My brothers are conservatives; they tell me I am “Left of Mao,” but then they say that about anybody left of…them. This makes for interesting family reunions. They gather in a group and confirm each other’s biases while I torment them with jokes and snark. Since I love my brothers, I have spent a lot of time trying to understand their viewpoints (very lefty of me) and they spend a lot of time shaking their heads and agreeing that I am definitively wrong and will always be wrong (very conservative of them)-but then I am their sister.
This is, of course, the cure for poisonous polarization. The other guy may be wrong, but then they are a fellow citizen. But how could four people raised in the same family turn out so different? We’re not that different, really. We all want fairness, justice, freedom and all that. But I have figured out the deep-down, root difference.
It’s the PANIC THRESHOLD. I have a very high panic threshold, they have a lower one. The same event that kicks the catastrophe center in their brains into overdrive barely pings mine. Immigrants are crossing the border?
Bros: America will be overwhelmed with immigrants, it is a foreign invasion, in a few years everyone will be brown, English will be a dead language, and the American way of life will be wiped off the face of the earth. Me: We should pass good laws and enforce them fairly. WE are immigrants, after all, and we didn’t take over America and make everyone speak Polish, did we?
Many incidents from our childhoods confirm that they have a low panic threshold.
Bro: “Oh my God, it’s a wasp nest!” Me: “So stay away from it.”
Bro: “WHAT’S THAT? It’s a leech on my leg!!! Arrrggh!” Me: “Hold still, I’ll pick it off for you.”
And it continues. A few days ago a grease fire broke out in the kitchen. The flames were shooting a couple of feet high. Not good. I moved the flaming pot outside, threw dirt on it and put out all the smaller fires. I knew the risks; I knew I could be burned-and indeed some grease spilled on to my hand and burned it. “Hmmm…That’s going to hurt for awhile,” I thought, which it did. Then impressive blisters formed-second degree burns, they will heal. As Buddha stated in his First Noble Truth, “S**t happens.”
Today I got a message from my conservative brother which makes my point: “I hear you had a fire you were near dead from the burns…’bout gave me a coronary!” I replied: “2nd degree burns, very awesome blisters-on the road to recovery. 🙂
See the difference? Same exact event>”Near dead” and “coronary” versus “awesome blisters” and “will heal”
I doubt Conservatives and Lefties can move the slider on each other’s Panic Threshold, but we can remember that we are all brothers and sisters in the end.