by Wall Street. It’s been an oligarchy for decades.
I have little hope for younger generations to enjoy a middle-class standard of living. No wonder diseases of despair (like drug overdoses) have become an increasing cause of death in the U.S.
Bill Makley
Pompano Beach, Fla.
To the Editor:
This was a good article and conversation, but I’m not sure that these viewpoints are the exclusive domain of conservative men. Much, but not all, of what they said I agree with, and I’m a center-left kind of guy. I feel the same as they do about expressing my opinion on matters, but it’s not about getting canceled; it’s about being physically threatened.
I agree that political correctness has suppressed conversation and put up a barrier between people of different races, sexes, cultures, etc. Genuine apologies aren’t accepted anymore if an honest mistake is made. I also think the media are agitating people unnecessarily.
I don’t agree with everything these men said, but I appreciate their articulation of their concerns so that I can better understand them.
Matthew Kirn
Fairfax, Va.
To the Editor:
Wow! I truly love a 1950s man. There’s only one thing wrong. That was 70 years ago. Where have these eight men been for the last 70 years?
Jim Morgan
Fairhope, Ala.
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