Interviewing Jedediah Bila About Her Book “Outnumbered: Chronicles of a Manhattan Conservative.”
I was pleased to get an opportunity to talk to Jedediah Bila about her new book, “Outnumbered: Chronicles of a Manhattan Conservative.”
What follows is a slightly edited transcript of our conversation.
Your book is sort of a diary telling people what it was like to be a Palin-supporting conservative in New York in the run-up to the 2008 election. Tell me your favorite story about an encounter with a liberal from the book.
Oh, there were so many. It was really quite an exciting time to be a Palin supporter in New York to be honest with you. I think that the one that has stuck out most for readers was when I was in a café and I had an older woman who was 80 or so years old, probably even a little older than that, who ran up to me and tucked my Palin pin inside my jacket. She was deadly terrified that I was going to be mobbed by people as a result of it. She told me that she had actually been nearly run down by a group of people as a result of a pin she had been wearing the week before. I don’t think that was a funny moment for me at all, but I think it was a really reflective moment where I just said, “My gosh, what kind of people would seriously mob an 80-something year old woman because of a pin?”
So that was an awakening moment for me, but in terms of funny, what also comes to mind is a moment when I was in a museum and I was surrounded by this gorgeous art. People were sketching and I had a woman come over to me and have a fight with me about a Drill, Baby, Drill sticker. She talked to me about how I didn’t care about the environment and she was just in a tizzy. When I went out on the street a couple of minutes later, I saw that she spit out her gum, rolled it up in a piece of aluminum foil, and threw it on the sidewalk. So she wasn’t really a big fan of practicing what she preached, if you know what I mean.
One of the things that I find fascinating about liberals is that even the most angry closed-minded, vicious, intolerant liberals think of themselves as compassionate, open-minded, sweet natured and tolerant. Why do you think that is? Why do you think for a lot of liberals there is such a huge gulf between the way they actually behave and the way they think of themselves?
It’s amazing. There is a huge hypocrisy and there is a desire to paint conservatives as the opposite of all of those things they claim to be. That’s one of the things I do. I wanted to really point out what left wing tolerance and feminism and all these things they claim as their own — well, what do those things actually look like in terms of their own behavior?
It’s really quite the contrary. I think that liberals have been told for many years by the media and by liberal politicians that they look up to, that that’s who they are and that’s what they represent. They represent compassion and tolerance and all of these wonderful virtues and they believe it and they don’t take a minute to look at their own actions and say, “Hold on a second — my actions and my life don’t reflect that.” You look at people in the media who are preaching a new tone and in the same breath, are cursing or saying outrageous things about Sarah Palin, Michele Bachmann, or other conservative figures. So it’s really outrageous, but that’s the trend and that’s something that we have to call out and rally against.
Now, Jonah Goldberg, when he talks about the way the mainstream media covers conservatives — he talks about it as almost like a “gorilla’s in the mist” approach. They sort of study them from afar like Jane Goodall studying the chimps. So let me reverse that — you spent all this time in Manhattan living openly as a conservative amongst liberals. What did that teach you about liberals?
Oh, so much! I’ve been dealing with liberals my whole life. I grew up in the city, I’ve taught at the middle school, high school and college level in the New York area. I went to schools that were predominantly liberal. I graduated from Columbia University; so it’s given me a lot of insight into the liberal mindset and how it works. I’ve dated a whole lot of liberals, which I think people find really funny, but it’s been a great experience — let me tell you.
I hate to generalize, but my experience with the far Left is that they are very judgmental people, that they aren’t terribly tolerant, that they are very uncomfortable with differing views. Even though they preach diversity, healthy debate is really often not an option. They really exist to try to convince you that their way of thinking is the right way and if you don’t leave the room believing that, it makes them very, very uncomfortable.
It has also given me a very thick skin though and a realization that it’s really important to have strong Reagan conservatives in these liberal strongholds speaking their mind, being a voice for our youth and letting them know that if you do live in these areas, don’t back down, don’t put your pens away, don’t be afraid to wear a “Reagan Was Right” t-shirt running through the park as I often love to do. The answer is not to retreat; it’s really to just be proud of who you are and let people know — I’m not budging; so you can take it or leave it.
Now you said something interesting there — that you’ve dated a lot of liberals. I’m sure that will surprise some people; so tell us a little bit about that. What’s the difference between dating a liberal and dating anybody else? Do you find there’s a difference? Tell us about that?
When I was in college, I dated a very liberal guy. I live in New York; so I’ve encountered musicians, people who are in creative fields. I’m very much drawn to artists and musicians because I absolutely love creativity and all that comes with it. So I’ve been drawn to those personality types which often do lean left.
I have dated some conservatives as well. My experience with conservatives is that arguing is a lot easier. You don’t have to be so paranoid about insulting them all the time. There is a much thicker backbone, generally speaking. Although I’m not a fighter and I don’t really like to fight — but, of course, everything becomes a fight with a liberal. So if you’re talking about silverware, it’s a personal attack. You could be talking about the weather that day and somehow that’s a judgmental jab at them. So it’s definitely given me a lot of experience in terms of not being afraid to speak my mind, but also understanding how that other very different worldview works. I mention in the book that politics isn’t something that you can sort of fold up and stick in your pocket. It really penetrates every aspect of your life and the way you view everything. So it does carry over and it definitely enters the conversation even when you don’t realize it. You don’t realize you’re arguing about something political, but it really is. It’s a value based disagreement, it’s quite interesting, and definitely a learning experience.
Now let me ask you this last question. It’s one that you’d probably punch me in the shoulder for if we were in the same room. Your fans have probably wondered this forever, though. You’re this sweet, dainty woman and you have the name of a famous mountain man. That’s kind of an unusual combination. How did your parents end up naming you Jedediah ?
My mom is incredibly creative. She was a drama director for years. She actually still does some of that to this day and she really wanted something strong and bold regardless of whether I was going to be a boy or a girl. She wanted something that people were going to sort of struggle to get right in the beginning, to get the spelling right, et cetera, but that they would never forget. I think that’s what she got and in the beginning, it was a lot of fun for me before I did TV because I would show up and people wouldn’t know — is it a boy, is it a girl, who is this person? So it was kind of entertaining for me. Of course, as I hit TV, that all changed, but I think it kind of fits me. It’s completely unconventional. I do have some nicknames which I don’t share because I know if I give out the nicknames, people will never say my full name again. It’s just too hard, so it’s been fun though. I think my mom’s intention was to be different and to keep it sort of unconventional, shall we say.
Outstanding, thank you so much, Jedediah.
Thank you so much.
Once again, Jedediah Bila’s new book is called, “Outnumbered: Chronicles of a Manhattan Conservative.”