I have been thinking long and hard about something that’s been niggling at the back of my head for some time, namely, the real difference, if any, between so-called liberalism, and so-called conservatism. Leaving aside all the real extremists in both camps (if camps they can even be called, as they more often resemble Burning Man without the fire, just the ashes,) merely looking at the central premises of both modes of behaviour and thought, they can appear quite different, and yet, not so very different at all. But there is one way in which their differences manifest that I find most striking: their outlook on the future.
These respective outlooks can be boiled down to several word oppositions” yes v. no, hope v. fear, future v. past. And we see these oppositions in full relief during this current Roman Coliseum brawl called the 2012 elections. Most pointedly from the Republican camp, the rhetoric is almost predictable: we must return to, they seek to destroy, they want to force you, we need to return to what used to make America great. Each of these phrases are being used by all the candidates in the current field vying for their party’s nomination. They use it against the President and the Democrats, of course, but they do not hesitate to use it against one another, as well. Nothing quite as interesting as a train wreck, as the saying goes.
What I find especially ironic is the rhetoric of fear. The so-called Christian Conservative camp, who would apparently want all to join their march toward heaven, and try to sell it as the best thing since sliced bread, seem to be very bad at delivering a positive message about, well, anything. Instead, they cast nearly everything in terms of fear: they will do this to you, they would make you do x, they are going to bring America down – so elect us, and then we will stop them. Yet I never hear what “they”, meaning those self-same “Christians,” would actually do positively for the Nation. And here is the irony: the religions espousing Jesus were originally predicated on hope.
It almost seems criminal to have to point out that fear and hope also differ in another way: hope embraces the future, whereas fear scurries to the past, and most often, toward a past that never even existed. Except, perhaps, in the minds of the looneies on both far ends of the baguette, so to speak. Because the extremes on the left are also addicted to the fear factor. In fact, if the far right and the far left just move a little more in their respective end-of-the-world-fantasies directions, they may be quite discomfitted to find themselves sitting astride the same of steed of one of the Four Horsemen. Side-saddle, most likely.
Not clear enough? OK, let’s go down that road, then. The RR, or religious right, use the language of fear to try and convince the other people of this country that That Guy in the White House, who uses the language of hope, is really the Boogie-man, the Cloven-hoofed One. While That Guy in the White House keeps asking the Republicans for a plan that actually includes all Americans, and not merely the 1% who pad the pockets of the politician. So, who is more aligned with the original message of the one called Jesus? You remember: the guy who chased out the money-changes? The one who interceded on behalf of the lepers, the prostitutes, the poor?
Somewhere along the way, the fear has become a sort of feedback loop for the people on the Right. They have spent so much time screaming about how everyone else needs to be fearful that it has eroded the fundamental underpinings of their so-called faith. A word, I might add, that is predicated on hope. They sort of go together, you see. Whereas fear goes with neither. It merely goes to belaboring a point. And not a very viable point, at that. Will it get some votes? Sure – this is, after all, America, land of the fear, home of the crave. We have been hammered by the Corporate branch of the RR to buy, buy, buy for so long that too many Americans will respond better than Pavlov could have ever imagined. Negative conditioning, despite so many newer understandings of the human mind, still works like a charm.