[politics] Why I focus on certain kinds of hypocrisy

As I’ve observed many times before, we are all hypocrites. I don’t think it’s psychologically possible to be completely consistent. The tension between mythos and logos in the human psyche pretty much puts paid to that. It’s certainly possible to be morally and intellectually rigorous, and intensely self-correcting, but most of us (definitely including me) are too busy leading our lives to keep that up on a full time basis, either. Insofar as I can tell, one of the whole points of pursuing religion, or some other form of ethical and philosophical system, is to provide a framework in which such consistency can be pursued without having to continually reason from first principles.

And for the most part, I don’t care, so long as you (and I) are not harming anyone. Have fun believing six impossible things before breakfast. I do it all the time. Revel in your self-contradictory nature. I do that all the time, too.

But when you move into the realm of politics, specifically legislation, and you bring your religion or your ethical framework with you and begin governing from that stance, you’d better damned well be consistent. My ethical framework tells me that other people’s private sexual, reproductive and social behavior is none of my damn business, except insofar as they might choose to include or inform me for their own reasons. If I were in politics or government, I’d stay the hell away from putting government in the bedroom. That’s one of the core reasons I’m a liberal-progressive: I firmly believe government doesn’t belong interfering in private life absent a compelling public interest (mandatory education, for example) or preventing harm (domestic violence, for example).

Contrast this with core conservative principles that attempt to control private sexual behavior, personal medical and reproductive choices, and ethical behavior. Legislating morality is a non-starter in any free society, but conservatives love nothing more than the idea of inserting government into the private lives of people they disapprove of. It’s in black-and-white in virtually every Republican party platform out there.

So when we see a story like the resignation of Indiana GOP Rep. Mark Souder in a sex scandal, I call it out. Like I (and so many others) called out Republican Senator Larry Craig, who promised to make the lives of gays a living hell while cruising for men in public restrooms. Or Republican Senator David “Diaper Baby” Vitter for his use of prostitutes while running and serving as a family values champion.

These are not the quiet, private hypocrisies of you, me and everyone else in America. These are the public hypocrisies of the people legislating sexual behavior and private lives of everyone else in America, and they’re doing it on a “punishment for thee but not for me” basis.

That’s why I don’t care when Democrats, or entertainers, or sports figures, are caught out in such scandals. Unlike conservative politicians, those people are not trying to use the force of law to constrain my freedoms and the freedoms of those I love.

It’s not the hypocrisy of doing one thing and saying another that incenses me. That’s just human nature. It’s the hypocrisy of doing one thing while criminalizing and persecuting others for doing the same damned thing that incenses me.

To my mind, that’s reflective of the ultimate flaw in conservatism. My worldview as a liberal-progressive encompasses most of the conservative worldview. Against abortion? Don’t have one. Creeped out by homosexuality? Don’t hang out in gay bars. Almost everything conservatives want, I’m happy for them to have. Even (grudgingly) guns, if people keep them safely. But conservatism, by its very nature, is incapable of granting me the same courtesy. Their worldview, as defined in their party platforms and public rhetoric, explicitly seeks to limit and criminalize mine.

I could never choose a narrowing of opportunity, freedom and the future for myself or anyone else. Souder, Craig, Vitter and the entire conservative movement base their entire political lives on exactly that narrowing. And they betray themselves with the hypocrisy of sex.

3 thoughts on “[politics] Why I focus on certain kinds of hypocrisy

  1. Kathy says:

    Excellent post, Jay. I agree with all your points, except that the guns make me squeamish. But I’m Canadian. *g*

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