(Article originally published here on January 20, 2006)
Originally written on
Yesterday I was at the gym, having finished showering and shaving, toweling myself dry, standing in a section of the locker room. It has lockers on three sides with a bench in the middle and enough room to stand up and turn around between the benches and lockers. That's the way locker rooms tend to be built. There was another guy at about the same stage of getting dressed as I.
Along comes a third guy, coat still on. He walks up to our aisle of the locker room. He sees both of us, filling up the aisles, but he keeps walking. It's clear that he has a favorite locker in this aisle. I can relate to him. If the aisles are clear, I have a favorite too, in a different aisle than I'm using that day. But when the locker room is crowded, I just let go of my habit and go to my second choice, or third, and actually, yesterday, I went to my fourth choice.
I could see in this guy's eyes he was struggling with his locker habit. The other guy drying himself off and I, stood unmoving, as this guy with the coat still on gave us a once over. It became clear we weren't thrilled with the idea of getting cramped with another guy when enough other locker aisles were open. There was this pregnant pause, and then, the guy with the coat almost visibly shrugged his shoulders as he let go of his habit and moved to another aisle.
Changing a little habit like a locker gives a moment's pause. Changing the lifetime habit, perhaps even the multigenerational habit of affiliation to a party. Some people define themselves by their political affiliation. Some define themselves by their aversion to and contempt for the other party. They have heroes who represent their party "habit." They have a community of friends built around their party "habit." They have builty their world "story," their perception or construction of reality upon their party "habit."
This is a hard thing to change.
But people do it. A lot of people who WERE Democrats did change their party over the last thirty years. They did it, very often, because their church eased the way, creating a new story, new vision of reality, new community-- a new habit.
Today, a lot of people who were seduced by the right wing "drug" composed of sound bites of lower taxes, god's way, anti-big government, tax-and-spend liberals, marriage penalty tax, death taxes, etc., are waking up. They are smelling the coffee-- the stink of corruption coming out of Washington. They are seeing that Bush flat out lied about the WMD in Iraq, broke the law by spying on American Citizens for no good reason, since he could have gotten court approval after the fact.
Reality is conflicting with their right wing habit. But reality is not enough. Denial is so powerful. Ben Franklin said that the great thing about rationalization is you can rationalize anything.
These people smelling the coffee, seeing reality that clashes with the story they've been accustomed to embracing and living, need more than reality to change, to move away from the right, from the extremist republican party they now realize is not what they thought it was.
They need help. I must confess that as the truth about how truly horrible the Bush administration is has come out, I've had the urge to tell these right wingers what stupid idiots, what traitorous dupes and fools they are.
But that won't help. And they need help. They need to keep seeing the TRUTH and they need help finding small ways to take small steps away from the extreme right wing precipice they've been lured to.