I just posted this as a reply to something written by the indispensible, fabulous aimai over at Roy Edroso’s place (http://alicublog.blogspot.com/) and it came out so long I thought, Shmuck, post it as a post. Thus:
Aimai writes about the “fixation” of conservatives on the family–this, with regard to the wingnut bloggers’ indifference to the outright murder of kids at a camp in Norway. Says she:
If you look at the language of the evangelicals/fundamentalists, the natalists, and nationalists and fascists there is a huge emphasis on reproduction and the control and education of girls (as reproducers) and children (as the next generation). There’s no pity for liberal men and women who lose their children because they are assumed not to have managed their role as reproducers and cultural transmitters in the first place. This is part of the animosity directed at all feminists and pro choicers–the theoretical support for abortion is represented as identical to a willing commission of infanticide.
So I says in reply, I says:
Good point. I think what you describe in them rests on a foundation of assumed powerlessness: “*I* have had to suffer, so why shouldn’t liberals/gays/the rest of the world be made to suffer, too? It wouldn’t be fair to me if they didn’t.”
That this leads to a world-view entirely colored by resentment is only the beginning. It also underlies their view of homosexuality as license and self-indulgence. It leads to the endless, endless demonstrations of hypocrisy around their supposedly-cherished notions of “freedom.” They’re all for freedom unless someone–feminists, gays, pacifists, blacks (add: pro-choice. Ed.); anybody but they–actually want to exercise it in ways that threatens the “conservative”‘s fundamental view of life as being a prison sentence once must stoically accept.
What they hate the most, therefore, is the idea of therapy. The notion that self-awareness and self-examination can break many of the chains from which they derive their very identities, frightens them. And it should. Realizing that you’ve been an asshole to your children because your father was an asshole to you–and that you NEED NOT CONTINUE TO BE ONE–does indeed threaten your very self. It’s a self you’re better off modifying, but IT doesn’t know and can’t face that.
To help them avoid such dangers there are religion-based dogmas that institutionalize both the “inevitability” and, indeed, the nobility of this self-imprisonment. God is the warden whose existence validates their notion of their (virtuous) helplessness.
You end up with a series of paradoxes so fundamental it borders on the banal: They think they love “freedom” but they hate it in others. They think they’re “warriors for Christ” but they’re existential cowards who cannot face sitting in a therapist’s chair for an hour and talking. (Cf. Little Boots, who dismissed a reporter’s question about some terrorism-related issue with “That’s Psychology 101,” as though that were an answer.) They think they’re “patriots” but actively or passively collude in the flouting and destruction of the country’s most basic values. They think they’re against terrorism but defend torture, turn a blind eye to rendition and Guantanamo, and tie themselves into knots in efforts to condemn anyone except a confessed terrorist.
This is what makes being politically active today so immiserating. You want to write about politics or promote this or that candidate or policy, but you’re dealing with pathology, and the candidates you want to support don’t acknowledge that it’s pathology. Obama should be saying, “These people are insane. I welcome their hatred, but first I urge their sedation.” Instead, he trivializes their acting out and their irrationality by calling it “political shenanigans.”
It’s like noticing your living room is on fire, calling the fire department, and having them arrive, but realizing that none of them is willing to say, “Yes, this room is on fire.” Instead, they look around and say, “So! Who has some ideas?”
UPDATE: The excellent Leonard Pierce adds this Reply at alicublog:
This is exactly right, and it points to one of the more fascinating contradictions of our political culture: one of the reasons right-wingers attack liberals is for their alleged permissiveness. They’re always going on about the post-hippie anything goes mentality, the if-it-feels-right-do-it permissive society, the whole no-judgment, moral equivalence, ‘you do your thing and I’ll do mine’ amorality with which the modern left has allegedly poisoned the world.
And yet, and yet: you will find no group more dedicated to change, whether it’s personal or social, than the left. They’re the ones forever seeking personal growth. They’re the ones looking to upend social traditions that strike them as unjust or unfair. They’re self-critical to the point of sabotaging their own political effectiveness. As a rule, they’re more than willing — almost too willing — to admit that there might be something wrong with their ideas, their values, their beliefs, and they’re happy to investigate ways of changing them for the better. Not exactly an ‘anything goes’ mentality.
Conservatives, meanwhile — it’s right there in the name — are the ones most likely to say that there’s no need for change. Everything’s fine, my ideas don’t need to be examined, let alone changed. Don’t tell me how to raise my kids. Leave everything as it is — it worked for my father, it’ll work for me, and if it’s not working for you, that’s your problem, not mine. They accuse liberals of tolerating any old crazy viewpoint, but they’re the ones who are the most accepting of everything as it is, no matter how cruel, outdated or unjust. The only change they’ll tolerate is regression.