Thursday, July 22, 2010

But baby, they think it's you

In the wake of the Shirley Sherrod debacle, Kevin Drum finds himself unable to imagine the conservative mindset, or heartset:
On an intellectual level, I can sort of get this. If I were a conservative Christian I'd be unhappy with the increasing secularization of society and the 60s-era Supreme Court decisions that largely removed it from the public square. If I were a white guy stuck in a sucky job and heard stories of blacks being given preference in promotions and school placements, I'd be pissed. If I were socially traditional and my school district insisted on a curriculum that endorsed tolerance of gay lifestyles, I'd be horrified. If I only heard the Fox News version of Climategate, it would seem like truly terrifying proof of a massive global conspiracy and fraud.

But on an emotional level, it just seems nuts. So I wish that I could figure out a way to feel it. To understand it. I wish I could somehow do the "Black Like Me" thing. (Explanation here if you're too young to remember this.) But how? What would it take to somehow enter this world and actually try to feel what so many conservatives apparently feel? Since I almost totally lack empathy I probably couldn't do it in any case, but could anyone? What would it take to truly understand what's going on here? Because, if anything, it seems to be getting even more virulent and I find myself increasingly unable to understand it.

I don't know why I'm writing this. I'm just feeling increasingly estranged from the political world these days, as if it's some kind of nightmare that's taken over our national psyche and refuses to let go — and I'm forced to participate and can't wake up no matter how hard I try.
I wonder if some gifted novelist, without descending into satire (very difficult to avoid), has managed to depict what it *feels* like to be a Palinite.

... Of course, being a liberal, Drum titles his post "My Empathy Problem." Had he been a conservative writing from the opposite angle, it would've been "Liberals Make No Sense Whatsoever." We on the left always blame ourselves first.

(Blog title per the undeservedly obscure Brenda Kahn: "You maybe think the world's gone mad / But baby, they think it's you." I have occasion to recall that line at least once a week.)

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