And talk about crazy conservatives, how about this little ditty from Timothy Noah of Slate? I saw the headline over at Kevin Drum's place, and thought it would be interesting to hear some talk of crazy conservatives. But what does Chatterbox Timmy conclude regarding the theory of "Conservativism as Pathology"? Here's the last paragraph:
"The further you get into this line of thinking, I'm afraid, the more ridiculous it starts to sound. I've never observed, and I doubt you have either, that members of the working class demonstrate a greater tendency than people higher up the income scale to be more fearful, or more threatened, or more intolerant of ambiguity, or more irrationally fearful of death, or more inclined to pick fights with their parents, or more sex-deprived.
So I guess it's back to the drawing board."
That's right. Timmy can't seem to break the surface on this one, so it's back to the old drawing board. And it doesn't take anything more than that last paragraph to see his problem.
Sex-Deprived and Fearful
First off, let me preface this by saying that Timmy wasn't referring to all conservatives. He was trying to make sense of the phenomenon of working class people who support conservatives, even though it means voting against their economic interests. He knows that it's wrong for them to do that, but is looking for a theory which explains why they do it. He discusses a study which suggested that it is fear and craziness that makes them turn Republican. But for some reason, Noah just doesn't like the Crazy theory. Yet I'm certain it applies to all of them, even the rich conservatives.
And it's obvious from that last paragraph where he's fallen off the track. He seems to be suggesting that, because liberal-types are as likely or even more likely as conservatives to be scared, sex-deprived, and otherwise crazy, that this theory must be wrong. He can just take the work of several trained psychologists and dismiss it with the wave of his hand because he just doesn't see it. And it doesn't make sense to him, perhaps because he knows that he and his liberal friends are fearful and sex-deprived, yet still liberal; and he sees confident conservatives and they don't act like the way his friends act.
Absolutism as Remedy
But isn't it obvious? The reason why liberals seem more scared, sex-deprived, and crazier than conservatives isn't because they are so. It's because they're more open to the idea. It's because they're more willing to admit to their fears and craziness. It's because they're more willing to talk about it and deal with it. And they're more willing to face-up to the crazy reality that surrounds them, and admit to being confused and scared. But it's not that they're crazier than conservatives; it's just that they express it better and more often.
And that's the whole god damn point! Conservatives prefer absolutism and everything else they get from the simple-minded Republican rhetoric because they can't face up to their fears. Because they can't properly deal with their frustrations. They don't have the proper outlets to channel their confusion and desires, and so they have to blame everyone else for their problems.
Their kids don't respect them and their wives don't love them, and they know it's not supposed to be this way but they can't understand where they went wrong. And it's just so much easier to blame liberals, to blame the media and Hollywood, to blame negros and mexicans and gays, and to blame everything else unholy and wrong because they're god damn scared and they don't know where else to turn.
So what do they do? They deny reality itself. They ignore facts that go against their beliefs, or that might muddy the waters. They lash out at change and modernization, in the hopes that they can somehow bring back their lost innocence. And they ignore the fact that voting Republican means voting against their own interests. They refuse to see it; just as a heroin junkie might refuse to admit that the drug is slowly killing them. All they see is the dream of absolutism in a nightmare of craziness and uncertainty. But they're junkies, and the only cure they can see is the very thing that we need to save them from.
And that's the thing. We're all crazy. There is no "normal". There is no sanity. We're damn apes that got lucky to get where we are, but it seems like we need more. Because wanting "more" is how we got to where we are, and you just can't get enough. Life is about hanging on the best you can and enjoying yourself, while allowing others to enjoy themselves. Nothing more. And the people we call "crazy" really are crazier than us because they aren't able to handle their craziness. They have to be locked up because the outside world is just too much for them. But "sanity" isn't about setting your brain straight, but rather about learning to cope with reality and hanging on without blowing up or freaking out.
And our conservatives, they aren't immune to these pressures, as Tim Noah believes. Of course not. They aren't self-sufficient ships easily cruising through the troubled waters sinking lesser men. They're out there with us, trying desperately to stay afloat; as we are. And that's why they vote Republican, despite the direct conflict it poses them. Because it makes them feel better and seems to answer their questions. Republicans sing a siren song which lures them with false promises and empty confidence. It gives them a safe-harbor to which they can securely tie their boat. And it allows them the freedom to ignore unanswered questions, and brings meaning to a meaningless world. Religion serves the exact same purpose. And all it requires is an act of faith.
And so that's what all this is about. I'm glad that Noah cited that study as it gave me the chance to help us better understand what we need to do to cure these unfortunate people. And it's not empty absolutism and blame-games. It's understanding, reassurance, and respect. That's what everyone wants. And if we can give that to them, they will stop their unhealthy dependence on Republicans and allow us to focus on making this nation great. And maybe some day we can have a healthy, sane world which won't require faith-based tricks and illusions for happiness.