Let's state right off-the-bat that conservatives indeed have much to offer. In fact, the very notion of conservatism itself keeps us grounded in tradition and prevents our society from spinning into the chaos of constant flux that would surely result if we were to impetuously pursue every new liberal idea to spring forth from our fertile minds. And conservatives admirably believe in America, established order, family, freedom, and success. This all sounds wonderful.
But when it comes to other people who happen to be different from the establishment, Republicans seem to be downright mean and nasty.
We are constantly reminded of the meanness of Republicans over and over again. One recent example is evident in the xenophobic remarks of the Republican presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who recently referred to Mexican and other immigrants as rapists and murderers.
Basic common sense, however, tells us that human beings are not any more or less violent based upon where on a map they happened to have been born. And the evidence in studies bears this out as well by indicating that immigrants are no more likely to be violent than members of the overall population. Makes sense.
But Republicans seem to harbor some sort of a fear of foreigners and an aversion against other kinds of people who are not part of the established in-group. Their view seems to be that these other people are not like us, they pose a threat to us (for some unexplained reason), and thus automatically they should be regarded as enemies.
Democrats, on the other hand, tend to view all people first and foremost as human beings. To a Democrat, a Mexican immigrant is a human being, just like an American, but a human being who just so happened to have been born in a place named Mexico on a map. That's all.
Another example of Republican nastiness is on full display in their concerted efforts to enact so called "voter ID" laws. The true intent behind these laws is obvious on its face. These laws are designed to discourage voting by poor and minority voters, who typically vote for Democrats, by imposing conditions for no good reason that disproportionately fall upon these targeted people and thus make it more difficult for them to vote.
This is not only mean and nasty, but it's dirty. The deviousness required just to think of such a diabolical scheme is indeed astounding.
The reason these laws are so outrageous is because for a democracy to function properly, politicians should craft proposals that best serve the people they represent in order to win election. But Republicans know their proposals do not serve the people, so instead of developing better proposals for the people, they seek to undermine democracy itself by denying voters the ability to vote. This tactic runs counter to the very foundational principles of this nation and is an utter abomination.
Another example of Republican meanness can be seen in the so called "religious freedom" laws, which should more accurately be named "religious imposition" laws because they seek to impose the majority religion upon minorities. These laws were shrewdly designed to cruelly discriminate against people who happen to have different beliefs from the conservative Republican majority.
These "religious freedom" laws essentially permit businesses or employees to deny services based upon their religious beliefs. The most obvious scenario, which many claim is the true purpose behind these laws, is that religious observers could deny services to gay people if being gay violates the observer's religious beliefs. A now notorious example is the pizza parlor that said it would refuse to serve gay people.
This is completely shocking and outrageous, especially in this modern age. It makes us feel like we have regressed backward to the egregious practices of racial segregation in the south when restaurants refused to serve black people. It is simply unbelievable that this is occurring today in modern day America, especially in light of the lessons we supposedly learned as a nation from the civil rights struggles of our recent past. Again, it is an example of Republicans being cruel to other people simply because they happen to be different from the majority.
Another example is the entire area of economic policy, which is overflowing with instances of cold-blooded Republican positions. The overall grand vision of Republicans is to cut services and spending to those who are the most vulnerable in society and who need them the most, while simultaneously lavishing rewards upon the most wealthy and powerful in society who need them the least.
Republicans are forever seeking to slash funding for programs that are so crucial to those in need, like food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, low income housing assistance, unemployment benefits, and education, all while providing generous hand-outs to the wealthy through tax breaks and goodies for behemoth corporations. It is simply hard to understand how anyone could have so little compassion for the plight of other human beings.
Another example of Republican meanness is their preference for strict and harsh measures in attempting to impose conformity with their establishment order. We have seen this in their familiar calls for stronger law enforcement and harsher sentencing, as well as their disdain for rehabilitation and prevention programs.
Their approach of imposing power is much broader than just addressing crime, and indeed, it pervades their entire philosophical outlook from domestic initiatives to foreign policy. Republicans often speak in terms of projecting "strength," being "feared," commanding "respect," and imposing punishments. They believe in building-up enormous police and military forces, and that the only way to achieve peace both domestically and internationally is through possessing overwhelming strength. The overarching theme is that anyone who dares to be different by not strictly adhering to the dictates of the establishment order will be taught a lesson and crushed like a bug.
The problem with this approach, of course, is that no one likes a bully. People desire to be free and to live their lives freely. People vastly prefer interaction that is cooperative, helpful, and accommodating, as opposed to authoritarian control that seeks to enforce a rigid establishment order.
Yet this is who Republicans are. And true to form, the current slate of Republican presidential candidates exhibit all of these characteristics in various forms and fashions.
But why? Why are Republicans so mean?
Well, it turns out that modern brain science may in fact offer some explanations.
A body of scientific evidence has shown that the actual brain structures and brain functions in conservatives are different from those in liberals. Conservative brains are much more inclined to perceive threats, aggression, and fear. As a result, when presented with the exact same external circumstance, the conservative brain is much more likely than the liberal brain to perceive a threat, and thus respond accordingly.
There are strong evolutionary justifications for this. Back when we all lived in caves and a bear walked along, the conservative caveperson would perceive this bear as an immediate threat, whereas the liberal caveperson might stroll right up to the bear and seek to give it a hug.
So even though conservatives and liberals observe the exact same factual circumstances in society and the world, their brains are in fact perceiving completely different situations. They are watching two very different movies.
No wonder we cannot see things the same way. And no wonder we have such different solutions to the same problems.
So maybe Republicans are not so mean after all. Maybe their reactions are perfectly rational and reasonable responses for what their brains are telling them is happening.
This brain theory seems to explain a lot. Republicans tend to feel threatened and under attack, and thus they feel the need to respond accordingly. This certainly explains their ardent views in favor of possessing and carrying guns. Their brains are telling them that there is an actual and imminent threat of attack.
This theory also seems to explain so much about the overall views of Republicans. No wonder they are so opposed to government, and big government in particular. Their brains perceive a threat. No wonder they rail against the IRS and often assert that it "goes after" people.
This brain theory also explains their strong views against immigration. They perceive out-groups as a threat to their own in-group. This perfectly explains Donald Trump's comments against immigrants, even though his view is not supported by credible factual evidence. Mr. Trump's brain perceives a general threat from out-groups, and thus he is inclined to view them as rapists and murders even though they are not.
The theory also explains the general opposition by Republicans to issues of civil rights. Much has been made about the Republican's so called "war on women." Republicans, however, believe that this charge is outrageous and not even close to being accurate. After all, Republicans love their mothers, wives, and daughters. Under the brain theory, Republicans do not hate women, but rather, Republicans are merely protecting the structure of the established order, and any proposed change to this established order is perceived by the conservative brain as a threat that must be quashed.
From the Republican perspective, they are not acting against women. Instead, the Republicans are acting in the best interests of the safety and security of everyone in society, including women, by preserving the paramount established order. After all, this established order is what enabled our species to survive in the first place, so any change to this established order is perceived by the conservative brain to be a grave and fundamental threat to us all. This explains why Republicans are so opposed to any such changes in society and fight so hard against them. This also explains why Republicans tend to be so intractable in their positions and unwilling to compromise. They are fighting for the very survival of the species.
A similar perspective can be applied to race. Some have suggested that the extreme and fanatical opposition by Republicans to the presidency of Barack Obama, who is the first black president of the United States, is rooted in racism against black people. Republicans, however, reject the charge that they are racist.
Is it possible to be opposed to having a black president but not be racist? Well, the brain theory seems to offer an explanation. As the theory goes, conservatives are not mean and evil people who hate black people, but rather, conservatives are honorable and noble people who are merely attempting to protect the established order against threats to its existence.
A similar perspective can be applied to gays and gay marriage. Under the brain theory, the reason conservatives are opposed to gay marriage is not because conservatives are mean and hate gay people. Instead, conservatives are honorably and nobly seeking to protect the established order against threats that would upend it, and in doing so they are acting for the benefit of our entire society.
Now, if you have suffered discrimination as a result of being female, black, or gay, it probably does not matter much to you whether those who discriminated against you were acting with what they believed to be honorable intentions. Fair enough. Discrimination is wrong and our society must strive to eliminate it.
But the reason this matters is that understanding the cause of discrimination can be critical to developing solutions to eliminate it.
Understanding the science of the brain just might help conservatives and liberals get along with each other a little bit better. Liberals might bear in mind that conservatives are not just mean and nasty, but instead that their brains are more likely to perceive circumstances as being extremely threatening. As a result, liberals might seek to take extra measures to allay these fears. And conservatives might bear in mind that their own brains are more susceptible to interpret circumstances as being overly threatening when such threats may not be so severe.
We might just be able to get along with each other after all.
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