Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Uncle Tom's Log Cabin

It seems easier to accept those who act in character with their belief's, even when you find those beliefs repugnant, than with those who seem willfully ignorant of their own best interest's.

It makes sense to us that the man of money sees the poor as but stepping stones to greater wealth, and that the arms dealer trades death for dollars. Like the wolf who preys upon the lamb, we can say it is in the nature of things that it is so, but send out the sheep dogs to look after the flock.

However, every now and then one comes upon an individual seemingly determined to spit upon their own humanity, by turning, as the phrase goes, Uncle Tom.

I understand that many will find this epithet to be at worst racist, at best politically incorrect. To those who know me, the former is ridiculous, but of the latter I am unconcerned. I am guided by the liberal spirit, not constrained by it. Or, to put it another way: “I calls 'em as I sees 'em.”

Some years ago I had the fortunate experience of knowing such a person. I say fortunate because, any experience that expands our knowledge of the world and human character is something to be thankful for. For the sake of anonymity let's call him D.

I was introduced to D by mutual friends, and came to consider him a friend in turn. With the passage of time I learned that he had risen from poverty to become an accomplished and successful scientific researcher for a major company. However, human nature being what it is, he contracted AIDS after a brief intimate encounter in a motel, which led to pneumonia and cerebral hemorrhage, almost ending his life.

With time and perseverance D recovered almost completely but, his career was over and he entered early retirement, no longer strong enough to endure the taxing calculations of his former work.

It was at this point in his life that I encountered him, but it would only be much later that I discovered his politics. It was casually, while I and another acquaintance were criticizing the then current administration, that his temper was suddenly roused to fever pitch. The details are unimportant, let us just say his opinion was understood.

After this event, in the naivety of my youth, I wrote D several emails in defense of my view's. The correspondence was genial, except for his assertion that my atheism was a very dangerous thing indeed. Being unwilling to hurt a friend, never once did I pointedly ask him to resolve for me the contradiction of his identity as a human being, and his support for a party which saw him as something a little less than human.

In time, for various reasons, our little quartet dissolved, and communication between us ceased. Since those head-butting days I have often thought what his motivations could have been. An examination of his past provided some answers.

As I said, born into a poor family, that was often without even telephone service, he knew struggle early. As has been observed, those who grow up in want of money will gravitate in one of two directions. Either they will have learned the virtues of living with less and to treat wealth for its own sake with contempt, or its accumulation shall be the loadstar they follow to the end of their day's. In D's case it was the latter, and thus the party of Mammon must claim his soul.

Never much of a church goer before his misfortune, he became increasingly religious afterward, and I have little question such a mindset added to his anguish. Had he been punished by his God for the evil of sodomy, and thus was deserving of his affliction? Considering the mindset of conservatives of all places and ages it takes only a little leap of the imagination to believe he thought it so. Likewise, his callousness seemed to equal his own inner contempt. While Christians are looked upon as paragons of compassion and pity, in regards to the less fortunate, there were many instances where his sentiments were less than traditional, to put it lightly.

Callousness for the poor and underprivileged, self-loathing and guilt, self-deception, love of wealth and professor of faith, these are the origins of the conservative mind and its fruits.  They have certainly been the qualities I have encountered in all of those who uphold its creed.

I have no doubt my analysis is incomplete, but so are my materials. And it is perhaps too dangerously tempting to cast the complexity of human nature in black and white.  Nevertheless, I think it goes a long way to explaining things like the Log Cabin Republican phenomenon --- yes, phenomenon seems the nicest way to put it --- that disgusts those of us with a little deeper circumspection, if a little lighter conscience.