Friday, May 24, 2013

Left Side of the Aisle #109 - Part 5

The psychological shortcomings of the right wing

You know about the EF4 tornado that struck in Oklahoma on May 20, a massive storm that killed at least two dozen people and leveled a section of the town of Moore, a suburb of Oklahoma City.

There are two things this raises that I wanted to address here.

The first is that this tragedy, as such tragedies often do, brought out the best in some among us. We've heard the stories of the help, the assistance, the donations, the surprise rescues, the grateful reunions with people or pets feared lost.

But such events sometimes also help to bring out or at least shine a light on the worst in some among us. And for an example of that, we need look no further than Oklahoma's joined-at-the-hip right wing bozo boy senators, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn.

These two have repeatedly tried to deny disaster relief aid to others. For example, in 2011 both of them opposed legislation that would have granted necessary funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which administers federal disaster relief. Coburn called the funding "unconscionable."

Last year, they both supported slashing disaster relief to victims of Hurricane Sandy because it included, Coburn claimed, "wasteful spending" such as a provision for "future disaster mitigation activities and studies" - that is, looking to make it less likely such levels of destruction would happen again. That, to Coburn, was "wasteful."

But when it comes to Oklahoma, when it comes to their interests, oh, well, that's totally different. They've been more than willing to ask for and take whatever federal disaster aid they can get. In January of 2007, Coburn wanted speedy disaster relief aid after Oklahoma faced a major ice storm. In 2008, Inhofe got emergency relief from the Department of Housing and Urban Development in response to the impact of some severe weather. Just last month, Obama signed a disaster declaration for the state following severe snowstorms.

In fact, despite ranking just 20th among states in area and 28th in population, Oklahoma ranks third in the number of federal disaster relief declarations, behind just Texas (second biggest, second most populous) and California (third biggest, most populous).

Now they not only want federal disaster relief in the wake of the tornado, they want it paid for by "offsets" from - that is, cuts in - other federal programs. So not only do they want the relief that they would deny to others, they want to pay for their relief by taking funds from other programs, monies that might benefit other people.

Now, of course the people of Oklahoma should get the aid. Of course they should. That's not the issue here. The issue is the selfish parochialism shown by Coburn and Inhofe in asking.

Which raises the thing I really wanted to bring up: We'd usually call this hypocrisy. But is it really hypocrisy or is it a psychological failing? Are right-wingers just psychologically limited, the poor dears?

I think I've mentioned in the past - I'm way too lazy to actually find out for sure - but I think I've mentioned in the past that I believe a real difference between the left and the right, and this goes right to the notion of psychological differences that lead to political and social differences, that lead you to be on the left of the right, a real difference between the left and the right revolves around reification, which is the ability to perceive something abstract as real.

An example I can use to illustrate the idea was found in healthcare debate, when people talked about 50 million or more people lacking any sort of health insurance. By the way, I'm not going to get into the important difference between having health insurance and having access to adequate health care, the latter of which is what's important and where Obamacare still fails for tens of millions, that's for another time.

The point is, for the right wing that figure of 50 million-plus is just that: a figure, a statistic. For the left, it's more than 50 million actual people just one serious illness away from - if they're lucky - bankruptcy. It's not just a number. It's real people feeling real effects. That's reification and it's an ability the right wing seems to lack.

The result is that right wingers can care about, feel sympathy and compassion for, people somehow close to them, people with who they identify directly, the idea of "me and mine." So when people from Delaware to New Jersey to New York to Connecticut get smashed by Hurricane Sandy, it's something "out there," the casualties and property damage just numbers. But when it's Oklahoma, then for Coburn and Inhofe it becomes "hey, wait, that's my state, that's my home, that's my people, those are places I've been, I might have met some of these people." In short, to them it's real, the effects are real, in a way the people and communities left in Sandy's wake would never be.

I think that difference explains a lot of things in disputes between left and right. And if you want to conclude from that that I think that those on the left are on the whole more psychologically evolved than those on the right, you go right ahead.


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