Happy Saturday! I’m at work right now. I’m writing to you from the PAAASSSTTTT. Like a GHOST. Aren’t you so scared? Yeah, thought so. I’m fear-inspiring.
It’s going to be a long day – work, then meeting friends at the theater who are coming in from out of town to see the show we’re doing right now (Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention – I saw a rehearsal a couple of weeks ago and it was wonderful, I can’t wait to see it with all the bells and whistles! And, also exciting to see my friends, haven’t seen them since right after Christmas!) then home and I will collapse into bed like a dead person and sleep and sleep and then back to it on Sunday, blogging and blogging and blogging and then ushering for the matinée performance and then coming home and MORE BLOGGING so I can get ahead of the game a little, because next week is a busy one, too. WHOO! Aren’t you exhausted just thinking about it? I am.
OK, so I don’t know how much I have in me, and this is kind of probably bigger than me, but I thought it was interesting, especially in an election year, so let’s see how it goes.
I found this article the other day about our minds, and why we might be predisposed to be either liberal or conservative. I don’t think it’s the best article – it seems lacking in a few things – but it does raise some interesting points.
The author, Chris Mooney, wrote a book that really doesn’t hide his feelings about whether he rides a donkey or an elephant to work – The Republican Brain: The Science of Why They Deny Science – and Reality – thinks that we are more apt to be liberal or conservative based on where we fall on the Big Five Personality Test. I think we’re discussed this test before – it measures extroversion, agreeableness, conscientiousness, neuroticism, and openness.
(Before I get going, here, this isn’t a conservative-bashing post. I promise. I may not be a conservative, but I know at least one good one. So I’m not insulting them here. Totally not. Read! You’ll see!)
According to Mooney, four of the traits tend slightly to measure your tendency to lean left or right, but one is the most telling of all – openness. How open you are to new experiences versus how concrete and black and white you see things. The more open you are to new experiences apparently means you’re more apt to be a liberal, while the more black and white you see things, you’re more apt to be a conservative.
(A couple of other interesting things – conservatives tend to be more extroverted than liberals and have more friends, apparently, and liberals tend to be more neurotic. Heh. No, no, not ME. ARE YOU MAKING FUN OF ME RIGHT NOW?!?!?!?)
There’s a test at the bottom of the link where you can see where you fall – five questions, I got two that made me tend more toward conservatism, one that didn’t matter, one that made me more liberal, and one (the big, important “open to new experiences one” that’s supposed to be the only real one that matters) that says ZOMG AMY YOU ARE A LIBERAL.
There’s also this article, which says (and it’s also hinted at in the Mooney piece) that conservatives have larger amygdalas than liberals. NO THAT’S NOT DIRTY. It’s a part of our brain that controls fear and primitive emotions. They also tend to have smaller anterior cingulates, which are the parts of the brain that control courage and optimism.
So this article is saying that conservatives tend to be more fearful and less optimistic, which I guess would be why they want more structure in government, which is what conservative politicians tend to offer. And liberals, alternately, see things a little rosier, so are a little more apt to go for less governmental control. Right?
Both that article and this one hint at the fact that this is why fearmongering works in politics, and tends to work more efficiently with conservatives. (And that it’s a shitty tactic to use, no matter who it’s used on.)
Now, I find this all fascinating, but I think it leaves some things out. Sure, our brains might come into play – genetics, maybe, how we’re made. I like that idea, that even in the womb, we’re little liberals or conservatives just waiting to make our mark on the world. But I don’t think that’s all there is.
See, when I was young, I was around all conservatives all the time. I don’t think I knew a single liberal. I know you probably think of New York as a hotbed of liberalism, but upstate? They’re as conservative as they come up there. Gun-totin’, camo-wearin’, tobacco-spittin’ conservatives. I was brought up to believe that liberals were bad. Want to guess what Dad thinks about liberals? Yep. Dirty hippies, all. Lazy, dirty, hippies.
So I went off to college. In a big city. Downstate. You know what downstate means, right? LIBERALS LIBERALS DIRTY LIBERALS! And it just so happened that the first year I went to college was the first year I could vote, and ALSO an election year. The first Bill Clinton election year, actually. Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and Ross Perot. Aw, remember little Ross Perot, all spitfirey and wee? And weird. Also kind of weird.
Now, Bush was the incumbent. The incumbent usually wins, right? But Clinton. Do you guys remember how he was kind of cool and magical and, well, shit, hip? (Let’s be frank, Perot wasn’t winning that election. It was cute he was trying, though.)
I was 18, I was in college (I had escaped from my horrifying small town and wasn’t being bullied anymore – I had never felt so free in my life), and I started what I would do every single election year up until now, and will undoubtedly continue to do for the rest of my life – I researched the shit out of those two candidates. (I researched Perot a little, too, but kind of gave up. He was a weirdo. I didn’t want a weirdo running my country, and it felt like throwing my first real vote away.)
I looked at where the candidates stood on the issues. I thought about where I stood on the issues. And I realized – shit. I need to vote for Clinton.
Then – shit. Dad was going to FLIP. DIRTY DIRTY HIPPIES YOU GUYS.
I voted for Clinton. And man, did my dorm celebrate when he won. It felt good. It felt like we were a part of something big. Have I mentioned enough how much I love voting? Probably not enough. Probably not ever enough. Voting is my favorite thing. I’d vote daily if I could. On anything, really.
Oh, and Dad? FURIOUS. SO EFFING FURIOUS. “I didn’t raise a liberal” and “How could you do this to me” and “DIRTY LAZY HIPPIES WHO PLAY SAXOPHONES ARE RUNNING THE WORLD NOW BECAUSE OF YOU.” (He still blames college for “ruining” me. Not even kidding. Because I was SO WHOLE BEFORE I LEFT FOR COLLEGE. Gack.)
Anyway, this has been a really long tangent. What I’m trying to say is, I don’t think it’s all genetics. I think it’s also the people you surround yourself with; it’s what you read; it’s what you watch (listen, don’t even tell me that Tina Fey’s take on Sarah Palin didn’t have an effect on the 2008 elections – yes, Obama probably would have won anyway, but people were pretty fired up about Palin for a while until she started…well…talking, and then Tina Fey came on and, well, were you going to vote for the candidate who could “see Russia from her houuuuse?” No, didn’t think so); it’s the social issues you think are important. I go down the list of where the candidates stand on the issues and I weigh it against where I stand on the issues and I vote for the person that most closely aligns with me.
So, sure. Maybe it’s genetics. But it’s kind of the old nature vs. nurture thing, isn’t it? Would I still be a liberal if I’d chosen to stay close to home, married someone from there, raised a big old farm family or something (gah gah gah can you even imagine how bad I’d be at that? I mean, sure, there’d be animals, but you’d NEVER get to play with them. You’d have to WORK. And also EAT them. No thanks), was surrounded by all conservatives being all shouty about how the liberals are ruining the country? If I hadn’t moved away, been surrounded by my people, most of whom, yes, were liberals, would I have swum like a salmon upstream and been the one little liberal in a town full of conservatives? I don’t know. I wonder about that. Who you are is made up of not only DNA, but experiences you have. People you meet.
So I’m undecided on this whole thing. I think it’s nice to think it’s hardwired, but I don’t think that’s the whole story. What about you? Think we’re genetically predisposed to be dirty hippies? Or do you think it’s more something we pick up from the people we know and the experiences we have?
Oh, you probably want to know if Dad’s calmed down about this, right? Well, yes and no. There’s not as much shouting. (About that, anyway.) He’s accepted it. Our joke now is that our votes cancel each other out, so that seems to make him feel a liiiittle better. Oh, and also I found out that (I told you all this, I think?) his mom’s whole side of the family were super-liberals, going back back BACK. So apparently his mom and dad used to squabble about politics all the time. So don’t even tell me, DAD, that I’m the only one EVER with YOUR DNA that voted Democrat, don’t EVEN.
Happy Saturday, all. Have a lovely spring weekend. It’s Tulip Fest here this weekend! Because we’re all Dutch here! Nice, right? Here are some Albany tulips for you. Aren’t you so cheered? Sure you are.