- Politics and Social Issues»
- North America Political & Social Issues
Liberals, Guns Gays and Green
A Hammer meets a Nail.
You have heard the old saw, that if your only tool is a hammer, every problem starts looking like a nail. I'd like to turn that about. If you see lots of nails sticking up, you start looking around for a hammer. If you see a problem, obviously, you want to fix it. Liberals see lots of problems that conservatives don't notice.
The question is why. Why are conservatives oblivious to the problems so obvious to liberals? Or, if they do see the problems, why don't conservatives seem to really care much about them? Liberals see a problem and want to fix it, but are constantly hamstrung by conservatives who block reform.
Liberals Care More Than Conservatives
What do honest, forthright Democrats yearn for? Security, fair-play, a green and healthy environment, honest politicians, clean streets, good housing for all, more income equality, reduced poverty, lower crime and a gentler, more humane justice system. Well, it's a long list, and I am just getting started, throwing out ideas. How about better treatment for gays and other minorities? Fewer guns, and more tightly regulated so bad people don't get them? Include respect and equality for women. Great schools.
Most of these sound like good things. Things even most conservatives would go along with. Conservatives, at least American-style conservatives, are uninterested in gun control, and not terribly interested in gay rights. Other than those two, conservatives can and do get behind all of the rest.
So why do liberals and conservatives part company, if our desires seem so similar?
What I am NOT talking about!
I'd like to make a distinction. When I am discussing conservatives and liberals here, I am talking the man-on-the-street versions of each. Politicians are a breed apart. Most so-called conservative politicians care little about anything but being reelected, lording it over citizens, and getting richer. Just exactly like their liberal colleagues. Both are a pestilence, boils on the ass of society. With very few exceptions.
The second group of ass-boils is the fringe elements of both movements. The wacky liberals who blow things up, parade with puppets, poop in public, hold 'rallies' at political opponent's homes and such-like socially retrograde activities. And their mirror-images on the conservative side. Every group has a 10% (my guess) fringe that is simply loony. These loons are also not the subject of this article.
Why? Why do 'They' do it?
So, back to our kind, enlightened home-boy citizen liberals and conservatives, our neighbors and friends. How do they differ? Why, conservatives wonder, do liberals vote for politicians who want nothing more than to stop business dead, impoverish everyone, and release violent criminals into society while denying us the ability to defend ourselves? Why do they pursue policies that cause income inequality? Why do they defend our abysmal schools and force us to pay for them, educate our kids in them, while elite liberals send their kids to private schools with armed guards? WHY? Why do liberal voters choose these doofs? (Separate question: why do Republicans vote for the doofs they do?!)
Conservatives are a bit confused by the whole issue, really. There just are not that many gays, a few percent of the population, and most of them don't seem that badly treated. It just doesn't look like a big enough problem to spend a lot of time worrying about. What's the big fuss? Other problems seem a lot bigger. Can't we fix our energy troubles first? Or our tax policy, or bad roads and schools, or whatever else it is conservatives want to think about?
But gay rights looms large for liberals. Why? First, it's a simple matter of equal rights, justice. It's a continuation of the long fight for womens' rights, and racial justice. Gays are the next group up to bat, so to speak. No question that there are honest roots to liberal concern for gay rights.
Democrats see this problem, and conservatives don't. Now, here is the interesting question, and gets back to my hammer and nail analogy. What is the 'nail sticking up' that liberals see, and conservatives don't? Simple, really. It is because gays are in trouble where liberals live. In cities.
Liberalism is an urban religion, because cities are where the problems are. Cities are dangerous, dirty places, where racial, ethnic and all other hatreds and injustices breed. Take a look at that familiar red and blue map. Conservatives dominate in the nice places. Liberals live in cities. Conservatives are mainly small-town, suburban and rural people, who have clean air, green fields, low crime rates, and trustworthy neighbors.
2112 Election By County
Life in the Big City
Liberals live in concrete canyons. 'Nature' is Central Park, a few acres of dusty, bedraggled green surrounded by streets filled with strangers. This ugly, unnatural environment breeds suspicion. Humans are designed (or evolved, if you prefer) to live in small groups of closely related people. Instinctively we see strangers as potential threats. We know consciously that the great majority of strangers are not threats. Most people are pretty decent, actually. But our primitive brain, our ancient instinct is to view strangers with a certain degree of caution.
Conservatives live in neighborhoods, small towns, rural areas, and suburbs filled with people not too different from themselves. It isn't hard to trust people, since we generally know them, or at least know of them. When a New Yorker walks down the street, he can walk all day and not see anyone he knows. Everyone is an unknown element. Probably not a problem, but potentially so. It isn't a conscious concern, except in the paranoid.
Since humans are tribal, they tend to defend turf. This is particularly true of young males. If a stranger, or, a strange-appearing person enters your turf, you attack them. Sound extreme? Think I am exaggerating? Let me ask you, are there any neighborhoods in your home town where you would hesitate to walk the streets at night? How about during the day? I can honestly answer no. I can walk anywhere, anytime in my home town. If you answer yes, you are probably living in a town or city that voted Democrat in the last election.
Gays can honestly fear being attacked in even the most liberal cities. Don't believe me? Read this:
And view this:
Now, I stated above that your average Democrat/liberal is a decent person. Decent people don't want gays to live in fear, to be attacked, to be beaten up just for being gay. Most conservatives feel the same. But for conservatives, living where day to day no one is in fear of being attacked, the problem just doesn't feel real. It doesn't hit emotionally, in the gut. For good liberals, it does. Many liberals have gay friends who have told them stories. I've had such gay friends, when I lived in a city.
Where I live now, small town Illinois, violence of any kind is so rare that every single incident makes the local papers. If a gay man were beaten up here because he was gay, it would be a huge local scandal. No doubt many look down on gays here, and I am not saying the lifestyle is much appreciated by your run-of-the-mill rural folk. Just that, in urban areas gays are much more likely to be denied that most basic human right, the freedom to walk down the street without fear of violence.
For the alternate view, read this LA Times article. It leads with several cases of rural anti-gay violence. But please read the WHOLE article, and see if it doesn't end up supporting my thesis.
Wild About the Environment
Liberals are wild about the environment. Whether it is global warming, extinction of species, loss of green space, liberals are very concerned. Conservatives are concerned too, but less obviously so. So why the difference in intensity? Simple. Liberals live in cities, where there is no nature! As I said above, 'nature' for a city-bred person is a park. A place where wild animals are limited to birds and a few vermin like raccoons and rats. Every single tree that is cut down is a tragedy, a loss. Liberals only see large animals in zoos; liberals only see sad animals.
By the way, this includes liberals who leave the city to visit wilder areas. They carry their opinions with them, and don't update them with new information. Concrete walls gird the limits of their minds. Urbanites view the world as a city with small green spaces between. Of course, consciously city people know this isn't true, but again, what counts is the gut. While conservatives lack the imagination to feel much concern for gays, liberals cannot see the real world outside their cities. The green world. Flyover country. That phrase just about sums up the liberal experience with nature. They fly over it going between one gray, concrete jungle and the next, and don't feel the vast open lands between. Occasionally they visit a national park.
Conservatives live where it is green. Animals abound, even large, wild animals. Around here we have large herds of deer, only an hour from the borders of Chicago. Sightings of predators, mountain lions and wolves, are becoming disturbingly common. Coyotes yip at night. We care about nature, but don't want our kids eaten by cougars (I am exaggerating a bit here, for effect, but a friend of mine saw a cougar near his home JUST LAST MONTH!!). We don't want our fields and gardens destroyed by an overpopulation of deer, or our lambs killed by coyotes. We hunt. We have our own blinders, obviously, just different ones than liberals.
Liberals hate and fear guns, many of them. Why? Pretty silly, isn't it, to fear a hunk of iron and wood? Shouldn't it be the person holding the gun who is feared? Why the maniacal fear of guns? Cities, where guns are typically banned or so tightly controlled that only the rich and politically connected can legally carry one, are dangerous places. Men and children are murdered every day of the year. In Chicago, where guns are very tightly regulated, over 500 people were murdered last year.
Conservatives mainly live in safe, peaceful places where guns are rarely used to harm another human being. They may be used for hunting, or target shooting, and they make a good topic of conversation. Shooting allows moments of bonding between fathers and their kids. The main negative connotations of guns in conservative areas are, one, that big city people use them to kill each other, and two, once in a while a neighbor will use a gun to commit suicide. It happens, and everyone grieves. But most of us figure that a sad person could have figured out another way to do it if they hadn't had a gun, so we don't blame the weapon, just as we don't blame the car if someone dies in an accident.
So, for liberals, guns are objects of loathing, because where liberals live, life is dangerous. Guns look like a problem. Take away the guns, and the problem goes away. Young men who wish to kill other young men would suddenly be powerless if guns were banned. Pretty damned simplistic thinking, but, there you are. It is easier than trying to understand the problem of violence, or to face the reality that one of your neighbors could be a dangerous nut. And nuts congregate in cities.
The simple fact is that liberals cannot allow themselves to consider the man behind the gun. They live in densely populated cities. Unknown men are quite literally everywhere, every time the liberal steps outdoors. Since no one can remain constantly alert without becoming a paranoid, it is simply emotionally easier to blame the gun than to see the man. Mental and emotional blinders allow one to go about ones life in relative emotional peace, displacing fear and anger onto safely distant (and non-violent) conservatives.
This is a huge one for liberals, because in the cities dominated by liberals, the poor have been driven down so far that they own virtually nothing, earn nothing, have no private resources to build better lives upon. All the while the liberal super rich, in their mansions and top-floor apartments in the good parts of town, lord over them. Inequality is severe, and getting worse. It is a huge problem, and good liberals want to fix it.
Conservatives don't much notice this problem, because in the suburbs and rural areas where conservatives live, there just is not as wide a gap, and the 'super rich' guy, is probably your neighbor who is the local doctor or lawyer. He has a nice boat, and vacations in nicer destinations than I get to go to. Our kids go to the same school and we meet at football games and shoot the shit. He just isn't that different from me, even though I, by income, am lower middle class. My kids get to beat his kids on the SAT.
Flip the Coin, or, Where I Exaggerated
I have deliberately exaggerated, painting an excessively rosy picture of the places conservatives live, and a dark one of liberal cities. I haven't yet mentioned the poor rural areas, the trailer-park rednecks and other less-than-ideal items. There are plenty of very poor rural areas. I didn't go into the fact that some Southern states which have in recent years been voting Republican, have very high murder rates.
How do conservatives view these exceptions? Well, we consider these as examples of either the liberal disease spilling over into our areas, or evidence of the results of many prior generations of rule by the Democratic Party. We consider that Democrats create poverty, and the more suspicious of us believe that this is exactly what their politicians want. Please note that while Mitt Romney won Georgia and Louisiana, two rather violent Southern states, President Obama won New Orleans and Atlanta, the large and very violent central cities of those states.
Liberals Honestly Care
Liberals honestly care so intensely about the problems in the cities, because the problems are so severe. If you live in a dark, gray place where you risk a beating or death if you simply walk down the wrong street, you will demand solutions to these problems. If your schools are decaying and the poor walk around shoeless, good, kind, thoughtful liberals demand solutions. So sad that the problems themselves were caused by the good, kind and thoughtful liberal grandfathers of current liberals.
Why, you might ask, are European and Japanese cities so much safer than US cities? Simple, really. Those cities are far more ethnically and culturally homogenous. They are, emotionally, more like US small towns. People's behavior and attitudes are more predictable. A Japanese, walking down the streets of Tokyo will see plenty of foreigners, of course, but they will be far outnumbered by fellow Japanese.
Americans are more diverse, and more mobile than Europeans and Japanese. To find a good example of a non-US city with troubles similar to ours, look to South Africa, with its ethnic and racial dysfunction.