Patricia Walton

The Good Old Days, the Way We Want Them

Published in: 28. The Reefs of Conflict

Patricia Walton takes pride in her deep American roots – her family came over to the continent in the 17th century, and the signature of one of her ancestors stands below the Declaration of Independence.
She graduated Dartmouth College as valedictorian.
At Leningrad State University, she studied 19th century Russian history.
Her later education focused on international relations (Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy).
She has worked extensively in translation and interpretation for a major American company partnering with Russia.

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In the United States, many people today want to return, one way or another, to some imagined idyllic past. There’s a general tendency to call these people “conservatives,” to see them as inclined to slow or reverse the shifts taking place in society.

Lately, though, at the political spectrum’s other end, among “liberals” — I consider myself part of this group, along with other like minds who want to quicken the world’s changes — there’s a surprising longing for the past. We don’t plan to surrender modern cultural and technological advances. But we feel we have lost some things, and we want them back.

We want being an intellectual to be esteemed again, for education to be valued once more, for using words longer than two syllables to be an ordinary thing. My parents both had college degrees, yet the small community of lobstermen they moved to in Maine did not ostracize them as snobby elites.

We want conducting conversation in a polite manner to merit respect again, rather than risk of nastily toned accusations of “political correctness.” My mother always said, “If you don’t have something nice to say about someone, don’t say anything at all.” Few can uphold such a rigorous standard, but offensive language in “decent” society seems uncultured, to say the least.

We — at least some of us — want conservatives and liberals to be able to talk with each other, understand each other, and live together. My mother was a liberal and my father was a conservative. They never fought. As for me, I worked in the oil industry for years with people more conservative than myself. I understood their point of view, while having my own. I even agreed with them on a couple of points. My relationships with them had no undercurrents of ill feeling, much less of hate. These days, that has become simply unrealistic. I believe one truth; they believe an entirely different one, discarding even the couple of points where we used to agree! Talking with them them at all about this has gotten completely impossible.

We want to socialize about other things besides politics and gossip. Just what did we talk about most, as students? About our interests, our views on life? In any case, we didn’t argue endlessly about politics… Maybe we also talked about books? About music? About our work and what inspired us?

Finally, for my part, I want the chance to date a conservative if we connect and find ourselves otherwise compatible. Just like my mother and father. They were right. Because lifelong love depends on so much more than politics.

And when I have a night free, I’d like to go out to a bar with my boyfriend and a light heart, not worrying about getting glares from people suspecting snobbery when we use big words. To sit peacefully and talk with nothing abusive said about anyone, any group or nationality. To go to dinner with conservative friends and discuss worthwhile topics, agreeable things like books and music, and, if the conversation strays to politics, have a good, respectful, lively discussion which lets us part with our friendship intact.

Those are the Good Old Days I’d like to bring back to life.

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