Melissa Harris-Perry (weekend MSNBC news talk show host) provided fodder for the right-wing extremists last week when she emphasized our collective responsibility for our children. This immediately got their “panties in a wad” but this wad became even tighter when Sarah Palin came out from under her Alaskan rock, displaying her intellectual acumen (or lack thereof), and alleged that here again was a “liberal” effort to encroach on parental responsibility. To summarize conservative concerns, “Our children are ours! Keep your government hands off of our children.” This mind-set sees children as property, as extensions of the parents selves.
But my real concern here is the simplicity of thought that was demonstrated. Ms. Palin and her ilk demonstrated again their inability…and spiritual unwillingness…to hold contradictory notions in their mind at the same time. They failed to see that Ms. Perry was not proposing that children are not the primary responsibility of parents. She was merely emphasizing that children are a gift to us all, that we have a collective responsibility to provide an hospitable world to them, and that failure to do so is a grave error in judgment. It is possible to hold both notions in one’s mind at the same time but it will not happen with the hard-core extremists who are not capable of Pauline “spiritual discernment.”
And this problem is very much related to their anti-science stance. Quantum physics portrays the world as full of contradictions and conflicts, a teeming morass out of which our God-given mind has given us the ability to impose order upon. But beneath this “order” there is still Mother Nature in all her conflicted glory and we ignore this conflicted glory with our neat little conceptual packaging at our own peril. One anecdote from quantum physics which is very relevant is the notion that molecules are “waves” and “particles” at the same time. That makes no “sense” at all but Mother Nature is not required to fit into our world of “sense.” Quantum physics also teaches us that we are basically empty space and that the world we see is ephemeral, including the world of our own body and psyche. Grasping this notion is very humbling but very invigorating and empowering. It has allowed me, for one, to see God at work in a marvelous though mysterious way that is tremendously exciting. But I am deprived of the specious “power” of having it all figured out any more or having any hope of doing so. Alas and alack, I’m left with nothing but faith!
Now, I am wont to emphasize that I see both sides of the picture and give some faint nod of respect to the other viewpoint. But, there are instances in which I am less apt to do so and this is one of them. Keep in mind I am not talking about conservatism as a whole, only those who are what Karl Rove called the “nutty fringe.” Their ignorance is not merely a lack of intelligence or education but is darkness personified. And, unfortunately, there are many conservatives who know better, who do not subscribe to the lunacy of the extremists, but who have allowed themselves to be controlled by them merely to get their vote. “The best lack all conviction and the worst are filled with passionate intensity.” (W. B. Yeats)