To look at the conservative wing of American politics today is to see a group of people obsessed with the concept of denial. In the past year alone, Republicans have argued against the fair and equal distribution of the following: equal rights for people of color, equal access to healthcare and salaries for women, citizenship status for immigrants and children, marriage rights for gays and lesbians, economic safety nets for all but gigantic multi-national corporations, freedom of religion for all but the most fundamental arm of the Christian faith, and voting rights for any group unwilling to kneel before the GOP party line.
The scope of this list should be alarming, as should the realization that the party’s constant criteria for inclusion, which is as mobile as a sack full of mosquitos, is constantly subject to re-evaluation and reinterpretation. The modern GOP seems willing to embrace new membership only as far as that member adheres to the total idea, without question. It has become a party of absolutes, preferring “loyalty oaths” over inclusivity; all too quick to pull the trigger of “party purification” should any criticisms or concerns be put to voice. When a political party becomes this rigid, things are no longer about ideology, but dogmatics; in the most rigid and righteous sense of the word.
The problem with a dogmatic approach is, of course, an inherent hostility to outside influence. While writing this, I came across the following quote by Bertrand Russell (via Michael K. Potter on Twitter):
“Collective fear stimulates herd instinct, and tends to produce ferocity toward those who are not regarded as members of the herd.”
Look at the level of ferocity with which the GOP has responded to any criticism lobbed at its policies or politics. Upset with the way our spokesmen disrespect women who insist on access to medically necessary treatment? Screw you, slut, get your ass back in the kitchen and cook us some Freedom Fries. Disturbed that your healthcare and retirement have been obliterated so that Goldman Sachs could get a another free pass at further destroying your economic future? Tough luck, hippie, your sacrifices must be made for the betterment of our lives. You say you want us to consider the benefits of bi-partisanship? Well, then, we suggest you move over to our side of the aisle because there is no “middle ground” in our universe. You dare question our interpretation of the world in which you live? Prepare for excommunication, heretic, and enjoy your stay in the hell we are about to go out of our way to create.
This is not rational discourse by any stretch of the imagination. Hearing such language, you have to ask, if the GOP has become so quick to turn against anyone who criticizes their platform, then just who, exactly, does the GOP represent? It sure doesn’t seem to be the American people. These are not the words of a party looking for supporters, but language once used by feudal lords to keep the serfs in line. They bear a inherent threat within, hanging like the Sword of Damocles over the heads of increasingly anxious subjects, acting as a constant reminder of where the power actually resides, and how easily it can be turned against them. It is a subtle tyranny, this constant threat of punishment, a form of repression with many layers of militancy and avenues of attack.
To look again at our list above, each of the current crop of conservative political positions all center around some form of disenfranchisement, either political — via the removal of the right to vote or speak, economic — via the restriction of financial, physical, and social mobility, or social — via the denial of basic human rights. Each of these positions are anti-democratic, and anti-freedom, designed not to promote social coherence, but persistent discord driven by an ongoing unease. This is not the kind of American ideal that should act as a beacon of light for the rest of the world to follow, but the dark shadow of a past the founding fathers sought to erase.
Is it possible for the GOP to escape from the downward spiral of paranoia that seems to have such an icy grip upon its heart? Only time will tell. Until that point, however, each and every one of us would be well served to pay closer attention to our own fears and prejudices. To examine our hearts and minds in a way the GOP appears to have lost, and to pass those lesson up the tree of liberty until the message reaches the highest branches and greatest visibility. We need to step away from the shadows of a past long dead and buried, and move forward into the light of a new future, free from fear of retribution.