"I can't understand why people are afraid of new ideas. I'm frightened of the old ones"
- John Cage
What's up with Republicans and their love of stupid anyway? First Ronald Reagan, then George W. Bush, then Sarah Palin, and now Joe the Plumber. Well, perhaps it has something to do with their constant state of fear.
Drugs, terrorists, hippies, immigrants, universal medical coverage, Muslims, gay marriage, science, God, teenagers having sex–is there anything these people aren't terrified of?
And when they find an intelligence-challenged hero like Palin or this idiot plumber guy, they don't just get behind them, they go absolutely nuts. We're talkin' full-on love fests with ignorance.
While just about every other democracy in the world is looking for leaders who are more intelligent than your average Joe, plumber or otherwise, a large number of Americans seem to be constantly looking for a leader as stupid as they are: "Someone just like me."
Yeah, Dubya might be more fun to have a beer with than John Kerry. But why the hell would want him running your country? While the rest of the world understandably expects elites to run things like, you know, the government, Republicans seem to despise elites, not only for their intelligence and education, but also for their competence and ability.
"Goddamn elites, think they're so special just 'cause they know stuff. I like Dubya 'cause he reminds me of my uncle Bubba, and my uncle Bubba's one hell of a guy. Heck, Uncle Bubba would be a better president than any of these college-educated communist elites and their gay-marryin' friends. Like to see any of them skin an elk as fast as good ol' Uncle Bubba."
Do you ever wonder why the most hardcore supporters of the “war on terror” seem to all live in places like Mississippi, Alabama and Kansas? And do you ever feel confused as to why exactly they seem so scared? Do they seriously think terrorists are coming to get them in Jackson, Montgomery, and Wichita?
I mean, there has to be some sort of an explanation for this bizarre situation. Mention any terrorist plot–real or imagined–and these anti-terror Red Staters are all over one another, trying to be the first to support a cut in civil liberties, the launching of a preemptive war, and/or a whole lot more Bible study classes in schools.
Meanwhile, the majority of those living in places that are actually terrorist targets–cities like Boston, L.A., San Francisco and New York City–stay relatively calm and continue to fight for their civil liberties and against crap like the oxymoronically-named Patriot Act.
You've Got That Right
Ok, so who am I to deny anyone the right to live in a constant state of terror, if that's how they really want to live? Still, you've got to admit that it's more than just a bit ridiculous. Huddled together in perpetual fear in states such as Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Montana and Kansas are millions of people petrified that the terrorists could be coming for them at any moment, just as they knew that the Communists were coming in decades past.
These people may not be able to find Canada on a map–let alone Afghanistan–but they sure as hell know what they know and what they know for sure is that the enemy of all civilization, aside from gay marriage, of course, is definitely Islam.
If they really like waging unwinnable wars, perhaps they should go back to fighting the “war on gays” and the “war on drugs” instead of this distant, far-off, overseas “war on terror”.
The people of, say, Knoxville or Texarkana may have never met a Muslim but they sure as hell have met someone who they suspected of being gay or of smoking a joint, so this makes the whole war so much more immediate and real. And some of those pot smokers and gays have even been known to indulge in that hideous thing known as premarital sex, so there's a whole other war to be fought there as well.
Seriously, even Wichita must have at least a couple of suspected gays who haven't fled for their lives yet. But how many terrorists do you really think actually reside in the entire state of Kansas?
Evolution, climate change, the dinosaurs, and liberal elites' love of country may all be things that have never actually existed, but drugs, gays, and illicit premarital sex are all as real as Jesus and the coming Rapture. So it's a no-brainer, really.
I've been to Mississippi, Tennessee, North Carolina, and a number of other southern states and the only terrorist attacks I foresee taking place down there are those undertaken by homophobes, the KKK or, perhaps, a few rogue sheriffs.
I just don't envision bin Laden and his buddies sitting in their caves over there in Pakistan, plotting a massive attack on Knoxville, Tennessee. Nor do I see Louisville, Greenville, or Huntsville being all that vulnerable.
New Scientific Study
There's a new study that at least partly explains what's going on with these people and, surprisingly, it has nothing to do with I.Q., the ability to accept reality (science, rationality, etcetera) or even the awesome ability to recite whole sections of the Bible.
Published earlier this fall in the journal Science and titled "Political Attitudes Vary with Physiological Traits", the study goes a long way in explaining why those who could be excused for being terrified remain relatively calm while those who have little to fear always seem so petrified.
According to the study, it's all rather simple: Conservatives, it seems, scare much easier than regular folks. We're talking physiological differences here. We're talking biology. We're talking hard-wiring.
They see a threat or, more accurately, they're told that there's a threat somewhere overseas. Next thing you know, they're all for bombing it to oblivion.
Clearly, this helps explain why a buffoon like George W. Bush could be re-elected after his unequivocally-disastrous initial four-year term. A little fear-mongering, it seems, no matter how transparent and obvious, goes a long way when it comes to motivating these conservative types.
So, once again, it looks like we must have pity for the conservatives. They have anxiety issues and clearly need treatment–before they destroy the whole planet.
Only One Problem
My only problem with this study is this: If they're so fearful of all perceived threats, how come they couldn't give a shit about the only one that actually threatens them and their children? No, not gays, not terrorists, not even Iran. I'm talking about climate change. How come conservatives are so terrified by a few guys in some caves over in Central Asia but they have no fear whatsoever of an actual global catastrophe? Strange indeed.
To be fair, not all fear is unwarranted. Perhaps Barack Obama has, like so many from the Religious Right seem to believe, cunningly pretended to be a Christian for his entire life so that he can eventually attain the highest office in the land and unleash his sinister, true Muslim self on the nation and the world. Perhaps conservatives are really onto something here. Perhaps Obama is even the Antichrist, like some suspect. Perhaps only Uncle Bubba can stop him?
Then again, maybe these people are just a bunch of ridiculous, fear-mongering morons that have simply got it all wrong? It's anyone's guess.
For another good article on all of this, check out Christopher Hitchens' excellent piece, Sarah Palin's War on Science: The GOP ticket's appalling contempt for knowledge and learning.
Mike Cowie is a writer currently embarked on a book about his three-year trip across Asia with his wife, Sonoko. Read more of Mike’s views on his Web site.