When I was in grade school, I found it eerie to hear other kids parroting their parents' political views. During elections, children who didn't know a thing about government or politics would spout scathing invective about The Other Candidate. No actual ideas were beneath their revilement, of course. Just the deep subconscious influence of tribes on their young. It was like seeing a baby monkey aping its elders by pointing and shrieking at the group two trees over.
As an adult, I noticed how even adults seem to do no better than to mimic, poorly, the rhetoric of whichever team they're on. You had your bad versions of Rush Limbaugh and your bad versions of James Carville. Political positioning began to strike me as mostly a matter of lining up for one's personal style. Liberals look and act like liberals, and conservatives looked and acted like conservatives. One could just smell the Otherness on the other! And the visceral distaste for the opposition stems less from positions on issues than from a deeper, darker place: the archetype of The Other.
The current side-taking seems no more grown-up (or even more conscious) than the baby monkeys. The political views one hears expressed by people in the street and on the Internet are childish echoes, scarcely different than any other memes or catchphrases inculcated via marketing. It's all empty symbols, stylistic nods and empty gossip. There's no there there!
I have a friend who is extremely kind and reasonable, the sort of person who gets along with lots of different types of people. Yet he keeps forwarding me seething screeds of anonymous origin explaining the sinister secrets of John McCain. I can't make him understand that he's acting as the mirror image of right-wingers who pass around Obama-is-a-Muslim-Terrorist agitprop.
And liberals can't understand the concerns of Social Conservatives, wondering why they distrust them so, when liberals are all about "live and let live"! Just hand in your shotguns, please, and expect your kids to learn real science because your beliefs are stupid and we know better, and you can pick up your free condoms and clean hypodermic needles at City Hall (just please step respectfully around the flag-burning demonstraters, oh, and we've dismantled your inappropriate Christmas display). You will be tolerant, and we will show no tolerance whatsoever for those who express themselves in a way we deem intolerant. Buckle your safety belt (it's the law!), thank you for not smoking, eating trans fats, polluting, or engaging in what we deem hate speech - or other actions which offend our sense of morality! And, most of all, keep your damned moralism to yourselves!
Neither tribe seems to realize they're mirror images. We are a nation of mesmerized, tribalized children. Can't we go back to nerds hating jocks, or girls hating boys, or rich kids hating poor kids, unleashing our subconscious us-versus-them angst in the social realm, so we can make the important business of governance be about ideas rather than style and archetypes?
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