Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Richard Greene from Clout on the Psychopathology of The Republican

Last night, Jeannette and I wandered over to the Como Lakeside Pavilion where a crowd of Democrats assembled to hear talk show hosts, musicians, and politicians speak.  The last speaker of the night was the host of Clout, Richard Greene, gave an interesting speech in which he explains how he reasons a way to talk to Republicans.  He asked the audience to raise their hands if anyone was friends with a Republican, got along with them great, except on political issues.  Nearly everyone raised their hand.  How could we understand their worldview and where they are coming from?  To be rational with someone you don't understand, you first need to understand them.  A moment of clarity for Greene took place at the DNC last week as he moderated a debate between Dennis Prager and Thom Hartmann. What Prager said was:
"I don't think we're basically good, as it happens/  And that is at least a theoretical political divide . . .   It is so obvious to me that people are not basically good that I stand in awe of those who think that people are basically good.  You have no evidence for it.   . . . Babies are not good . . .  What is so good about a baby . . .   This notion that we are born good is nonsense . . . We don't start off good.  This is fantasy . . . We aren't basically good.  People stink as a rule. . . ."
He goes on to write that it is this base understanding that people are not inherently good which drives the actions and positions of Republicans.  We must dominate or else we will be dominated.  We must combat and be on guard for evil always.  Within every child is a potential Hitler or Stalin.

I have heard this before, "The Republican Party is the Daddy Party, and The Democrats are the Mommy Party.  When we're in a time of war, we need a Daddy Party to protect the country.  When we aren't in war, the Mommy Party can make everyone feel safe and take care of health care and education."  

Greene uses an example of a child afraid of the Boogyman in the closet.  They know that there is a Boogyman in there, and they are terrified.  When someone is so frightened, they don't think, they can't reason.  Whether it is terrorism, attacks on lifestyle or morals, or the weather, no amount of reasoning will work, because they are not listening.  They know that if we are not victorious in Iraq and around the world against terrorism, that before we know it, terrorists will be at our door killing our children.  No amount of reasoning will change that.

What does Greene suggest?  Shut up.  Stop talking.  That is a big sentence for a talk show host to say, but it makes sense.  They aren't listening to you.  But, that doesn't mean that you do nothing.  What do you do to calm a child who is afraid of the Boogyman?  You don't fling open the door at them, they'll just hide under the covers and prepare for the impending attack.  You need to ask questions.  That starts the reasoning process, until they can understand for themselves that there is no Boogyman.

This analogy, while not perfect all of the time, is helpful for me, at least.  I think people are naturally altruistic to a point, and selfish and greedy to another point, but I don't have the view that everyone is out to get me.  

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