Jay Lake (jaylake) wrote,
Jay Lake

[politics] Why I poke so much at my friends on the Right

Quite some time ago, the_flea_king commented in passing that I have a hate-on for Republicans. His observation isn't unreasonable, given the general tenor of my political commentary, but there's both more and less to it.

First of all, I don't hate anybody. I hate a lot of things people say or do, but I remain firmly convinced that virtually everyone considers themselves a decent, moral human being, and that most people believe they're doing the right thing most of the time. This remains true, even when people are dead nuts wrong about stuff and their beliefs are causing suffering and death for others.

I do come closer to true hate when I look at people who deliberately misuse the truth and cause harm for personal advancement. That's true whether it's political, social, financial or even just on the petty, personal level. And I have a tendency to include rank, conscious hypocrisy in that mix.

Don't get me wrong. We're all hypocrites at least some of the time, myself first and foremost. Human nature is fundamentally inconsistent, and human thought isn't much better at consistency. I personally place an immensely high value on intellectual consistency, yet I hold a number of mutually or internally contradictory views on a wide range of subjects from the trivial to the critical. But there's a big difference between the venal sin of human inconsistency and the mortal sin of deliberate dishonesty for personal benefit.

So, to politics, keeping this mental framework in mind.

I moved to Texas in the fall of 1982 to attend college at the University of Texas at Austin. At the time I held a set of poorly-informed, largely liberal, convictions based around the idea that everybody ought to have a fair shot in life, and the best way to ensure that was to use the power of government and society to help everybody up onto a level playing field. (Not so different from the convictions I hold these days, frankly, if anything I've slowly radicalized as I've aged, but I'm also much better informed.) It was perfectly obvious to me even in 1982 from listening to the Reagan-Carter debates in 1980 and watching Reagan govern that the Republican Party didn't stand for much I cared about in the way of fairness or opportunity, except to defend continued opportunity for those already well-blessed with it. (Also a conviction which has only deepened as I age.) In effect, my definition of "opportunity" is helping others who haven't been able to get as far as I have. The conservative definition of "opporunity" seems to be helping those who've helped themselves.

UT was rife with Young Republicans, Campus Crusade for Christ, and dozens of other political and religious organizations not very distinguishable from one another to this young liberal. The state of Texas, in general, was as doggedly and blindly conservative as always, a fact well reflected in the reporting, editorial pages and reader/viewer feedback of virtually every media outlet available with the partial exception of The Daily Texan, our campus newspaper, and The Austin Chronicle, our local alternative weekly. The mid-cycle elections of 1982 were rife with party switching, as the Southern Republican realignment was in full swing. We were told over and over again that conservatives had common sense and uncommon courage.

The message everywhere, often in so many words, was that liberals are immoral, foolish, untrustworthy and destructive to American interests. Conservatives are ethical, consistent, with strong moral compasses and common sense. And I had ths pounded into me for years on end. All the while watching the arrant greed, hypocrisy and sheer gall of the Reagan-Bush years flow by, and even more during the Clinton years, when we were lectured endlessly that "character counts" and it was all about the Rule of Law. (Iran-Contra, anyone?)

So while I have no great brief for the Democrats, their party's nominal values at least somewhat align with mine. And their hypocrisies tend to be personal rather than the institutional schizophrenia of the Republican Party. (For serious, go read the 2008 Republican Party platform, then try to reconcile any of that with GOP governance over the past thirty years. Other than tax cuts and mindless opposition to abortion, it's as divorced from conservative reality as can be.) Whereas what I see and hear on the conservative side to this day is continuous disparagement and namecalling of me and my values, wrapped in a flag and the putative morality of toxic Christianism.

So I don't have a hate-on for Republicans, or conservatives. I have a hate-on for most of their rhetoric and many of their deeds, and especially the self-perpetuating myth of the moral superiority and rectitude of conservative positions.

In other words, I have a hate-on for wholesale, for-profit hypocrisy. Especially hypocrisy that is actively destructive to our national interests and undermines our culture — climate change denial, evolution denial and the forced pregnancy movement are all at the root driven by money and interests that don't actually believe in those causes, but see them as ways to rally millions of reliably passionate votes. If not for deliberately cynical Republican electoral strategies, none of those issues would be significant on the national radar. And these conservative hobbyhorses are profoundly destructive to our society, our national security and our future competitiveness.

And while we're all hypocrites, having spent years being told by conservatives that I was morally inferior, intellectually inconsistent and ethically unreliable, as well as inherently anti-American for simply wanting people to have opportunities in this life, my sensitivity to the insitutional hypocrisies of your Republican party is beaten firmly into my political bones.

So long as the GOP claims the mantle of "real America" and moral superiority, I'll call out conservative bullshit often as I can. When you need to rely on arrant rabble rousers and eliminationists like Limbaugh, Beck and Palin to speak for you, you don't have a meaningful message. Noise does not substitute for signal. Find me some intellectually honest, self-consistent conservatives like Daniel Larison, and I'll start listening with something other than a lifetime's irritation.

Tags: culture, personal, politics, religion

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