No such thing as a good fight

In a long comment thread response to Mr. X/Brand Ecch on a previous post, I found myself articulating through my keyboard something I had probably known for quite a while, but had never had cohere for me quite that well before:

The primary difference between left and right wing is... tolerance.

Like I said, I think I always knew this -- you certainly are sure you always did as you read that right now -- but it never came as clear to me before I typed that response.

The conservative viewpoint is a great many things, but boiled down, it is Us Vs. Them. It is tribalism run rampant. It is xenophobia honed down to a monofilament edge, distilled out into 200 proof white lightning in a clay jug. It is intolerance with bells and whistles and snow chains and four wheel drive and a great big M60 machine gun mounted in the truck bed.

Conservatives love the fight. Any fight. It's why they're constantly stroking off over whatever conflict we happen to be in right now, or if we're not, that they want us to get into right now. It's why every battle the U.S. fights is The Next Global War With All Civilization At Stake. It's why they talk about World War V. The Cold War, you see, was World War III, and then the first Gulf War was World War IV, and our current mass terrorist attack on a few thousand guys with homemade bombs and several million innocent Arabic bystanders is World War V. It's why everything with them is war, war, war, all the time, time, time. Because when We're At War, Citizen, the essential conservative ideology kinda-sorta makes sense... well, it comes as close as it's ever going to, anyway.

At base, conservatives hate to agree to disagree. They cannot tolerate the idea of tolerance, they cannot stomach the notion of a dissenting viewpoint. They like it when it's emergency time and the shells are flying overhead and it's Life or Death, Kill or Be Killed, A Man Wearing A Turban Is An Enemy -- Shoot! Because in times like that, dissent really is treason, wanting to tolerate other points of view really is dangerous weakness, and liberals really are yellow bellied enemy collaborators... or at least, that's how it seems to them it really should be.

It's absolutely nuts, but at base, we are all conservatives. We all hate people who disagree with us, we all wish they'd just shut up, and sometimes they get us so mad with their goddam alternative viewpoints and non-mainstream opinions that we want to kill them. That's the little kid in all of us, who just wants his or her way, right now, right now, RIGHT NOW, and who can't understand why it can't be that way all the time.

Liberals drive conservatives nuts, because we insist on tolerating dissenting points of view. We insist that civil liberties are for everyone, even the people we find reprehensible and vile. That's not the conservative way; conservatives believe that freedom of speech is only for the people who agree with them.

Here's the problem conservatives have when they live in an even remotely free society -- freedom is a liberal concept. The basis of freedom is tolerance -- I tolerate your choices as long as they don't interfere with my choices, and you do the same for me. Conservatives find this infuriating and baffling. The conservative concept of freedom is that, yeah, everyone should be free to do whatever they want, as long as whatever they want to do is decent and proper and doesn't offend God or the neighbors or vary in any particular way from the acceptable mainstream.

The concept that people should only be free to do whatever they want if whatever they want is the same as everyone else is not freedom at all. That's compulsory mass conformity, and the only way you get that in any sizable group of human beings is by pointing a gun at a lot of them. Which, again, is why conservatives like wartime so much, because if it's wartime, you get to point the guns at the people you don't like. Disobedience of an order during wartime is punishable by summary execution, soldier. Fall in, stand at attention, and march where you're told, by God, or we've got a bullet and a bodybag with your name on them.

It's not that they WANT to be so strict, mind you, but otherwise, you risk destroying morale. Can't have that. We're at WAR.

It is most likely the reason we are at a perpetual disadvantage in this kind of social or cultural conflict. By our nature we believe in tolerating those who are different from us, even the really stupid, bigoted, close minded and hateful ones. And we keep reaching out and saying "Hey, can't we all just get along?" But conservatives have no desire to get along with liberals. They just want us to agree with them -- OR DIE!

It's why Republican dominated Congresses have no trouble punishing their Democratic minorities with childish measures straight out of THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER, but Democrat dominated Congresses have a hard time doing the same thing back. We want to rise above the mean spirited impulse. We want to get out of the gutter. We want to elevate the conversation. We want to be civil, to start over, to make things work.

Conservative are happy to let liberals do all that, too... when liberals have the upper hand. But never ever expect the same consideration in return; that's not consistent with the conservative mindset.

If there's an answer to this question, it lies in the wisdom of Sean Hannity. Long, long ago -- well, back when Clinton was still in office and Fox News still viewed itself as something of a radical underground -- Hannity said something about liberals that went roughly like this -- you can live next to them, you can work with them, you can be friends with them -- you simply can never, under any circumstances, let them have any kind of real power.

That's exactly true, but it's true of conservatives, not liberals. You can housebreak them, dress them up, take them out places. You can have them over for a beer and some barbecue, work side by side with them, go to your kid's soccer games with them... as long as you're in charge. As long as liberalism is in the ascent, conservatives are willing to deal, because the last thing in the world they want is to remind us just how badly they kick us around when the shoe is on the other foot.

But assuming we win this election, we must never, never, never lose another one. We must never, never, never allow conservatives to be in charge again. Conservatives like war, conservatives hate tolerance, conservatives are vindictive, and mean, and short sighted, and greedy, and deeply, deeply xenophobic.

They are the worst in all of us, and we cannot ever let them run our world again.

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