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Stumbled across a couple of different things that, tho unrelated, seem to provide some insight into the Byzantine thought processes and actions of some of the GOP.

Brene Brown, who gave a TEDx talk, makes the point that being connected is all about understanding others and caring:

And so these folks, very simply, had the courage to be imperfect.  They had the compassion to be kind to themselves first and then others and as it turns out we can't practice compassion with other people if we can't treat ourselves kindly
But in order to be able to do that, one has to allow oneself to be vulnerable. But a lot of people can't let that happen, so they deny themselves their ability to understand how others are feeling. I'm thinking that in reality, empathy may really be more about dealing with your own shit than by any outside pressure.

Brene's research showed that there really are underlying reasons why people act in a very self-centered and uncaring way.  And it also showed WHY we need more empathy and why this is going to be a very, very hard row to hoe. Many, if not most of the people in power get to be in power because they're ruthless dogs who will willingly (nay, EAGERLY) stomp on others if it boosts their own interests. So to expect them to suddenly begin caring about other people? Especially people they may have stomped on in the past? Please, waste no time shedding tears for those types. Until, suddenly, those types become your type.

This played out in the case of Sen. Rob Portman, who's son recently came out as gay. Immediately, the conservative senator switched his stance on gay rights.  As an article in the Atlantic says:

"The root of this kind of ideological bigotry people who work to legislate against gay rights, against women's access to fundamental healthcare, against measures that help the poor is a fundamental lack of compassion, an inability to view something that feels faraway from one's own experience as anything but strange and alien and therefore off-putting or, most callously, as frivolous. People like Portman stridently work against other people's interests until a crucial moment, both shaming and enlightening, when it becomes their interest too."
This indeed seems to be the case, as Sen Saxby Chambliss confirms this attitude, as a recent headline states: "He's not gay, so he's not going to marry one." That attitude can be expanded to include other people and minorities who are disenfranchised and discriminated against: "I'm not poor, so I don't care about health care", "I'm not dark skinned, so I don't want to hear about any problems in traveling in or out of the country" and so on.  This list could go on forever.

Experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous than the average American,that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support. Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior:

While having money doesn'™t necessarily make anybody anything, Piff later told New York magazine, the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people. They are, he continued, more likely to exhibit characteristics that we would stereotypically associate with, say, assholes.
So it seems like what we have here is a case of people becoming rich because they're able to avoid thinking about the plight of others. And when these same people become elected officials, they take that same attitude that helped them get rich, to the elected office where, instead of looking out for the welfare of their constituents, they suppress their rights because the people who elected them aren't as rich as they are, and so, aren't worthy of any special attention.  And now, we can know this is how they actually think, because science told us so.

Originally posted to Engferno on Tue Apr 16, 2013 at 10:01 PM PDT.

Also republished by Community Spotlight.

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