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Political DNA
Letter to the Editor
Wednesday, February 22, 2012 • Posted February 22, 2012

Dear Gerry,

Remember not too long ago when Mason had one of its letters-to-the-editor skirmishes centering around the Republican Ladies’ sponsoring a talk by the author of a book about the imminent imposition of Sharia law upon America? The liberal letter-writers thought the RL’s and the author were fear-mongering, rabble-rousing around a wedge issue and ignoring more realistic concerns. The conservatives thought they were being helpful. Guess what I just learned? On a personal level, both sides were genuine.Just out: results from a UNebraska study. The set-up: wire people who’ve stated a liberal/conservative preference to measure their responses/inclinations towards generally accepted positive images (cute babies and animals) and negative images (car wrecks, creepy crawlies). The results: Conservatives measured heightened responses to the negative images; liberals measured heightened responses to the positive ones. When shown collages of mixed positive and negative images, eye movement tracking showed that conservatives focused more on the scarier images. A psychologist on LiveScience.com said that conservatives’ “monitoring things that make them feel uncomfortable” occurs at the physiological level; it’s not just political party line to stir up frightened voters.The truth is, there’s rightness on both sides and it would behoove the polar opposites to rise above instinctive reactions and intellectually consider the alternate viewpoints. Fear is sometimes the most appropriate response to a situation, but fear-ers need to realize that being ruled by fears can rather paralyze progress. Idealists need to open their minds to all the ramifications of following a lovely idea; that cute baby or cuddly animal is often uncooperative, costly, restricts you, and can sometimes bite back. Both ways of looking at things are valid and necessary. Unfortunately, our current political situation encourages dividing us into one camp or the other with mutuality discouraged and even politically punished. Nevertheless, at least we should respect the genuine impulses of those who look at things differently from ourselves before chalking the opposition up as merely fear-mongerers or European socialists.

Helen Liston

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