Saturday, May 24, 2003

Why Right?
I am often troubled when considering why folks might choose to support right wing politics in general. I don't depend on political theory but on observation of the people I know and/or interact with and of those who write tracts long or short. And I dislike most of the reasons I see.

Let me begin with the reason to which I can feel some sympathy. This is a sort of generalized fear, a reaction to things seeming and feeling out of control. I believe this is the impulse that made many people to move towards a police state after September 11 in order to prevent such events in the future. It also accounts for the willingness to put vast amounts of money into the Departments of Homeland Security and Defense, to support the invasion of Iraq, and to allow strangers to paw through their underwear at airports. The emotional response takes over and people don't sort out whether these things are effective. Rather they place their trust in those who are supposed to know these things. (Why we have a citizenry who looks outward instead of inward is a topic for another day.)

While I surely do not agree with this reaction I at least can understand it. While I understand it, however, I remember that this very same emotional reaction allowed the rise of Hitler so must be appropriately monitored for extremism.

I believe this is the same impulse that causes people of the so-called Christian right, or religious zealots of all stripes, to support politics that they view as consistent with their religious views. Keeping things the same … or like one imagines they were in a nostalgic past … feels safer than confronting change, especially change that no one seems to be able to control.

This is less palatable of course. First it is based on a fiction that the illusory past ever existed and second that even if it did, pushing against the tide of change that is the future can stop the inevitable tsunami. Change isn't stopped. It may be temporarily sidetracked or we may look the other way for a while, but the inevitable happens. It is like shaking ones fist at God. It may be temporarily satisfying but affects nothing.

Once I get past fear as an explanation my sympathy disappears completely.

I see some people attracted to right wing politics who, like four year olds, want the world to be an extension of themselves, want people do everything the way they might expect just because it is easier than thinking. Or because they have a world view that says their way is somehow correct and every other alternative is wrong or inconvenient. There are a great many of such people. Libertarians often fall into this category as do rabid NRA members. Some are totally selfish. They don't want to pay taxes but want something for nothing. My gut reaction is that they should just grow up. Teenagers even tell one another that a shot of maturity is required. I feel the same way about these people. I am tempted to say something about inadequate parenting but folks might take offense.

And there are others who are genuinely, consciously … well evil. They want power or money or something for themselves and believe that the right wing road is the best way to get it. And it clearly is if the goal is power or centralization of wealth or thought. The right, although ostensibly fearful of government actually is more comfortable with authoritarian government than is the left. If you doubt this, look at their instinctive obeisance when anything involved with military action is involved. I see an unusual number of these folks in the current administration. They do understand that secrecy and emotion are their friends and that facts and sunlight are not.

I don't know why I burdened you with this. Perhaps concern about the upcoming FCC ruling or the notion that DHS seems inclined to cover up a crime involving the majority leader or amazing frustration at the extent to which the current Bush administration has been lying to the American people and twanging their fear to get away with it. And I am appalled that they are using the notion of "compassion" instead of having any. They take credit for AIDS help in Africa and decimate the program under the table for political reasons. Or it may be that I was just listening to a right wing zealot who seems to want to keep all of his money instead of making any contribution to the public good. Perhaps I shouldn't have watched "Hitler: Rise of Evil" this week.

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