Meeting Michael Totten

I met Michael Totten this afternoon - for the first, and, I hope, not the last time. Judith at Kesher Talk had invited me to join the NYC LiberalHawks mailing list, and (with disarming naivete) suggested I start a similar group here in Portland, perhaps beginning with MJT. I promised her I would see what I could do, not having the heart to inform her that Portland is not quite, exactly, precisely, New York City.

Michael was kind enough to respond to my invitation, saying that he didn't know of anyone else besides himself and his friend Sean LaFreniere, but would I like to get together for coffee some time? So we met this afternoon, for some two and a half hours, at World Cup Coffee on 18th and Glisan.

Michael is an energetic, articulate speaker. He talked about his awakening to the sickness of leftism in the wake of 9/11 - "it took me one week". Recalling the thrill of his college protest days, he grinned - "I was a moonbat!" We talked about how intoxicating the college experience or the youth counterculture can be for a young person escaping the confines of an upbringing in small-town Oregon, suburban Connecticut, or anyplace else. He pointed out how important it is for young adults to have that kind of intellectual and cultural stimulation.

Both of us share a certain sense of social alienation in being pro-Bush liberals in an anti-Bush environment. I guess I'm fortunate here because I've only been living in Portland five years and I don't have a lifetime of ties to the Northwest; so it's a little easier for me to decide I can do as I damn well please. (In a particularly defiant period last fall, I took to wearing my BUSH/CHENEY '04 sweatshirt to places like Whole Foods and Powell's Books.) And after comparing experiences, we found that the reactions from our friends to our "coming out" as Bush supporters were generally much less hostile than the worries conjured up by our imaginations would have had us believe. (Now, you have to understand that Michael is no lightweight.) To this day, the only overtly hostile reaction I've gotten was from the woman (an anthropology professor, no less!) who walked out on a date, flinging twenty dollars on the table and proclaiming, "I don't eat with people who vote for Bush!"

The internet is great, but it's no subsitute for meeting people in real life and having face-to-face conversations. I think it's especially important for pro-freedom folks to be assertive about their beliefs in social circles whenever possible - remember, whatever inconveniences you or I might face, it's nothing compared to what the brave dissidents in the Middle East are risking by speaking out. And, as I said to Michael, we base a lot of our judgments on the cues we pick up in face-to-face interaction; so expressing our views in person is often more effective than writing them electronically. And as the protesters in Lebanon have shown, there's power in numbers. So I'm looking forward to that meeting with Portland's pro-freedom, pro-Bush liberals.

All three of us.