Yesterday I was at the gym, having finished showering and shaving, towelling 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 dress as I. Along comes a third guy, coat still on, and 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 one too, in a different aisle than I'm using that day. But when the locker room is crowded, it just let go of my habit and go to my second choice, or third, and actually, yesterday, I actually 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.
And it made me think about Republicans who have spent their whole lives thinking of themselves as conservatives, voting Republican, and how hard it must be for them to let go of their self image of being Republican, even when their party has become a toilet of filthily corrupted, unpatriotic extremist politicians whose primary loyalty is to corporations and extreme right wing religious fanatics and government parasite frauds.
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.
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.
They need help, handholding, that enables them to tell the people they elected to back off from the precipice of right wing religious extremism. They need gentle help looking the lies they are being forced to face straight on.
I've been working, as a counselor, for decades with people who have a hard time just smiling at themselves in the mirror. People tend to be so self critical. We need to help these people wrestle with the reality that they have been betrayed, in a sense, raped and abused by the politicians they trusted.
Victims of sexual abuse by family members often spend their lives suffering, in denial. There are some similarities here.
We have to help these victims of political party abuse to become strong enough to face their abusers. To take them to task, to take them to court, to do the right thing. BUt this is not easy. We on the left must start a conversation about how to do it. Don't depend on the Democrat party. But it will take a village and probably a serious, concerted effort by numerous progressive policy advocacy think tanks. Too bad there are only one or two and they are underfunded.
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