Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

GOP views default human setting as “evil,” Dems as “good,” thus the difficulties in communicating

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Robert Leonard writes in the NY Times:

Knoxville, Iowa — One recent morning, I sat near two young men at a coffee shop here whom I’ve known since they were little boys. Now about 18, they pushed away from the table, and one said: “Let’s go to work. Let the liberals sleep in.” The other nodded.

They’re hard workers. As a kid, one washed dishes, took orders and swept the floor at a restaurant. Every summer, the other picked sweet corn by hand at dawn for a farm stand and for grocery stores, and then went to work all day on his parents’ farm. Now one is a welder, and the other is in his first year at a state university on an academic scholarship. They are conservative, believe in hard work, family, the military and cops, and they know that abortion and socialism are evil, that Jesus Christ is our savior, and that Donald J. Trump will be good for America.

They are part of a growing movement in rural America that immerses many young people in a culture — not just conservative news outlets but also home and church environments — that emphasizes contemporary conservative values. It views liberals as loathsome, misinformed and weak, even dangerous.

Who are these rural, red-county people who brought Mr. Trump into power? I’m a native Iowan and reporter in rural Marion County, Iowa. I consider myself fairly liberal. My family has mostly voted Democratic since long before I was born. To be honest, for years, even I have struggled to understand how these conservative friends and neighbors I respect — and at times admire — can think so differently from me, not to mention how over 60 percent of voters in my county could have chosen Mr. Trump.

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Political analysts have talked about how ignorance, racism, sexism, nationalism, Islamophobia, economic disenfranchisement and the decline of the middle class contributed to the popularity of Mr. Trump in rural America. But this misses the deeper cultural factors that shape the thinking of the conservatives who live here.

For me, it took a 2015 pre-caucus stop in Pella by J. C. Watts, a Baptist minister raised in the small town of Eufaula, Okla., who was a Republican congressman from 1995 to 2003, to begin to understand my neighbors — and most likely other rural Americans as well.

“The difference between Republicans and Democrats is that Republicans believe people are fundamentally bad, while Democrats see people as fundamentally good,” said Mr. Watts, who was in the area to campaign for Senator Rand Paul. “We are born bad,” he said and added that children did not need to be taught to behave badly — they are born knowing how to do that.

“We teach them how to be good,” he said. “We become good by being reborn — born again.”

He continued: “Democrats believe that we are born good, that we create God, not that he created us. If we are our own God, as the Democrats say, then we need to look at something else to blame when things go wrong — not us.”

Mr. Watts talked about the 2015 movie theater shooting in Lafayette, La., in which two people were killed. Mr. Watts said that Republicans knew that the gunman was a bad man, doing a bad thing. Democrats, he added, “would look for other causes — that the man was basically good, but that it was the guns, society or some other place where the blame lies and then they will want to control the guns, or something else — not the man.” Republicans, he said, don’t need to look anywhere else for the blame.

Hearing Mr. Watts was an epiphany for me. For the first time I had a glimpse of where many of my conservative friends and neighbors were coming from. I thought, no wonder Republicans and Democrats can’t agree on things like gun control, regulations or the value of social programs. We live in different philosophical worlds, with different foundational principles. . .

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One can see how the views arose. The whole point of Christianity is how bad people are—bad enough so that it requires the sacrifice of God Himself (in the person of Jesus) to redeem them (through a mechanism that is not entirely clear to me: a trade of pain for sin, somehow: as though sin must be punished, but God took the punishment on Himself and thus we don’t have to be punished).

Evolution, in contrast, favors social animals that cooperate, and humans (being social animals) in general will tend to cooperate by default. However, their cultural teachings generally identify objects of hatred (other religions, other people who believe those religions, etc.) so that, in that view, much of the evil humans do to each other is due to teaching/culture.

Still, I don’t think even liberals will deny that some people really do start bad and get worse (often with the worsening exacerbated because of how they are treated).

Written by LeisureGuy

5 January 2017 at 10:05 am

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