This is not a parody. I swear. It's all true.
Just so you'll know that what follows is scientifically possible, I will acquaint you with a 2003 study funded by the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation and published in the American Psychological Association's Psychological Bulletin.
The study found that conservatism can be explained as a set of beliefs and behaviors that result from a psyche controlled by fear, aggression, closed-minded dogmatism, and intolerance of ambiguity, compounded by mental rigidity and decreased cognitive complexity [dumbness].
Seriously, I'm not making this up.
This story is set smack-dab in the middle of the Wisconsin hinterland. But you will appreciate, once you've gotten to know a guy named Ron, that it's really the story of our troubled world writ small. However, the spirit of the narrative transcends national boundaries and is no respecter of gender or race or religion or age or IQ. It is about Everyman and Everywoman and everywhere.
To begin, my essays appear periodically in a small weekly newspaper published by a liberal firebrand with a Molly Ivins' sense of humor who does not suffer fools . . . including me, a fellow liberal, when I once wrote disparagingly about improvements to a local county road. I've often run into this guy named Ron on the op-ed page of this newspaper, though I've never laid eyes on the man. He's not a member of our liberal cabal, by the way.
Let's meet Ron and his wife Sandy. "It seems to my wife Sandy and I that conservatives are really being intimidated by liberals by calling us right-wing fanatics, intolerant, out of the mainstream and tolerant of racism, right-wing idiots, etc. I guess we fall into that category." (All quotes are the product of Ron's mind unless otherwise noted.)
I'm guessing Ron is probably between 55 and 65 years old. I say this because he can remember who orchestrated the Communist victory in Vietnam, "Wasn't it Jane Fonda, an ultra-liberal, who went to Vietnam and sat on an enemy tank . . " and he's still a working stiff, though not a member of any union, "which are made up of Democrats and liberals . . . still out there fighting for higher wages and more benefits . . ." How completely un-Conservative of them. But then, "that's why they're the 'humanist' party. If I heard the words humanism, humanist, humankind once, I heard them a 100 times in the Democratic presidential campaign. Humanists put human ideals over religion. Who knows best, humans or God?" Well . . . maybe God . . . but She's playing it close to the chest.
In moments of incredulity, please refer to the aforementioned study.
From what I can piece together Ron is a veteran, or at least he likes hanging out at the American Legion hall and reading their magazine, "According to my legion magazine . . . John Kerry voted against the flag-desecration amendment four times. Could I vote for this guy? I think not. He doesn't sound very patriotic to me."
Ron, on the other hand, considers himself a true yellow-ribbon patriot. "I love my god and country and support our military even though I know in war bad things do happen to civilians with all this powerful artillery used in war nowadays." You've got to hand it to the guy. He knows his military hardware.
That said, advances in nuclear weaponry and the Cheney regime's first-strike nuclear policy are of no interest. "Robert, you went into great detail about the atomic bomb . . . [and the] B61 variable-yield bomb, etc., which doesn't mean a whole lot to us out here. If you're trying to impress us with all this information, forget it."
I should mention that facts, any facts, do not impress Ron. " Yes . . . sometimes I make mistakes when trying to get my facts straight, but I'm the kind of guy who shoots from the hip and deals with it later [presidential material?]. I just don't seem to have much time to spend in the library [definitely presidential material] . . . but I think I'm right about most of the things I say."
Let me interrupt here with a quote that is not the product of Ron's mind. It is, however, the product of the same kind of mind. "I know what I believe and I believe what I believe is right." Guess who? (Hint: This guy believes whatever Dick Cheney tells him to believe.)
Ron identifies himself as " . . . a conservative Republican . . . [and] a reasonable person." I suppose they're not always mutually exclusive—at least they didn't use to be. "Conservatives believe in smaller government . . . they think you can run your own life without all of this government control [domestic spying good . . . control bad]." Oh sure, "Republicans shoot themselves in the foot once in a while . . . although sometimes they get gun shy and sound a little like being politically correct and cave in to world opinion." Do I even need to ask when the last time was that Cheney et al caved in to—or even considered—anyone else's opinion?
I do know of at least one Republican who is gun shy. That would be octogenarian Harry Whittington. But he didn't get shot in the foot. He got shot in the face and chest by Dick Cheney's 28-gauge shotgun. More than likely the VP was only aiming for the poor guy's foot. It's the hip-shooting thing Conservatives do—never a good idea.
Let me pause to reassure you that although Ron's quotes have sometimes been cobbled together for narrative continuity, they have never been taken out of context since Ron's rants are completely devoid of any contextual integrity in situ. (Imagine Gertrude Stein at her writing table with an Absinthe hangover.) "Robert first claims to be an atheist, and you can easily tell that by his view that America is to blame for all the problems of the world . . ." WHAT? Think of my cobbling as filling an immense void.
Ron lives in a small town where Amish buggies and steamy road apples are daily hazards. But thanks to cable TV and AM radio he has acquired the political acuity one expects from a devotee of Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. Ron knows, for example, that "Democrats are angry and mean . . . [and] nasty ever since George Bush won the 2000 presidential election. That wasn't in their cards to happen." He assures us that "when the Republicans start campaigning, you won't hear all that kind of mean rhetoric." And "another reason democrats hate President Bush and the Republican Party is because they support all the conservative issues . . ." I forgot to mention that besides being a master of the non sequitur, Ron is also an apostle of the obvious.
Ron's radio has alerted him to the fact that "our borders between Mexico and Canada are practically open. We have three million illegal aliens a year crossing our borders. Nothing is being done about it [because] Democrats want the votes." For a hoot, imagine hordes of Canadians sneaking across our northern frontier—possibly to escape the tyranny of socialized health care. When you catch your breath, consider that Democrats really do need an infusion of votes since hundreds of thousands of Americans who may vote for a Democrat have been "mysteriously" expunged from the roll.
As a fundamentalist Christian, Ron fears that "our Christian way of life, the church, and the Bible are out of the mainstream in America. Democrats or liberal Republicans [never] show any support for Christians. [I wouldn't say he's completely lost touch with reality.] It's clear we're distorting our constitution's First Amendment, Ten Commandments, and the Bible's scriptures and replacing them with rewritten man-made laws. It's atheistic and godless people forcing their issues on us through liberal courts trying to achieve their liberal Socialist agenda."
Referring to the aforementioned study would be a good thing right about now.
Ron mentions Sandy only occasionally—mostly whenever he needs an accomplice. And he once passed along a message from his 90-year-old mother who lives with him and Sandy. "By the way Robert . . . what she [mom] suggested is if you don't like America, why don't you look for a country you like better." Okay, we now know Ron is a good son and that the crab apple didn't fall far from the tree.
I have no idea if he is a good husband to Sandy or if their union has been blessed by the pitter-patter of little feet. If I had to guess, based on his opinions on traditional marriage and abortion (and just about everything else), there's been a stampede and he's been the trail boss.
Ron believes "that a traditional marriage is between a man and a woman, not between two people of the same sex. Not even animals act in that fashion." He's got a point, though not the one he intended. Of the millions of species of animals that have ever existed, there is only one that feels the need to pledge their troth before getting down to the business evolution set before them. So why is it that folks like Ron think marriage, which fails 50 percent of the time (more so in the Bible Belt), is so darned sacred?
The only thing Ron loathes more than the ACLU is a woman's right to make decisions about her own body and her own health. "You see, the . . . Satanic, unrestricted . . . abortion program is a government—supported industry at present for liberal democrats . . . Roughly 1.5 babies [sic] a year are aborted. How do you feel about this?" How do I feel about this? I feel down to my aching arches that it would have to be a Cheney/Bush initiative to be so damned unsuccessful, right up there with the "democratization" of Iraq, Katrina recovery, "No Child Left Behind," faith-based abstinence-only sex education, (add your pet dozen here).
Being a family man (I'm guessing here), Ron found himself wondering in the run-up to the 2004 election just " . . . what the family values were that these Democratic candidates were speaking of. Well, John Kerry told me, in a speech today. It's health care, jobs, fighting poverty and investing money in our public schools. Ron doesn't think much of John Kerry's family values (You'll have to trust me on this.). He's a James Dobson's Focus on the Family values man. And as such, has bigger phantoms to skewer.
"I read a book review by Dave Wester. The name of the book is Stuck In Neutral. It's a story written by a 14-year-old boy's father, Terry Truman. The boy has cerebral palsy, can't move, talk or do anything by himself. Dave Wester, in his report mentioned a couple of questionable parts in the book, but in his words, 'Readers of any age cannot help but gain an increased understanding and compassion for people like Shawn and families who care for them.' Now Dave must be a liberal. I'd like you all to read this book. You'd better read it first yourself because here are some of the words, and some are used quite often: hell, damn, friggin' a****les and a** [asterisks in original]. I'd strongly suggest you read the book before your kids do. It is in large print. There's really no story line, just a lot of liberal, filthy garbage there to put in the hands of school children."
Other than maybe a wisecrack about the "large print" thing, I can't find any humor in something so pathetic. The best I can do is to encourage you to reference the aforementioned study one last time.
In a more reflective mood, Ron once lamented, "I've had conversations with many people, and from my experience, boy, are they afraid to give me their opinion or take a stand." For the life of me, I can't imagine a bigger waste of a person's limited time on Earth than trying to convince Ron of anything. Sadly, I'm a slow study—or just a naive liberal—and have spent an unwarranted amount of my ration trying. I gave up a month ago when Ron said, "As an afterthought, have you even seen America fight a war in a country that we didn't leave in a better democratic shape than it was when we went in?" How does one begin to answer such an afterthought?
The trouble with the entire world is that Ron (Reason On Nebutal) can have ten thousand names.
Robert Weitzel is a freelance writer whose essays appear in The Capital Times in Madison, WI. He has been published in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Skeptic Magazine, and Freethought Today. He can be contacted at: firstname.lastname@example.org