I don’t understand Republicans, and what they've become.
It’s the issue that worries me most in my own life. Many things are worth much more worry (climate change, growing inequality, American imperialism and militarism, the political power of corporations, ineradicable racism and sexism, etc.), but I can’t solve them by myself. Yet I’ve felt that I could understand Republicans, if … if I had more imaginative sympathy, or if I talked with them more often (ok, if I talked with them even a little), or if I broke out of my own ideological prejudices.
The 2012 election didn’t help. The Republican primaries were ridiculous, Romney was spineless, and 47% of votes went to him anyway. (Just not those 47%.) I was baffled.
And then I read a book that explained Republicans.
1984. Here’s what George Orwell says about the principles of the Party of Big Brother. It sounds awfully familiar, to anyone paying attention to what Republicans say.
“War is a way of shattering to pieces, or pouring into the stratosphere, or sinking in the depths of the sea, materials which might otherwise be used to make the masses too comfortable, and hence, in the long run, too intelligent.”
“It is necessary that the war should be continued everlastingly.” “When war is continuous … the most palpable facts can be denied or disregarded.”
“The object of the war is not to make or prevent conquests of territory, but to keep the structure of society intact.”
“If (the average citizen) were allowed contact with foreigners he would discover that they are creatures similar to himself and that most of what he has been told about them is lies. The sealed world in which he lives would be broken, and the fear, hatred and self-righteousness on which his morale depends might evaporate.”
“It is also necessary that (every Party member) should be a credulous and ignorant fanatic whose prevailing moods are fear, hatred, adulation, and orgiastic triumph.”
“From the point of view of the (Party), human equality was no longer an ideal to be striven after, but a danger to be averted.”
“A hierarchical society was only possible on a basis of poverty and ignorance.”
“Practices which had been long abandoned, in some cases for hundreds of years – imprisonment without trial, … torture to extract confessions … – not only became common again, but were tolerated and even defended by people who considered themselves enlightened and progressive.”
“In the past no government had the power to keep its citizens under constant surveillance.”
“To tell deliberate lies while genuinely believing in them, to forget any fact that has become inconvenient, and then, when it becomes necessary again, to draw it back from oblivion for just so long as it is needed, to deny the existence of objective reality and all the while to take account of the reality which one denies – all this is indispensably necessary.”
I’d always thought that Republicans were simply driven by greed and fear. Orwell taught me that it’s more complicated than that.
It’s not just that they hate taxes and resist supporting the common good, including funding schools. They really don’t want people to get smarter.
It’s not just that they funnel money into a military-industrial complex run by their pals. War helps them preserve inequality.
Their civil liberties policies are not just driven by fear. They are driven by a need to oppress our citizens.
1984 should be required reading for all high school students. And even if one has read it before, it’s worth re-reading. It’s easy to remember how horrible life under Big Brother would be, but it’s easy to forget how close to Big Brother’s Party the Republicans have come.