How to talk to a conservative

You may have noticed over the course of the last few months that what proceeds from the mouths of our usually friendly, well-scrubbed conservative brothers and sisters is often seemingly in variance with reality as we experience it. There are many situations where this linguistic disconnect can lead to embarrassing – or hilarious – misunderstandings. If you need to speak with a "Rightie," "Republican," "Conservative," "Raving Fascist Bigot," or just drunk ol’ Grandpa, here are a few helpful translations of their favorite (and most indecipherable) phrases to keep you in the conversation.

"Moral Values"
This is an important one, so make sure you get it right. This phrase does not mean "ethics" or even "being fair." The term "moral values" actually means evangelical Christianity. "Moral values" includes such wacky tidbits as literal interpretation of the Bible, condemnation of gay folks, and Country-Western music. Example: "Though President Bush favors lining the pockets of his wealthy cronies over actually making his country a better place, he sure does have moral values."

"Compassionate Conservatism"
Often confused with "Humble Foreign Policy," this term includes a variety of fun-filled ideas, including "Supply-side Economics," "Large-scale Privatization," "Enron" and everyone’s favorite Sunday evening dinner topic, "Guantanamo Bay." Often cloaked in sexy flight suits which highlight one’s properly bulging package, or livened up with Constitutional amendments banning stuff they don’t like, Righties use "Compassionate Conservatism" as a sort of social panacea. Example: "Sorry I got drunk and slept with your girlfriend, son – but at least I gave her a roofie beforehand! You should thank me for my Compassionate Conservatism."

"Diversity" / "Affirmative Action"
Don’t be confused here – this pair can be tricky. When a Rightie uses these terms, she means "unfair bias," "tokenism," or "goddamnit my blonde son didn’t get into University of Michigan law school and I’m PISSED!" Righties are often historically challenged, and the 400 years or so of the trans-Atlantic slave trade are inconveniently lost in the mists of time as far as they’re concerned. This is why they get confused and say things like, "Slaves actually were treated better than free black people were." Do not get these terms mixed up with their non-rightie meaning, "an attempt to redress the vast wrongs committed during our country’s first 150 years," or "a pleasing variety of ethnicities." Example: "Maude, did you know property values in North Portland are incredibly affordable?" "No, Geoff, I didn’t. It must be because of all the diversity in those neighborhoods." "Let’s take affirmative action and drive all those scary Black people out, making a lovely White neighborhood." "Keen!"

"Just get over it."
Another important one, this is Rightese for "I’m dreadfully sorry, but it would appear that I’ve egregiously fucked you/your constituency/your quaint, exotic little country." It may strike you as a little offensive at first, but remember – you and Righties are not speaking the same language! "Just get over it" goes hand in hand with "Compassionate Conservatism" – it’s the gentle reminder that, though they own your ass for three generations, and are mauling the social fabric of your country beyond all civilized recognition, they’re at least graciously aware of it. Example: "Sorry my hot new chemical weapons plant dumped napalm into the stream your grandmother uses for drinking water. Oops – it caught on fire, destroyed her house and horrifically disfigured her? Well, our profits were through the roof last quarter. Just get over it."

Though there are many more important phrases ("no conflict of interest," "liberation," "interrogation," these few above are an important – and fun – starting point in the sometimes wacky, sometimes weird, but always delightful (just not for you) world of the American Conservative Mandate.

Riggs Fulmer can be reached at [email protected]