FEVERS: Thoughts After Reading Michelle Malkin

I just picked up Michelle Malkin's Unhinged: Exposing Liberals Gone Wild. Very well-written. Very funny. Very apropos. And super depressing.

I've always believed that both sides of the political spectrum mirror each other, that you will find similar degrees of emotion and objectivity at all levels of liberalism and conservatism. Consequently, I would be tempted to dismiss the compilation of Malkin's experiences as the kind of stuff that happens only to pundits (on both sides). That is, if I hadn't been there too (and I'm not a political pundit, only a fiction-writing blogger). My own experience is that Malkin is right; yes, extremists exist on the conservative side of the political spectrum, but they aren't given nearly the lee-way (by their own party or American culture) as extremists on the liberal side (my apologies to Barak Obama and Christopher Hitchens).

There is a particular mind-set that I have encountered on both the left and the right. The difference is that when I meet it on the left, I encounter no shame, no self-awareness, no ambiguities, no qualifiers, no self-policing. I call the mind-set FEVERS.

F: Fix the opposition. In the feverish mind-set, people are never educated or converted or persuaded. They are fixed. Something is wrong with them. They aren't just different or human or free agents or imperfect. They are broken; their broken state is often due to one cause. If that one cause (culture, family, economics, lifestyle, George Bush) is removed, chucked out, dismantled, undermined (the feverish are very destructive), the broken ones will become perfect, happy (and just like the people doing the fixin').

E: Everyone dies. The feverish mind-set is usually doom-laden. The world is ending! Everything stinks!It is invariably an apocalyptic view of the future.

V: Villain! There must be a villain! (Replete with twirling mustache.) The villain is inevitably compared to Hitler. He or she is evil, one-dimensional. And there is always a conspiracy involved.

E: Edenic past. There must have been a time before the villain came along when life was perfect, pastoral, wonderful. Feverish mentalities dwell incessantly on that supposed past. They rarely enjoy progress. Show them our modern age; they don't see the lack of slavery, rights for women, cheap transportation, dental care, improved education, religious freedom, antibiotics. They see nuclear weapons, urban sprawl (don't you just love it?), no prayer in school, troops over sea, corporate chicanery. They think living without dental care is worth taking everyone back to the nineteenth century (they are wrong). If they are really extreme, they think our ancestors should have remained hunters/gatherers.

R: Right-brained literalism. This is the really odd thing about the feverish mindset. The fevered do not like objective historical evidence which they say is just the dominant capitalist culture (or the dominant liberal media) trying to brainwash us. They prefer warm fuzzy, gushy sentiments. Or angry epithets. They dislike science. BUT they aren't right-brained enough to go the Joseph Campbell, Star Wars route. They don't really like theology or even art (both of which require a degree of discipline and self-awareness). Everything is power-related, personal, relevant. Events have obvious causes and effects and contain literal (usually power-related) definitions. And everything--everything!--can be blamed on someone/something.

S: Self-righteous. Now, everyone is self-righteous to a degree. I'm sure I come across as a bit self-righteous myself. If people didn't think they were right about stuff (and weren't willing to defend that rightness), life would be pretty boring. The difference between ordinary self-righteousness and feverish self-righteousness is that feverish self-righteous will go on and on (and on and on) about how bigoted and close-minded the other side is and then turn around and, in the same breath, make truly bigoted, violent and horrible remarks about, say, Bush's cabinet, Michelle Malkin, Christians. I've been there. I've heard it. It is weird beyond belief. It is almost as if they honestly think that just saying, "I'm open-minded" is the same thing as being open-minded. For those of us with standards (against which we apply ourselves as much as others), open-mindedness is a behavior, not a self-proclaimed label.

As I've said, I've encountered this mind-set on both sides of the political spectrum. I've also encountered elements of FEVERS. Many people fit one of my descriptions, and many people would defend the F,E,V,E,R or S. However, as I've said, I've encountered the feverish mind-set in its purest form (no hesitation, no "well, okay, maybe I'm going too far") and in its entirety on the left. And I think it is the reason why, despite the many mistakes Bush has made, the Democratic Party still doesn't seem to have a chance in 2008. There are many objective, thoughtful, intelligently passionate Democrats. But it's hard to hear them amongst all the hate-mongering.


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