OP-EDS

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November 17, 2005

Who knew? The Right is compassionate.

If there’s one lesson to be drawn from the furor over May House’s Ghetto-Thuggin’-Straight-Stupid dorm party—which, by the way, I’m pretty sure got billed as a Klan meeting on the national news, so there we go sliding down the U.S. News rankings again—it’s that stereotypes, though artificial, are hurtful, ugly things (by that definition, people like Paris Hilton and Dick Cheney are stereotypes on legs). They are the manifestation of ignorance, allowing the specter of prejudice to endure. So, even as the social storm winds generated by the May House incident gradually subsided, their initial turbulence now a gentle breeze whispering a hope for enlightened change, I began to look within, to examine the stereotypes and preconceptions I carry with me and the possible harm they may inflict on a day-to-day basis as I, like most, subconsciously map the world in subtle shades of prejudice.

In the course of such introspection, I considered the common stereotypes attributed to liberals and conservatives in this country, and realized, much to my own shock and dismay, that all these years I’ve been guilty of gross mislabeling. I deploy terms such as “bleeding-heart liberals,” “compassionate conservatives,” and “foolish Naderites” without a second thought as to how bigoted or destructive such labels really are. In fact, I realized that these common epithets serve to perpetuate a massive lie, an inversion of political reality to which I am an unwitting accomplice.

Everyone likes to poke fun at Republicans… except, I suppose, other Republicans, but that’s understandable because they had their sense of humor removed in a lobotomy at birth, especially the lobe marked for “self-deprecation” (don’t worry, that’s not a stereotype; I checked, and according to the Kansas School Board, it’s a scientific fact). Specifically, many people revel in pointing out the oxymoronic nature of the phrase “compassionate conservative.” According to stereotype law, it’s the liberals whose blue streak is matched only by the red of their bleeding hearts, and the conservatives who wouldn’t know compassion if it painted itself purple, hung a sign around its neck saying, “Hello, my name is compassion!,” and ran them over in a slow-moving tractor while broadcasting its personal information over a loudspeaker.

Alas! This pervasive stereotypic paradigm has it all wrong, and the time has come to set the record straight. During the course of my musings I realized that, in reality, the staunch, pro-Bush, sure-let’s-elect-him-again Republicans actually stand as shining examples of the most compassionate, acquiescent, forgiving people in the world. Why, you ask? Because they clearly don’t mind being lied to, and are willing to instantly forgive the force-feeding of doctored truth and manipulated reality perpetrated on the American people every day.

Personally, there’s really nothing I loathe so much as being lied to. Say you can’t stand me to my face, and I can deal. Cram peanut butter into my mouth as you curse my name, and I’ll do my best to turn the other cheek, even as both cheeks and my throat swell up and I slip into anaphylactic shock. Being lied to, however, turns me into a raging vengeance-seeking machine. So the generosity of spirit exhibited by those who so readily forgive the lies of our current administration—lies that have cost lives, not to mention billions of dollars—appears to me truly astounding. Almost Buddha-like, really (though, again according to stereotype law, I suppose to them trees are for hacking down, not sitting under).

You want bleeding-heart niceness, acquiescence, and compassion? Look at those willing to accept the spin propagated by the Bush administration, those who forgive, in what can only be a profound swelling of benevolence, its deliberate manipulation of reality. There really are a shocking number of such generous souls out there. Yes, approval ratings are down, but well over a third of America still forgives Bush’s deceits. As should by now be evident (unless you rely on Fox News) the prewar intelligence on Iraq did not provide the necessary basis for sounding a call to arms. The existence of weapons of mass destruction and an apparent link between Saddam Hussein and the 9/11 attacks were not borne out by any credible, reliable intelligence. And yet, somehow these emerged as justifications for going to war in Iraq-—justifications still awaiting any substantiation. As the New York Times reported in an editorial earlier this week, the intelligence upon which Congress based its vote for war had been “sanitized to remove dissent and make conjecture seem like fact.” Regardless of the truth, a new reality was manufactured and sent spinning out to the American people. A similar deceit was revealed last year, when a report on the potential dangers of anthropogenic climate change generated by the Administration’s environmental office was intentionally watered down and edited in an effort to diminish its impact. Subtle manipulations, re-phrasings, and the changing of key terms were all made to smooth over the severity of global warming; once again, since reality didn’t conform to what those in power thought it ought to look like, it got a little facelift.

The capacity to repeatedly forgive such mendacity must really be what is meant when people talk about “compassionate conservatism.” While not the oxymoron commonly imagined, it’s a form of compassion I simply cannot comprehend. In fact, I almost prefer the old stereotype.