^ Top

Her Crazy Right Wing Sister

January 20th, 2011

A reader writes in

I started this blog because I knew that my brother and I are not unique. American politics has (re)arrived at a distressing point, and to those of us who can’t recall the 60s (for whatever reasons), it’s an alien terrain. Our first reader comment, from “Donna from the Mountains,” brings it home:

My sister—we can call her the “Conservative Throw-back Bitch” or the “Bitch-Who-Just-Simply-Hates-Other-People-In-Favor-Of-Money-For-Status’-Sake”—subscribes to every proven-wrong email, to every hate monger on TV and to blogs such as jihadwatch.com.

Not only has this proven bewildering, but it has infected all our relationships. Her influence is insidious. And there is not even a moment any longer of a possibility of getting along. Her view is that politics make the people. If you are a liberal, you are dirt. Or worse.

Donna’s situation is sad, but illuminating. It’s obvious that both sisters are capable of substantial disrespect and hurt. (I won’t speculate on who called who a bitch first.) But her confession reminds us how politics has shredded, so needlessly shredded, some of our society’s strongest and most sacred bonds.

After the Tucson tragedy, Matt Taibbi, of all people, wrote a thoughtful reflection on this:

… attend almost any family gathering, where once-loving relationships have been completely lost because of the overheated right-left culture war. If real family relationships are being lost to this kind of political debate, if someone on TV can reach into your living room and break up your family without knowing anything about you or even knowing that you exist, that tells us that this mechanized mass-media rhetoric has been almost unimaginably successful at dehumanizing whole classes of people.

Taibbi’s essay is worth reading in full. He lucidly explains the “huge disincentive for restraint” in the world of political infotainment. This would be plain to any outsider visiting our culture for the first time. It’s obvious that Rush Limbaugh doesn’t believe every word he says. It’s painfully clear that Michael Savage is doing a schtick. An uninitiated mind could never believe such rigid dogma. Strict ideology takes practice.

But my brother stopped seeing Rush or Savage as practicing any kind of specific ideology a long time ago. He may call them “conservative,” but he also has said, “Rush speaks the truth.” After years of listening to hours of this every day, he has absorbed what Taibbi calls a “sense of Superiority Over the Other.” I remind him that solutions to complex problems are are never simple, and that he does himself a disservice by not seriously considering dissenting views.

Deep in Plato’s cave of Rightist rhetoric, there is no nuance, no textural discrepancies. This is the sad ending to every debate between my brother and, I assume, Donna and her sister. No matter how hard we try to present a world view less stark, there is only one reality our brothers and sisters subscribe to—the one projected on the wall of their own caves.