I have been trying to figure out for a long time why conservatives thinking is confusing and convoluted. I kept hearing in my head, over an over, the now famous Robot line from Lost In Space "That does not compute." It's not like I don't know any right wingers.
My long time best friend in Milwaukee is a born again, gun toting (against state law) conservative. I’ve tried to understand why certain issues bother him enough to call me and complain. He worries that lazy people and the poor want to take his money. He defends the wealthy against repressive taxation that he thinks discourages the rich from trying to become even richer. He also wonders why Democrats want to cavort with terrorists. Why?
The most recent example of twisted fearful logic revolves around the debate highlighting the dangers of bringing Gitmo detainees to the U.S. for trial and incarceration. Many Americans were left scratching their heads trying to figure out how anyone could make the claims that Gitmo detainees would be allowed to go free, live in our local communities, and draw taxpayer supported welfare checks to help them fit in.
The reaction in the video below from conservative radio talk host Heidi Harris finally provided the answer.
Every conservative characteristic I’ve described so far is based on “FEAR.” The fear that someone is getting something for nothing. The fear that terrorists will strike again. The fear that being unarmed will expose us to all the hidden dangers that lurk around us. The fear that government (we the people?), and not monopolistic corporate power, will take our freedoms away. The very idea of housing detainees and exposing them to our justice system "does not compute" for Harris or Sen. Thune. Detainees are evil first and never innocent. These horrified Americans are living in spine-tingling FEAR!
Torture is another clarifying example. Col. Lawrence Wilkerson, in a recent number of interviews, drove the point home when he bottomed lined Dick Cheney’s response to 9/11: “It’s clear that he’s frightened,” and “Cheney is a man who frightens easily.” (search this blog for “Wilkerson”). In fact, it was Wilkerson who brought about my epiphany.
Again, “human beings who are frightened or zealous or full of rage -- as human beings invariably are…” is a reaction common among conservatives. This is a visceral gut feeling that bypasses all common sense or discussion. A shield of self defense that makes them who they are; Republicans.
Former Vice President Cheney has masterfully shifted the debate about torture from the realm of law and ethics to that of pure efficacy. Cheney wants to take what is a stark legal and moral issue and turn it into yet another Washington "some argue this; some argue that" controversy. It is a clever bureaucratic maneuver ... The absolute prohibition on torture is not based on a consensus that it never works. Rather, it is based on the sad realization that the impulse to torture is ever-present; that human beings who are frightened or zealous or full of rage -- as human beings invariably are -- will feel a powerful need to torture and a powerful justification for acting on that need.
We do not balance the costs and benefits to see if torture works because there will always be some argument that can be made that it works or it might work or people believed at the time that it would. By refocusing on whether torture worked, Vice President Cheney wants to deflect attention from the fact that civilized legal systems make torture criminal precisely because we are ever tempted that it might work.