Back when I was at Southern Tech, I struck up a friendship with a girl named Renata Guittierez. Despite having very different political views, we got along well in most every other respect, did quite well hanging out with each others’ friends and family, and turned out to have mutual friends like Hubert and Will, most of whom she’d known during high school while I met them in the dorms.

In fact, numerous friends continually tried to get us to date. We both demurred – probably for the best given that she met her eventual husband at Hubert’s wedding.

Throughout the years, the one major issue on which we were opposed has always been politics. She’s extremely activist; I’m more laid-back. She has “key issues” on which, quite frankly, I think the fundamental premise is fatally flawed. Despite this, even our political discussions were usually quite lively and fun, because we didn’t take anything said personally, and because we both knew to stay on the realm of discussing policy rather than mouthing the usual platitudes/insults that pass for “political discussion” from the political parties these days. Any time I wanted to mentally say “all members of X party are Z”, I mentally remind myself of Renata and Hubert, who didn’t come even close to that 95% of the time.

A while ago, however, she and her husband moved away from Colosse, so that he could take an offered job in neighboring Pontchartrain. Ever since, her level of political discourse has been steadily deteriorating. Very little is about policy for her any more – it’s much more about making personal insults towards leaders of the opposition party, while explaining away her party’s very real faults as being something the other side supposedly “cooked up” or that “shouldn’t matter.” Whereas before, I could count on her for a relatively accurate fecometric (read: how much of an asshole are they) reading on a politician from her own party, that’s no longer the case.

I’m beginning to wonder about Pontchartrain. I know it has a growing Hispanic population. I know it’s more heavily tilted towards her side of the aisle. I didn’t think it would do that much damage, however, and I have to confess some serious concerns as to whether the city itself is such an echo chamber, or whether the move to a new city – and her strident political careerism plus the ability to “pick” a new set of local friends, most likely gleaned from her starting pool of political colleagues – has simply led her to construct a close-knit echo chamber of “new friends” with some extreme blinders as to the fact that we on the other side are not, in fact, represented by some of the vitriolic rhetoric she’s lately been spreading.

Category: Coffeehouse

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8 Responses to An Echoing Chamber

  1. Linus says:

    Keep in mind that Pontchartrain could be pretty bitter towards the political party in power when Katrina hit.

    Also, I think it’s normal for political views to “harden” somewhat over time. I try to stay as open-minded as I can, but when you view things through a certain lens for long enough, I think you tend to take more and more things as givens and start vilifying the other side. I wonder if there’s any way you could gently broach the subject with her.

  2. web says:


    Renata’s new city is actually pretty far from any storm-hit place (remember, “names and places may be renamed to protect the guilty”). Pontchartrain was suggested by Will as being the nearest “in-universe” city, description-wise, to the actual location.

  3. trumwill says:

    It was a good thought, Linus. Pontchartrain often, though not always, represents its most obvious-world counterpart. This is a counterexample because the city in question simply doesn’t fit into Trumanverse. One of those aggravating cracks on the surface of things.

  4. thebastidge says:

    Definitely, our attitudes tend to harden over time, but there’s a fundamental malleability about our view of the universe that is rather unfortunate. We see things through the lens of our monkey-tribe. Tribal identity has subjective value which often trumps ethics, logic, and a great deal of objective utility (wealth, comfort, even life).

    This is the greatest argument FOR diversity. I still don’t see diversity itself being the most important goal, but I do find that diversity has some good effects as well as negative ones. The most obvious is one where we gain understanding of differing viewpoints, which is useful even when those other viewpoints are wrong.

  5. PeterW says:

    Clearly, in her new locale, she lacked for your clear-headed argumentation 🙂

  6. john says:

    I am always suspicious of politically “active” people. Not single-issue activists, but people who gravitate from cause to cause in a never-ending quest for “justice”.

    Living in DC my whole life, I’ve met a ton of these people. If you listen carefully, you discover that there is always another reason for their perpetual state of dissatisfaction. Maybe an old grudge that never got resolved, or a search for meaning and fulfillment. For a lot of these people, activism is like the bar scene – a place to see and be seen, to meet people and socialize without any particular structure or screening.

    As time goes by, and their efforts succeed or fail, they have to concoct greater and more circuitous rationalizations for their involvement. The other side must not only be wrong but EVIL. The very fate of humanity must be at stake. Having no more worlds to conquer, the perpetual activist must invent new phantoms to oppose. The two-party system makes this very convenient. Issues cease to matter. All that’s required is a name and a face for the enemy.

    There is definitely an “echo chamber” effect from spending all your time among like-minded people. But more than that the need to find fault with the world, to never be satisfied with the status quo, breeds increasingly irrational anger and resentment. It’s not a psychologically healthy way to go through life.

  7. web says:

    One of the more interesting things about my job is that I am, basically, inside the echo chamber of the “other side.” It’s annoying sometimes to hold back when hearing a particularly stupid/ill-informed rant, but it does offer a chance to see where their perspectives come from (and a lot of the downright faulty assumptions that form the basis of their belief system).

  8. thebastidge says:

    I hear you there, Webguy. I am a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Libertarian hawk with a self-augmented education and lots of international experience. I don’t fit into any camp. I am constantly surrounded by people with opposing (and often stupid and ill-informed) viewpoints.

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