I’ve told the story before; one of the most illuminating lessons I’ve ever gotten on human nature was from my 11th grade history teacher, Mr. Dudley Butts – who was perhaps the most “Big Lebowski”-ish football head coach I’ve ever met.
He’d been drafted during the Vietnam War; he was proud to point out that he’d been stationed in Washington DC, and the Viet Cong never attacked the Capitol on his watch; mission accomplished.
And he told us that during basic training, as they were doing any of the things that mimicked killing people – at the rifle range, while doing bayonet drills and hand-to-hand combat practice – the drill sergeants never referred to their targets as humans. They were always collections of not-quite-human memes; “gooks” and “charlies” and “slopes” and so on. It took him a while to realize this wasn’t just the mark of a bunch of bigots with sergeant stripes; there was a method to it. It was much easier to train people who’d spent 18 years of their lives being taught “thou shalt not kill” to kill if you taught them to kill something that wasn’t really human.
Likewise, the theory goes, it’s easier to convince people you’re right if you get them to believe that your opponent isnt’ operating from rationalism or intelligence; in short, to get them to believe they’re not really human.
I’ve personally fought this over the years by trying to get people who disagree together over a beer and a cigar and to see each other as hiuman beings rather than collections of stereotypes.
But the problem is worse than it’s ever been; Big Left actively dehumanizes conservatives, flyoverlanders, and anyone Not LIke Them.
Wanting to kill someone because of his politics is now sort of passé. So is the chilling habit of calibrating empathy for the dead on the basis of their perceived ideology. The now-fired vice president and senior legal counsel at CBS Hayley Geftman-Gold posted her feelings after the Las Vegas massacre: “I’m actually not even sympathetic bc country music fans often are Republican gun toters.”
When Bernie Sanders supporter James Hodgkinson tried to assassinate Republican legislators during a baseball practice game, and almost killed Republican majority whip Steven Scalise, MSNBC host Joy Reid seemed to all but suggest that Scalise had deserved to be killed, given his conservative politics. She tweeted: “Rep. #Scalise was shot by a white man with a violent background, and saved by a black lesbian police officer, and yet . . . ” And then she followed that outburst with a list of Scalise’s conservative agenda items, such as his vote for a GOP House bill on health care, that apparently were meant to minimize the horror of his near-death. Reid’s commentary was not unusual; the Washington Post reported recently on liberal anger that a recovering Scalise was honored by being asked to throw out the first pitch at a Washington baseball game. His opposition to Obamacare and support for the Second Amendment should evidently have disqualified him from receiving sympathy for his near-fatal shooting.
There are times when I think it’s high time this nation called a divorce lawyer. Those times are getting more and more frequent.
PS: For those who say “Hey, Republicans do it too!”? Republicans on the fringe certainly do. Republicans in the mainstream do not. Saying they do marks one as unserious. And while being serious is overrated, being unserious is rated utterly correctly.