Home > Political > If I Hate You, You Must Hate Me

If I Hate You, You Must Hate Me

October 9th, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

We all project our feelings and motivations on other people—it’s the most natural thing in the world. Ascribing to others the same kinds of thoughts and emotions we experience ourselves is not only unavoidable, but psychologically necessary. You couldn’t go through life if you assumed that every other person in the world has completely different ideas and thought-processes than you. We all think alike to a certain degree because we all have human brains, and the closer we are to other people in terms of our genes or our culture, the more likely we are to be accurate when we project our feelings onto them.

Projection gets us into trouble because we all too often falsely project thoughts and intentions onto other people. We assume that because we would react a certain way in a certain situation, others will naturally have the same reaction. We think that because we have certain reasons for doing and believing certain things, other people have the same reasons.

When it comes to politics, I often run into problems when I project some of my own qualities onto conservatives whom I try to engage in debate. Because I value rationality and approach every issue with an open mind, I unthinkingly assume that my political opponents are also interested in getting to the truth even if it means discovering that they’re wrong. I’m always willing to admit when I’m wrong, but that doesn’t mean my conservative friends are—in fact in most cases they’re only interested in winning an argument and are happy to ignore whatever facts and sound arguments they have to in order to maintain their pre-existing opinion.

I approach politics from a standpoint of compassion, especially for those less fortunate than me, but I can’t assume that my conservative opponents will respond to the same kinds of emotional arguments as I do. The emotions they respond to tend to be hatred, fear, and greed, and they make their arguments accordingly. They mistakenly assume that I’ll respond to fear-based arguments the same way they do just as I mistakenly assume that they’ll respond to appeals to human decency in the same way I do.

That much is obvious, but there are a few concrete issues in which I believe conservatives project their own ways of thinking onto the rest of us, and I feel it’s worthwhile to point them out. Though I’m sure there are countless examples, I’ll cite five of the most prevalent.

1. Hate. I always hesitate to make broad generalizations like, “Conservatives are often driven by a hatred of the Other” because this is certainly not the case for all conservatives or even most conservatives I know personally. That said, most conservatives—at least the kind I read online and see on TV in interviews—won’t hesitate to make broad generalizations about liberals without any qualifier. Many of them genuinely hate liberals and make all kinds of assumptions based on that hatred.

If I hate a person or group of people, it’s natural to project the same feelings onto them and assume that they hate me right back. Conservatives who hate liberals assume that all liberals hate conservatives, and that’s just not the case. Some of my favorite people in the world are conservative. I don’t even hate the Tea Party people who are demanding that the government stop spending money to help the less fortunate. As frustrated as these people make me, I don’t hate them. I just wish I could get them to see things differently.

But most of them probably wouldn’t extend the same courtesy to me. I’m not a “real American” in their eyes. I’m the Other that they hate so much. And because they hate me they assume I hate them and all they stand for. Since they believe they’re the ones representing America, they believe I hate America. The whole idea that liberals hate America is, I believe, I product of projection.

2. Race. Again I’ll begin with the qualifier that not all conservatives are racist. In fact, I’ll be generous enough to assume that most of them aren’t. But there is certainly a great deal of racism within the conservative movement no matter how much they deny it.

What’s interesting is how they deny it: by accusing others of racism. “We’re not racist” they’ll say. “It’s the minorities who are the real racists!” The prime example is Glenn Beck’s now infamous quote that Barack Obama is a man who has a “deep-seated hatred of white people.”

I’m not saying Beck or his followers necessarily have a “deep-seated hatred” of black people that they’re projecting onto Obama (though some certainly do), but it’s safe to say that these people look at the world through race-tinted lenses. They think in terms of black and white and different ethnic groups competing with each other. They assume that because they want white people and the “white culture” to predominate in America, these other groups must have similar aspirations for themselves.

Hence the widespread belief that Obama’s main objective is reparations, and that he wants to hand the country over to minorities and make white people second-class citizens. They want minorities to remain second-class citizens, so they think minorities want to do the same to them. It doesn’t occur to them that it’s not a competition, that most minority groups are simply interested in coexistence and cooperation.

3. Welfare. One opinion almost universal among conservatives is that welfare recipients are lazy moochers who are sponging off the hard work of everyone else. They are the first to buy the argument that unemployment benefits create more unemployment because people would rather sit on the couch all day doing nothing than go out and look for a job.

Maybe they believe this because they would be more than happy to sit in front of the TV all day and collect unemployment if they had the opportunity. They project their own laziness onto everyone else and assume that the only reason anyone might be unemployed is because it’s their choice.

Now, I’ll definitely concede that being able to collect unemployment causes many people to wait around longer and not try as hard to find a job as they otherwise would. I live in Germany where the Hartz-4 benefits people get when unemployed really do give them an incentive to not get a job. The naturally lazy people spend all day sitting outside and drinking beer with their lazy friends. But the majority of people aren’t so lazy. The majority want to work and they feel like they’re wasting their lives when they aren’t. The same is definitely true for Americans, and while there are just as many lazy liberals as there are lazy conservatives, the latter need to stop projecting their own laziness onto everyone across-the-board.

4. Electoral fraud. One of the things conservatives are always howling about is the alleged liberal plot to steal elections any way we can. We all remember the ACORN fiasco during the 2008 elections in which the organization was ripped to shreds by the conservative media because a few of their workers filled out fake voter-registration forms (fraud that was discovered and punished by ACORN itself). Just this morning, by complete coincidence, I got an e-mail from the Tea Party Nation warning me about liberals trying to steal the election and calling for conservatives to go to the polls armed with video cameras in an attempt to catch us in the act.

Naturally, they think that the only way liberals can win an election is to steal it because they’ve projected their own political beliefs onto the nation as a whole and are under the impression that the vast, vast majority of Americans are just as conservative as they are. (For a full refutation of this theory, check out these polls.)

But more than that, they’re so concerned about liberals stealing the election because they would steal the elections themselves if they could. These people think they’re so right and we’re so wrong that they’d be justified in using any means necessary to gain power. After all, what’s a little election-fraud when the lives of so many unborn fetuses are at stake? If they have to stuff the ballot box to stop gays from getting married, so be it. The ends justify the means.

Naturally, they think that liberals suffer from the same lack of principles and that we’re therefore out to steal elections. Never mind the fact that it’s mostly liberal organizations that have been fighting against the Diebold voting machines which leave no paper trail and thus leave the results of any election in the hands of the corporation that owns the machines.

5. Indoctrination. Finally, we come to the issue of influencing children to think the way we do. Conservatives are constantly complaining about the liberal elites at the universities twisting the views of their students [by getting them to actually study history]. Not only that, but they’re worried about schoolteachers as well. “Mrs. Parker taught you what?! That our founding fathers owned slaves and helped wipe out the Indians? That filthy America-hating lib!!” Even in kindergarten: “She taught you to share what you have with others?! That communist!!”

We all remember when conservative parents kept their children home to prevent them from hearing Barack Obama’s address to the nation’s schoolchildren. Apparently his message of working hard and staying in school was too much liberal propaganda for them and they didn’t want their kids being brain-washed.

So of course they would never try to indoctrinate children to their own way of thinking, right? They just present their kids with all of the facts and arguments on all sides of every issue and let the children decide for themselves, right?

Hah! The reason they’re so afraid of teachers indoctrinating their kids with liberal ideology is because they are hell-bent on indoctrinating kids into their own ideology. Just look at the Tea Party coloring-book and see for yourselves. Look at all those kids at Tea Party rallies holding signs like, “Mr. Obama, stop robbing my piggy bank!” I won’t even mention how religion fits in to all this, but I will ask you to consider how many of these parents encourage their kids to learn about faiths other than their own.

When you try so hard to make sure your kids think exactly like you do, you project this on to everyone else and think that they’re trying to influence your kids as well—that others are trying to turn your kids against you.

In conclusion I’ll admit that most conservatives probably won’t respond to this line of argument. Introspection and objective self-reflection aren’t exactly the kinds of qualities I’d expect to find in most Tea Party folks, and they’d probably just get angry and deny it without ever stopping to consider whether it might be true.

But I do think it’s useful for liberals to consider these points in order to better understand where conservatives are coming from. Remember that whenever they accuse you of some kind of nefarious motive, it’s probably because it’s something that motivates them. When they purport to tell you how you think, they’re actually telling you something about how they think.

  1. No comments yet.
  1. No trackbacks yet.