The children's crusade

A year ago, a group of 'researchers' published a paper in the Bulletin of the American Psychological Association that 'reviewed fifty years of literature' to come to the conclusion that political conservatism was a reflection of certain unflattering psychological traits, such as fear and dogmatism. As examples, they used Hitler and Ronald Reagan, and then opined that since Stalin and the like met their criteria too, why they were conservatives as well! (Note to taxpayer: your money paid for this stuff.) While taking great pains to aver that they were not being critical of conservatives or making judgments, just trying to explain things in a scientific way, you see, their study will no doubt stand the test of time as one of the most puerile pretenses for political opinion masquerading as science that we have ever seen, and we have seen some beauts.

Well, two can play at that game. So, dear reader, I ask you to think back to your parenting experiences, if you have been fortunate enough to have them, and try to assess what developmental age these particular behaviors remind you of; you may read, or skip, the examples provided.

Blaming others for one's failures, and making serial excuses.

See: Florida, 2000. It was the butterfly ballots, they were too confusing. (But they were designed by a Democratic official.) OK then, it was the chads. (But almost all independently conducted recounts since the election have Bush as the winner.) Well, then his people prevented blacks from voting. (But there's no evidence at all for this 'urban legend.') The courts elected him. (It was the Democrats who had teams of lawyers ready to descend on any closely contested state with one objection after the other, not the Republicans. It was the Florida Supreme Court, almost all Democrats, who subverted to letter of the election law, not the U.S Supreme Court.) Doesn't matter; we couldn't possibly have lost fair and square, because we were better, so they must have cheated.

Name—calling.

'Bush is Hitler.' Though in thinking about it, anyone who can use whatever political differences they have with the President to draw parallels with the monster who not only started World War 2 but also systematically murdered millions of people, has passed beyond any childhood developmental incoherence into the realm of psychosis, defined as inability to differentiate their own inner feelings from the reality of the world around them. Will save that for a later essay.

Inconsistent and incoherent demands.

The thing is, the various self—contradictory arguments are made by the same people.

  •  You shouldn't tolerate dictators in other countries AND you shouldn't try to export democracy and impose your values on the rest of the world AND you shouldn't withdraw from the world. All of those. So there.

  •  Why did you rely on widely accepted and seemingly overwhelming intelligence to invade Iraq, and why didn't you act on little unconnected scraps of information to DO SOMETHING to prevent 9/11? (We would have been right behind you on aggressive pre—emptive action then, you can be sure of that.)

  •  Why don't you have a handle on what's going on? And why did you pass a law that allows the FBI and CIA to talk to each other, and actually INVESTIGATE terrorism, as if it were Medicare fraud or something? Why are you arresting all those people? What's happening to this country? And why aren't we safe?

  •  And while we're on the subject, why are you scaring us with these stupid color alert warnings whenever you find something out? And why do you keep everything secret and never tell us what's happening?

  •  Why don't we have any allies? No, not all those allies that support us, I mean the other ones, the ones that don't? Why aren't those allies supporting us, instead of the ones who are?

    Look, there are many important issues out there, and I certainly respect the positions of those who feel strongly about gay marriage and gun control and abortion and the rest. And the state of the economy is always there for incumbents and challengers to take credit for or to criticize, despite the fact that Presidents probably have little to do with it. Health care is a mess and education is mediocre, but I don't see anyone with a coherent solution that will stand the pressure of very entrenched interest groups. Judicial appointments are certainly important...

    But you know what? Right now none of that matters all that much. Because we are at war. Millions of people around the world are religiously vulnerable to be indoctrinated by an ideology of hate that would just as soon kill as many of us as possible. And as biotechnology advances and nuclear capabilities proliferate in our open and interconnected world, they may soon be able to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. So the choice we face isn't between Republican and Democrat, or social conservative and liberal, or who can more cleverly present their not—all—that—different ideas about prescription drug coverage or taxes. It is, simply, about whether we will choose adults to lead us through this dangerous time and keep making the hard decisions, or whether we will place our fate in the hands of children.  

    Jack Birnbaum is a physician and novelist.

    Copyright Jack Birnbaum, M.D.

  • A year ago, a group of 'researchers' published a paper in the Bulletin of the American Psychological Association that 'reviewed fifty years of literature' to come to the conclusion that political conservatism was a reflection of certain unflattering psychological traits, such as fear and dogmatism. As examples, they used Hitler and Ronald Reagan, and then opined that since Stalin and the like met their criteria too, why they were conservatives as well! (Note to taxpayer: your money paid for this stuff.) While taking great pains to aver that they were not being critical of conservatives or making judgments, just trying to explain things in a scientific way, you see, their study will no doubt stand the test of time as one of the most puerile pretenses for political opinion masquerading as science that we have ever seen, and we have seen some beauts.

    Well, two can play at that game. So, dear reader, I ask you to think back to your parenting experiences, if you have been fortunate enough to have them, and try to assess what developmental age these particular behaviors remind you of; you may read, or skip, the examples provided.

    Blaming others for one's failures, and making serial excuses.

    See: Florida, 2000. It was the butterfly ballots, they were too confusing. (But they were designed by a Democratic official.) OK then, it was the chads. (But almost all independently conducted recounts since the election have Bush as the winner.) Well, then his people prevented blacks from voting. (But there's no evidence at all for this 'urban legend.') The courts elected him. (It was the Democrats who had teams of lawyers ready to descend on any closely contested state with one objection after the other, not the Republicans. It was the Florida Supreme Court, almost all Democrats, who subverted to letter of the election law, not the U.S Supreme Court.) Doesn't matter; we couldn't possibly have lost fair and square, because we were better, so they must have cheated.

    Name—calling.

    'Bush is Hitler.' Though in thinking about it, anyone who can use whatever political differences they have with the President to draw parallels with the monster who not only started World War 2 but also systematically murdered millions of people, has passed beyond any childhood developmental incoherence into the realm of psychosis, defined as inability to differentiate their own inner feelings from the reality of the world around them. Will save that for a later essay.

    Inconsistent and incoherent demands.

    The thing is, the various self—contradictory arguments are made by the same people.

  •  You shouldn't tolerate dictators in other countries AND you shouldn't try to export democracy and impose your values on the rest of the world AND you shouldn't withdraw from the world. All of those. So there.

  •  Why did you rely on widely accepted and seemingly overwhelming intelligence to invade Iraq, and why didn't you act on little unconnected scraps of information to DO SOMETHING to prevent 9/11? (We would have been right behind you on aggressive pre—emptive action then, you can be sure of that.)

  •  Why don't you have a handle on what's going on? And why did you pass a law that allows the FBI and CIA to talk to each other, and actually INVESTIGATE terrorism, as if it were Medicare fraud or something? Why are you arresting all those people? What's happening to this country? And why aren't we safe?

  •  And while we're on the subject, why are you scaring us with these stupid color alert warnings whenever you find something out? And why do you keep everything secret and never tell us what's happening?

  •  Why don't we have any allies? No, not all those allies that support us, I mean the other ones, the ones that don't? Why aren't those allies supporting us, instead of the ones who are?

    Look, there are many important issues out there, and I certainly respect the positions of those who feel strongly about gay marriage and gun control and abortion and the rest. And the state of the economy is always there for incumbents and challengers to take credit for or to criticize, despite the fact that Presidents probably have little to do with it. Health care is a mess and education is mediocre, but I don't see anyone with a coherent solution that will stand the pressure of very entrenched interest groups. Judicial appointments are certainly important...

    But you know what? Right now none of that matters all that much. Because we are at war. Millions of people around the world are religiously vulnerable to be indoctrinated by an ideology of hate that would just as soon kill as many of us as possible. And as biotechnology advances and nuclear capabilities proliferate in our open and interconnected world, they may soon be able to succeed beyond their wildest dreams. So the choice we face isn't between Republican and Democrat, or social conservative and liberal, or who can more cleverly present their not—all—that—different ideas about prescription drug coverage or taxes. It is, simply, about whether we will choose adults to lead us through this dangerous time and keep making the hard decisions, or whether we will place our fate in the hands of children.  

    Jack Birnbaum is a physician and novelist.

    Copyright Jack Birnbaum, M.D.