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March 16th, 2013

This just out:

Senator Rob Portman of Ohio, a rising national star in the Republican Party, announced on Friday that he has a gay son and could no longer justify his opposition to same-sex marriage.

Mr. Portman’s revelation makes him the only sitting Republican senator to publicly support giving gay men and lesbians the right to marry, and one of the most prominent so far of a growing number of Republicans to publicly oppose their party on the issue.

Think: Nancy Reagan and stem-cell research.

This is one of the few ways that conservatives make progress: someone they know and love is involved, so they “get it” and switch sides to join liberals. And sometimes not even then.

This makes me wonder if there is an emotional component to the conservative political makeup: some variation on the inability to understand another person’s point of view in the abstract.

This would help explain the self-centered, self-important, intolerant and uncompassionate views held by many conservatives. The Randian hatred of social support systems, the “screw you I’ve got mine” mindset. Not only the lack of tolerance and sensitivity, but the sometimes stunning tone-deafness displayed by conservatives. The “I’m better than you” state of mind displayed in memes such as non-urban areas being the “Real America,” or of the concept of “American Exceptionalism,” deserved or not. The easy bigotry accompanied by the sense that one is not at all bigoted but that’s just “the way things are.”

Having an impaired ability to empathize with others, to see things from their perspective, could tie in to so much that we see in conservatism.


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  1. Tim
    March 17th, 2013 at 11:43 | #1

    “Humans are at their worst when they are least accountable for their actions.” M. Scot Peck M.D.

    The movie Apocalypto makes a point, I think, that “civilization”, life in agriculture based societies, was not a step forward from Hunting and Gathering societies until the onset of the axial age, the invention of the Golden Rule, and the idea that maybe ethics is something that could actually be taught. It wasn’t really a step forward, except materially.

    Peck’s work went on to realize that human mental and emotional health is dependent upon partiicipating in communities with certain characteristics, including tollerance and commitment to the community. You can only crap on someone to their face in limited qualities, especially if you are forced to face them in prolonged contact – this get you into game theory territory on “tit for tat”.

    C.S. Lewis, in “Mere Christianity” attempts to prove the existence of God, and a Christian God at that, through the existence of an inherent sense of fairness in all of us.

    I think Lewis’ mistake is that 80% of humans have a sense of fairness that they listen to but the rest are “east of Eden.” 15% put up with fairness because its imposed upon them by law. 5%, or less, are pathologically without a conscience and are a danger to society.

    Republicans show a demonstrated lack of sympathy. They avoid accountability to their fellow humans like the plague. They deny community ideologically and otherwise. That allows them to inflict whatever they want on others. And so they do.

    Forcing them or trying to lasso them into community is the same as forcing them to come into conflict with their conscience and brings about a visceral, hostile reaction beyond discription and really, understanding.

    In this case you have a person who is forced by life circumstances into confrontation with homosexuals and forced to see their humanity, through the agencies of his own son. This takes us back to Peck. You can’t see the humanity in someone and then, turnaround and deny them the legitimate rising expectations that come with that humanity – unless you are a monster without a conscience.

    Republican conservatives are a curse upon us all.

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