What Some People Didn’t Learn in Kindergarten

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conservatism, Obama Administration

Maybe it was different in your elementary school, but as I remember it, after every recess softball game, the losers stomped off the playground yelling “They cheated!” But by the time we were in middle school, the same kids could accept loss in a more mature way.

Today we have more evidence that “movement conservatism” is less a political philosophy than a form of arrested emotional development. Joe Conason writes in Salon that the usual hatemongers — O’Reilly, Limbaugh, Coulter — are screaming that Al Franken somehow stole the Minnesota Senate election from Norm Coleman. They have no evidence whatsoever, mind you. They are just stomping around yelling “he cheated!”

A right-winger’s ideas about morality aren’t just arrested. They’re stuck in the Bronze Age. The absolute basis of morality for them is tribal loyalty. The world is sorted into good guys and bad guys. Our side is inherently good, no matter what we do. Their side is inherently bad, which justifies our doing whatever we do. In other words, whether an action is moral or not is not determined by what is done, but by who is doing it.

The other day I quoted Cernig:

Even if the IDF were correct, something the Right accepts unquestioningly because the IDF never, ever lies like their enemies do, then Israel would only be responding to Hamas’ war crime by committing another war crime. You can’t get to the moral high ground – let alone win a COIN operation – by allowing the rules of war to be set by barbarians, something that the intellectually and morally bankrupt Right never seems to acknowledge.

Whereupon some commenters linked to an article about the principal of a UN school being bombed by Israel being a Hamas operative. The point Cernig made went right over their heads.

(Note: If any righties are reading this, a clue to “the point” can be found in the words “responding to Hamas’ war crime by committing another war crime.”)

In fact, the world’s great philosophers have not considered “Jimmy did it first” to be a legitimate basis of moral action since about 500 BCE. I guess the Right missed the memo.

Poor Joe Klein, who has been somewhat more awake these past few months than he used to be, writes about President Bush’s authorization of torture, “his single most callous and despicable act. It stands at the heart of the national embarrassment that was his presidency.”

Is, Joe. He’s still POTUS, for a few more days. But we’re at the same place on the torture question. You absolutely cannot find a right-winger with half a clue why the rest of us are upset about torture. They just assume the rest of us are soft on terrorism, or we’re al-Qaeda lovers, or something.

There’s a story in the Guardian that the Obama foreign policy team is planning to talk to Hamas. I don’t have to tell you how the Right is taking that. The ghost of Neville Chamberlain continues to walk among us. And, you know, the Bush policy of not talking to people we don’t like, or even letting them sit at our table in the lunchroom, has worked so well.

Truly, if you want to understand the rightie brain, just study five-year-olds.

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23 Comments

22 Comments

  1. ironranger  •  Jan 9, 2009 @11:19 am

    “Arrested emotional development” says it all. Maha, you described exactly what I have thought of “conservatives” for years. They are a bunch of whiny children who never matured to comprehend & accept life’s realities.

  2. …I suppose Klein is just trying to gin up a bit of optimism with his “was” construct, since we’re down to the last 0.3% of Chimpomania (though Lord knows Gee Dub could still do something crazy in these last 10 days)…

  3. wonkie  •  Jan 9, 2009 @12:34 pm

    I’d say two years olds. They are at the pre-reason “I want for me, me, me” stage. You can actually discuss right and worng with a five year old. Two year olds have to be sent to stand in the corner for a while. Or to the Corner.

  4. Gordon  •  Jan 9, 2009 @12:37 pm

    My favorite (actual) line from a 5 year old “He started it! He hit me back!”.

    Which is exactly Israel’s excuse.

  5. felicity  •  Jan 9, 2009 @12:56 pm

    Rancid reactionaries about covers the conservative personality today. It’s only their narcissistic trance insulating them against worthlessness that keeps them from hiding under their beds.

  6. justme  •  Jan 9, 2009 @12:59 pm

    Since the TED post…and for years I have been giving a lot of thought to the rightie brain , struggling to understand. I don’t have the answer still… to compare them to children is close, but it seems unfair to children because children at least have the ability to be open to learning new facts and reshaping their views.A five year old may not know fractions yet..but they can learn them later.

    But it seems to me in order to figure out what happened to these folks we may need to go back to their childhoods…I am tempted to take the easy road and say all of their mothers must have dropped them on their heads as infants(especially when talking about bush) but after I am done having a giggle I still really really want to understand what makes a rightie a rightie …it is easy to see that we are very different, and even how we differ..but how it happens and why remain a mystery.. to me at least. There has to be a common link someplace…did they all get hit in the nose with the dodge ball at a certain age?Were they exposed to lead paint as kids? Were they somehow raised different? All un breast fed? Over nurtured, under paid attention to? WHAT HAPPENED??? There has to be a common thread that is the key to understanding their behavior…Did they get an extra shot as a child?

    Examine what Maha said : ” You absolutely cannot find a right- winger with half a clue why the rest of us are so upset about torture” …..Am I the only one who finds that truth to be really really disturbing? What happened to them to make that statement true?What moral code must they have been fitted with to accept such acts? I would hate to be a child growing up in a household where the adults thought torture was fine— HOLY SHIT! Confess who stole the damn cookies!!Hurry before they get out the home water boarding kit again!!!!!

    I don’t think we can afford NOT to understand righties or “misunder -estimate” them…I am not suggesting we set live traps for the trolls who happen upon this comment section so that we can study them in a lab setting but boy it sure would be insightful

  7. joanr16  •  Jan 9, 2009 @1:05 pm

    Although it was during the 1987 movie The Untouchables that I first came to suspect Kevin Costner is a crappy actor, to this day I can recall his tin-eared delivery of these lines:

    I have foresworn myself. I have broken every law I have sworn to uphold, I have become what I beheld and I am content that I have done right!

    When we sink to the level of terrorists, we become not just what we “behold,” but what we despise. It seems to me there’s no better indicator of a failure of the imagination… or of morality.

  8. ironranger  •  Jan 9, 2009 @2:39 pm

    The Republican office holders, gov’t appointees, think tankers, Limbaugh media mobsters & assorted power figures, I get what they are about, sort of. It’s my Republican family & friends that totally mystify me. Behavior they would never tolerate from their children or other family members & instantly condemn in Democrats, they accept, ignore or applaud in R’s. Some of them idolize Reagan, one was absolutely thrilled to get the lastest O’Reilly book for Christmas, they hate unions even when they have union jobs, etc.
    It makes my head hurt.

  9. moonbat  •  Jan 9, 2009 @2:44 pm

    Our side is inherently good, no matter what we do. Their side is inherently bad, which justifies our doing whatever we do. In other words, whether an action is moral or not is not determined by what is done, but by who is doing it.

    Bingo. This is the right wing worldview. There is absolutely no reflection of, or any possible admission that our side could possibly be evil too. It’s the epitome of self-righteousness. When Bush declared he was fighting evil, it was so shocking that this childish little man could not see or admit the evil in his own life.

    Some interesting comments about how righties are developmentally arrested, commenters struggling for a model here. David Korten has some fascinating insights about this in his The Great Turning, based on the work of Robert Kegan and others. I hope to post a review of this work, sometime this year.

    And joanr16, Kevin Costner has never been easy for me to watch.

  10. Dave S  •  Jan 9, 2009 @3:31 pm

    You absolutely cannot find a right-winger with half a clue why the rest of us are upset about torture.

    I have yet to find a wing nut who understands the due process clause and “innocent until proven guilty” and how it protects them from the overgrown government they so hate. It’s fascinating that they can go on about gun ownership and prying their gun from their cold, dead fingers and not give a damn about the document that protects that right. How can anyone be that illogical?

    You can’t be this stupid without being willfully stupid.

    And, humble opinion, Costner wasn’t bad at all in Bull Durham. But I couldn’t name another one.

  11. Stephen Stralka  •  Jan 9, 2009 @3:58 pm

    The thing that I will never get over is how the exact same people who are most guided by this kind of Bronze Age tribal morality that you describe tend to also be the loudest and most obnoxious about proclaiming their devotion to the guy who taught us to love our enemies.

    This was perfectly crystalized in a column I saw a little while back in which Doug Giles–a pastor, no less!–actually ridiculed the idea that he would ever “turn the other cheek.”

  12. Pat Pattillo  •  Jan 9, 2009 @5:54 pm
  13. joanr16  •  Jan 9, 2009 @6:32 pm

    And, humble opinion, Costner wasn’t bad at all in Bull Durham. But I couldn’t name another one.

    I thought he was OK in Field of Dreams too. Baseball must be his element.

    It was that line, “I have become what I beheld”– I laughed out loud when I heard it in the movie theatre. Little did I know Costner was presciently describing Bush’s America, post-9/11.

  14. joanr16  •  Jan 9, 2009 @6:42 pm

    Pat, that’s a hoot! Kind of looks like Eisenhower (although he never had tantrums).

    Also, A+ on linking in a comment!

  15. moonbat  •  Jan 9, 2009 @7:11 pm

    Thank you, Pat! That image is sooo pefect. Saving to hard drive…

  16. freD  •  Jan 9, 2009 @9:29 pm

    Tribalism. The NFL couldn’t survive as a business without the tribalistic fan. Somebody has to keep buying tickets when the team’s losing. But if die hard NFL fans were as tribalistic as todays righties, they’d be putting players onto the field solely because of uniform, guns and Jesus (though being “hot” might help). Then they’d blame the loss on traitorous liberal fans, media and postmodernism.

    I’d been puzzling over all the rightie obsession with postmodernism, when I didn’t understand its phenomenal power myself. But then I just now realized – it’s an attempt to discredit colored thinking by those who are only capable of perceiving in black and white. Pomo’s a psychological crutch.

    I think I’m going on these tangents because I just tried to persuade a few righties that Palestinians come in many flavors, not just Evil Muslim. The ones that live in refugee ghettos are far more likely to launch rockets than the ones with good jobs in Toronto, regardless of any Muslim influences. But no luck. Pomo got in the way.

  17. Bill H  •  Jan 10, 2009 @12:39 pm

    It finally hit me. “Rumor is that Obama is going to talk to Hamas.” That’s what the Gaza war is all about. Isreal is trying to destroy Hamas before Obama has a chance to talk to them. By his inauguration there will be no Hamas for him to talk to and the problem will be solved.

  18. Mike G  •  Jan 10, 2009 @2:18 pm

    I have yet to find a wing nut who understands the due process clause and “innocent until proven guilty” and how it protects them from the overgrown government they so hate.

    Part of the parochialism and arrested development of the Repuke. It’s not a problem until it’s MY problem, then it becomes the biggest problem in the world.
    If it’s not affecting someone in their tribe, it barely exists.

  19. felicity  •  Jan 10, 2009 @2:45 pm

    joanr16 – and Hitler said, “I follow my course with the precision and security of a sleepwalker.”

  20. jayskew  •  Jan 10, 2009 @3:24 pm

    Your description of “they cheated” sounds a lot like red level here:

    http://www.holons-news.com/altitudes.html

    NFL is more amber level, where there’s some conception not only of team, but of other teams being somehow equivalent to yours (just not as good at winning, of course).

    To expect wingnuts to think about the Constitution as a whole when talking about guns is to expect them to think rationally, or at orange level.

    To think about levels like Maha is doing is to go on up two more levels, past green recognition that there are many different cultures to teal acknowledgement that they’re not all at the same level or the same value. Kindergarten behavior isn’t as valuable as rational adult behavior, no matter how much wingnuts scream.

  21. moonbat  •  Jan 10, 2009 @8:37 pm

    jayskew #20 – thanks so much for the link.

  22. waif  •  Jan 12, 2009 @9:09 pm

    Whereupon some commenters linked to an article about the principal of a UN school being bombed by Israel being a Hamas operative. The point Cernig made went right over their heads.

    Now, don’t be gettin’ your udakasatika in a twist, poopsie.  I’m not a ravening horde of righties.  I’m a registered Democrat and a Jew.  I didn’t swoop in from LGF on a self-righteous avenging mission, I’ve been reading you for a while, all on my own volition.  BTW, I ran a search of LGF for “maha” and “mahablog,” I got no hits for that post.  Were you linked by another name?  Were you actually linked there at all?  You’re right about the mouth-breather part, tho, I do have terrible allergies and my sinuses are completely plugged.And as for the reading comprehension, I addressed “everybody” not “maja” and not the post you made exclusively, but commenters above me.  Further, I’m not “some commenters,” I am one commenter.  I am not “they,” I am “she.”  You’re not being besieged by a battalion of wingnuts, it’s not the Freeper DOS attack you’re trying to paint, it’s just me. Do relax the drama a bit, eh?  You didn’t need to close the comments.  Just because somebody posts a dissenting opinion, doesn’t automatically make her a righty, it’s not all black and white, there are shades of gray. . .yanno, nuance.  We of the left are supposed to be conversant in that, are we not?Now that we’ve gotten that straightened out, let’s move on.

    (Note: If any righties are reading this, a clue to “the point” can be found in the words “responding to Hamas’ war crime by committing another war crime.”)

    So, the “war crime moral equivalence meme.” Let’s take a peek at the facts, shall we?Article 28 of the Fourth Geneva Convention reads as follows:

    Art. 28. The presence of a protected person may not be used to render certain points or areas immune from military operations.

    And further Article 58 to Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions goes beyond that, requiring that civilians be removed from the vicinity of military objects:

    Article 58.-Precautions against the effects of attacks The Parties to the conflict shall, to the maximum extent feasible: (a) Without prejudice to Article 49 of the Fourth Convention, endeavour to remove the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control from the vicinity of military objectives; (b) Avoid locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas; (c) Take the other necessary precautions to protect the civilian population, individual civilians and civilian objects under their control against the dangers resulting from military operations.

    The Hamas is in violation of both articles, as acknowledged.Contrast that with Article 51 to Protocol 1 Additional to the Geneva Conventions for assessing Israel’s response as being another war crime:

    Article 51.-Protection of the civilian population 5. Among others, the following types of attacks are to be considered as indiscriminate: (b) An attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated.

    So, what’s key is the military value of the thing being targeted and it allows that civilians may be hurt.  Since Israel specifically is going after smuggling tunnels and caches of rockets and mortars, it is not indiscriminate.  But those rockets and mortars are what the Hamas is indiscriminately firing at Israeli civilians, and Israel has a duty to protect her citizens, so the caches of weapons have a high military value. . .the corresponding war crime Israel is committing therefore is. . .?So, “the point,” is that you and Cernig and the majority of the Left don’t understand what military proportionality is–a word that isn’t even used in the Geneva Conventions, if memory serves.  It isn’t having an equal number of bodies on all sides, it isn’t having comparably crappy equipment and equally inept fighters, it’s about the military value of the target.  And if the value is high, it’s a legitimate target, even if civilians get hurt, when it’s taken out.  That’s what Art. 51, 5b says.Furthermore, Israel is using relatively small, laser guided bombs to take out these caches, in order to minimize civilian casualties.  If you’ve seen the posted videos, there is the small explosion, when the Israeli bomb hits, followed by much bigger secondary explosions, when the Hamas stores of rockets are set off.  Because the Hamas stashes their weapons near civilians–in violation of international law–these secondary explosions probably cause the most civilian harm–not the Israeli bombs, themselves, but the aftermath, the Hamas rocket stores.Remember, too, that Israel made 90,000 phone calls to the Palestinian civilians and dropped thousands of leaflets warning them to get out of harm’s way.  Which is militarily stupid, as it blows their element of surprise, but Israel does it, to minimize civilian casualties as it pursues this war to protect her own citizens.  When’s the last time the Hamas dropped a leaflet, before setting off a suicide bomber or sending a rocket into civilian Sderot? Where is the equivalence?Look, I can understand being against war.  I’m a child of the sixties, the idea is not foreign to me and I can totally respect such a position.  What is appalling is the unrelenting hatred aimed by the left at Israel for defending her citizens against terrorists and the false moral equivalence consistently drawn between the two parties–not to mention the devastatingly vicious analogy of reducing this conflict to children squabbling in a playground.  And it pains me deeply that nary a thought is given to the Israeli children suffering from the daily barrage of rockets with which they are assaulted.  It’s like nobody gives a hoot about dead and terrorized Jews.  But let a Palestinian get a hangnail, and the world is in tears.  Yes, I know, I’m exaggerating, but that is how it feels to this Liberal Jewish Democrat.

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