I have a brother. This may not seem like an accomplishment - unless you met him, at which point you would probably give me a medal... and a hug. Luckily I'm all grown up and wear my big-girl panties and whatnot so I rarely have to deal with his fart-wrinkle of a personality; however, I've come to realize that getting to know my brother just might be the key to learning what is happening in this country.
I have struggled for the last 12 years (recently a more desperate struggle) attempting to understand what is motivating this type of hatred we are seeing even more often. What causes this selfishness, and brazen willingness to link one's selfishness with religions primarily based on selflessness. All of this done openly, in the face of the public with a smile and and a cocky shrug because hey, I'm better than you.
Join me after the squidge to learn why I think my douche-kin may be a case study in "Smart Gone Wrong".
I grew up in the middle of Missouri, and yes, I know... all you dirty little liberals out there have backwoods redneck fantasies and totes wish you were me. My mother is a naked-in-the-mud hippie (she just does that kinda stuff in private now) and my dad is the kindest, most gentle and loving, redneck grease monkey you ever laid eyes on, my sister is 11 years older, and the aforementioned brother-that-smells-of-elderberries is 10 years my senior. I'll spare you the specifics of my genealogy, I don't know any, but we were a family of 5 (pieced together like most families, of course), on the bottom of the middle income or the top of the poor stack depending on what year it was. Both parents always had full-time jobs on the lower levels that kept us in electricity (usually) and food (gardens help).
Where I grew up specifically is a little tricky, but it is pertinent so work with me, folks. Interstate 70 runs through, more or less, the middle of Missouri. It connects St. Louis and Kansas City, the two obvious metropolitan areas in the Show Me State. This interstate acts very much like a modern day Mason-Dixon line, south of I-70 is where you start hearing Toby Keith and dirt track engines. I grew up 80 miles south of there in a bizarre little tourist pocket built around a very large man-made lake. Surrounded by farm land and tiny rural towns, the total, year-round population of the "lake" area is probably around 30,000 and that's being generous. But from Memorial Day to Labor Day it is quite a different story, boasting about 400,000 on a crowded weekend. The Lake of the Ozarks is the summer home to many of the almost-rich and suburban-sidewalk-famous champions from Kansas City, St. Louis and other bored Midwestern cities. This is not a place for the faint of heart. This is where the city folk bust out of their Oxford shirts, Superman style, and play hard until rain or their bill at the gas dock causes them to pack it home. The tourism motto of my charming little area was once "Where beautiful people come to get ugly!" Golf is for drinking, giant boats are for playing, and no one cares if you get naked. They have attempted many times to make it a more family-friendly place, but it always ends in water cannons and party coves full of thousands of 46' cruisers and cigarette boats tied together with coeds sporting nothing but tan lines throwing jello shots across the bows.
So it's a strange area. It's where the city-dwellers and the rednecks clash every summer, all summer long. For those three months this place has every ethnicity/nationality/income level/disposition and the locals get a good reminder of why they live somewhere that sleeps for 9 months a year. Working for the tourists is also an interesting experience that I think many don't understand. A lot of the people who have their second homes/condos in the area and who spend their dollhairs there every summer feel entitled to it, in fact many even exude this feeling of "ownership" when speaking to locals. I was once told by a patron where I was waiting tables that "If people like me don't come down here and spend money, you don't exist, so you'll bring me what I want." Many will say this is one anecdote but I can assure you it is an oft-expressed sentiment.
So what does this all mean? Why is it relevant? Because this is a cross-section of south and north, this is where purple used to be and where a whole lot of red and blue splattering happens now. And this demographic change has also effected my brother, the guest of honor in this diary.
Ben, or Bunjamin, Bunji (clearly his favorite pet name from me) is 38 years old. He is white, has two children, lives in this area still in a section of about 5,000 people. Ben has the same friends he had in high school, married a woman who is pretty (thank god for her) and works as a manager at a pawn shop making around $35,000/year, which in the area is a decent job. Ben has no college degree, left after the first year; however, it isn't because he lacks intelligence. Due to excellent breeding (I may have bias) his IQ is quite high, this is easily proved by his manipulation of any subject to piss you off in record time and an ability to bend logic to fit his needs in an argument. He is clever, he is an adept conversationalist, he is also funny... which pisses me off too. (Ignore my immaturity, please.)
Ben grew up in the same functional-ish family as I did, so I have an accurate view of his childhood. Very liberal teachings, never a religious household, church was attended if you felt like it and it was never about the morality or the dogma, it was because my mom likes singing and stories... I like grape juice and crackers though I've started buying those myself now that I have my own kitchen (and communion trays for snack time, because it just feels right!). We did grow up on politics, my mother was the county chair for the local "Democrat Club" for many years and we were always allowed to go if we wanted. We talked about politics at the dinner table but it was always with an open mind, my mom did a very good job at making sure we had perspective, a broad worldview to ensure we never took how fortunate we were for granted. It was also a strong lesson that you take care of others. If someone's car is broken down you pull over. If someone needs a place to stay, you put clean sheets on the bed. If someone is being mistreated you stand in front of them, literally or figuratively.
It would be so easy to tell you my brother is a bad guy. It would be so easy to paint him with the same brush as the rest of these card-carrying toddlers of the "MINE!" club. But he's my brother, and I keep hearing myself say, over and over as his views become more extreme, "How did this happen?! How did we grow up with the same slap of the screen door in the background? What changed in your life that made you this way?" And I imagine there are stories like mine across the country - People Who Love a Republican (support group information in the comments), people who are watching someone they know and love morph into this hateful, bigoted, angry person that can't possibly be able to reconcile the venom and contradictions coming out of their mouths with the humanity and love they were born with. Ben isn't some guy who grew up in a racist, abusive, or even troublesome environment. He was nurtured and loved very much and was given every opportunity possible but also cemented with a good foundation in what community means and service to those less fortunate as not a duty, but a necessity to fill your soul.
And now he "likes" Paul Ryan and listens to Rush Limbaugh and genuinely wanted Rick Santorum to win the republican primary? How did this happen?! He and his wife have used Medicaid and WIC with both of their children, Planned Parenthood for birth control to keep from having to use those awesome services I mentioned above for a third fetus, unemployment benefits, their kids have watched PBS, both attend public schools, and in the very near future due to another job loss - they may have to look into SNAP or TANF. Yet, this man of above-average IQ has managed to convince himself that Paul Ryan (spumepocket) and Mitt Romney (scumweasel) are what's best for this country. That to preserve his family and his way of life, Mitt Romney is the right choice.
If he was stupid, I could justify it. If he was even of moderate intelligence, with moderate skill levels of deduction, logic, and reasoning, I could probably say that the propaganda has just gotten to him and as a busy lower class guy he doesn't have time to read all the news and really decipher the truth for himself. In fact, that is a poor example of the exact rebuttal I've given to many democrats who immediately call someone insane or awful for being a republican. I've defended many by saying they were ignorant or over-burdened. "You cannot make thieves and then punish them..." and all that. But this is someone I know has the ability and in theory, due to his background, it is more plausible that he would think similarly to me, and yet I'm here writing this stink-pickle of a diary.
I probably should've made it more clear in the beginning of this diary that I don't have an answer to these questions. I only have theories. I have things I think might be part of the cause and then he says something else that jumbles my feeble girlbrain and I'm back just standing there with my mouth hanging open in that "duh" look my mom always threatens to "slap right off" my face.
Theory #1 - Lobotomy
This was proven to be inaccurate, though I'm still listing it as a possibility because I am not convinced.
Theory #2 - Conviction of Righteousness
To me, the only key to actually being righteous is to be humble and unaware of your righteousness, but apparently there is 30% of the population that disagrees. This theory supposes that my brother decided, at some point, that his morality was more true than others and after a period of time believing that sentiment, he became convinced that he was superior to others in many ways and is therefore more deserving of the opportunities he has/had and has now decided that others aren't worthy.
Theory #3 - Beyond the Pale
This supposes that due to Ben spending his entire life in an area where 95% of the demographics fall somewhere between "chalky" and "bloodless" he has come to believe - through media portrayals, political propaganda, and the plethora of prejudicial peacocks that pollute this area - that anyone who is not white is worth less than he is. That non-white people are lazy freeloaders that have iPads and would rather shoot people than get a job.
Part of me believes this is because he has several close friends who work for the state prison system, all of whom are disgusting racists that I can't believe the State of Missouri sees fit to employ, and I have to wonder if their subjective rubbish has tinted his glasses. Also, I question if living in an area where you don't discuss race often because it wasn't applicable at the time may have kept him from learning some valuable lesson that I caught somewhere else along my journey.
Theory #4 - Willful Ignorance
This one is the most simple explanation and yet the most difficult, I find, to accept. To accept this theory I have to say that these are things he wants to believe and chooses to believe them regardless of contradiction or fact:
I am God's chosen people and Christianity should be law and everyone who doesn't believe in Jesus is going to hell anyway, so screw 'em.
I am intelligent and my ideas and experiences are the only "true" ones.
I am hard-working and everything I have is because I am hard-working and those who have less are lazy.
I am more deserving than other people.
I am more righteous and therefore have already done more for the world than I need to by simply existing and owe nothing in the way of service to others unless I deem them worthy of my service.
I believe women are lesser than men, and don't ask me a reason...it just is.
I am not a part of a community and I owe nothing to anyone but myself, my chosen partner and my spawn.
I need no one but myself to survive.
I will be rich one day and will obviously want to keep all of my wealth, therefore I believe rich people now should keep their wealth.
I believe children and the elderly should be punished for their poverty and should starve to death or work demeaning jobs to make up for their deficiencies of birth.
I. Am. Better. Than. You.
It's really hard to accept Theory #4 as the explanation.
Even among all of these changes, he's still a nice guy. For someone he likes he'd go out of his way to help you out. His children are intelligent and charming, loving and curious. Day-to-day just observing him like he was on the National Geographic channel, you wouldn't assume that this is who he has become inside. I'm shocked with each new splurt of drivel that shoots from his mouth, parroting those blatant LIES we all know and hear.
This guy has the ability, the resources, and the time to learn the truth and chooses not to. How did this happen?
Looking for insight... loan me your theories.