Inside the Conservative Brain: Why Tea Partiers Are Desperately Afraid

From Alternet:   http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/inside-conservative-brain-why-tea-partiers-are-desperately-afraid

To understand how Tea Partiers view the world, you have to know how they see themselves.

By Lynn Stuart Parramore
October 17, 2013

As America is torn apart by extremists, maybe a deep dive into our individual and collective psychology is a good way to start figuring out what’s happening to us.

The problem, as it turns out, may be the difference in the way people view individuals and collectives; whether you’ve got a “me” or a “we” focus; and how big those categories happen to be.

john a. powell (his name is spelled without capitals) leads the UC Berkeley Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society and is considered a leading thinker on race and ethnicity. He spoke Wednesday evening in Manhattan at the Union Theological Seminary as part of a joint series on Economics & Theology put on by UTS and the Institute of New Economic Thinking. INET’s executive director Rob Johnson, along with UTS president Serene Jones and Rachel Godsil of the American Values Institute, joined powell in a lively panel focused on how issues of race and belonging inform what’s happening in America today.

powell thinks a lot about meaning and being — what philosophers call ontology. He pays attention to the multiple levels at which humans exist and our struggle to make meaning of our lives, both as individuals and as groups. Along with Godsil, he studies how biases operate in our unconscious, with profound consequences for how we react to the world and each other.

The Tea Party is a fascinating case study for how these questions and ideas play out. Its members are bonded in anxiety and terror — a very powerful glue — over what America is becoming: something other than the “real America” they wish to belong to. Their America is white, Protestant and Anglo-Saxon (it’s no accident that the Right’s leading think tank is called the Heritage Foundation).

powell notes that while Tea Party members will tolerate a bit of diversity — the occasional Catholic or Jew — they primarily wish to protect the distinctiveness of their chosen group in the past, present and future. For them, someone like Obama represents the ultimate threat to maintaining this distinctiveness, the thing that makes them feel special. With his black/Muslim/immigrant associations he becomes the “trifecta of Otherness” — an unholy trinity that must be resisted at all costs. The Tea Partier perceives the President as the incarnation of a malevolent force that will take from them and give to Others. He is both the incarnation and the welcoming committee for the Stranger who doesn’t belong in America.

Continue reading at:  http://www.alternet.org/tea-party-and-right/inside-conservative-brain-why-tea-partiers-are-desperately-afraid

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