Oprah Winfrey once said that the best advice she ever got in her life was from Maya Angelou, who said: "When people tell you who they are -- believe them."
I've gotten good mileage from this advice over the years. Being raised fundie, you spend a lot of your life being told to believe someone else's preposterous interpretation of events over your own lying eyes. Growing up this way really twists your reality lenses; and those of us who come out of it as adults spend a lot of time and energy learning to see and interpret the world clearly again. Angelou's quote is one of the mantras that gave me permission to trust my own observations of what people were saying and doing, knock off the false hopes and wishful thinking, accept this information as literal truth, and rely on it as an accurate indicator about how they were likely to behave in the future. It's knowledge that was acquired late, but has since kept me out of an amazing amount of trouble.
It struck me recently that, too often, we've been very slow to believe conservatives, even when they told us in no uncertain terms who they were. Some things were easy to acknowledge, even in the early years: they're the party of business, they don't care much about the middle and lower class, they believe in hierarchy and aristocracy and low taxes. Others came later: it took us a while to really admit to ourselves that they were pandering to racists, that they were perfectly willing to throw the middle class overboard, and that they didn't really care whether or not a rising tide lifted all boats. The hardest realizations have been the most recent ones: that these people are openly willing to destroy the Constitution, the country, and the planet in the name of privilege and profit; that they have absolutely no concept of the common good, and that the most horrible accusations they level at us should always be taken as an open admission of what they're intending to do themselves.
And yet there are still Democrats -- unfortunately, way too many of them in Congress -- who refuse to believe their own lying eyes. I mean, it's right there in front of their faces -- but, like fundie kids, they've been trapped in the alternate reality of the Beltway and have endured so much psychic abuse for so long that they're no longer able to accept the straight truth about conservatives, even when the conservatives tell them flat outright themselves. Give someone "the benefit of the doubt" long enough, and eventually the only thing you'll come to doubt is the truth of your own perceptions.
But recovering clear thought is easy. Just remember: whatever the conservatives tell you about any issue, they are telling you -- in the most literal and concrete way possible --something essential about themselves. And you can take that information as gospel. After all, nobody knows them like they do. Here's how this works:
When conservatives tell us that we need constant surveillance to make us secure, what they're telling us is that they themselves are prone to criminal behavior if they think nobody else is watching. The fear of exposure is the only force keeping them on the right side of the law -- and that's why it's the only form of "security" they understand. Bear this in mind if you decide to do business with them.Rather than arguing about whether or not the world actually is as the conservatives describe it, it's occasionally useful (enlightening/instructive/crazymaking) to hold this mirror up to their rather deranged view of the outer world...and then notice all the interesting things about the deepest parts of their inner world that get reflected back.
When they tell us that our future depends on supporting a military that's bigger than the rest of the world's fighting forces combined, what they're telling us is that they can't handle chaos, complexity, change, or being out of control. The whole world is a threat; the only solution is a bigger gun. Bear this in mind if you find yourself in conflict with them.
When they tell us diplomacy isn't an option, they're telling us that it's not an option they understand. Words, agreements, treaties, and contracts mean nothing to them. Brute force is the only option they comprehend...or are likely to respond to themselves. Bear this in mind before you negotiate with them.
When they tell us that homosexuality is a threat to American families, what they're telling us is that homosexuality is a threat to their families. As in: if they ever dared to admit their own sexual interest in other men, their wives would leave them, and take the kids. Bear this in mind when they hold themselves up as moral paragons.
When they tell us the Islamofascists are a threat to our way of life, they are quite correctly pointing out that there are fascists threatening our way of life. They're just deflecting their own intentions on to brown people far away. Bear this in mind before assuming they share your belief in constitutional democracy.
When they accuse reality-based folks of promoting "junk science," they're telling us they basically think all science is junk. Bear this in mind before attempting to present them with convincing evidence of anything.
When they tell us to support the troops, what they're really saying is: You better, because we won't. Bear this in mind when you evaluate the real costs of the war.
When they tell us the government can't be trusted, they're telling us they can't be trusted to govern. Bear this in mind every time you step into a voting booth.
And when you hear the truth they are telling you about who they are, don't second-guess yourself, don't give in to wishful thinking, and don't even think about according them the benefit of the doubt. Simply take their word as it's given -- and believe it.
You're invited to play along in the comments. It's good to be back.