Anybody who knows me, or has been reading me for a while, knows that I’ve long been tortured by the political division in this country. I think I feel it more deeply than some, because it reflects and exacerbates the division in my own family. My parents are serious conservatives, my husband is a serious liberal, and I – more moderate by the hour – often feel like the rope in a tug-of-war that never ends.
This rope is frayed, y’all. Very, very frayed. Sometimes, this rope feels like she’s unraveling. About to break.
But I have just stumbled upon a book I can’t wait to read – in fact, I’ve already read several articles adapted from it at Psychology Today. The book is called Predisposed, and it was written by a trio of social scientists, pioneers in a field called “biopolitics.” According to what I gather from these articles, there might be hope for this rope!
Here’s a description of Predisposed:
Buried in many people and operating largely outside the realm of conscious thought are forces inclining us toward liberal or conservative political convictions. Our biology predisposes us to see and understand the world in different ways, not always reason and the careful consideration of facts. These predispositions are in turn responsible for a significant portion of the political and ideological conflict that marks human history.
With verve and wit, renowned social scientists John Hibbing, Kevin Smith, and John Alford—pioneers in the field of biopolitics—present overwhelming evidence that people differ politically not just because they grew up in different cultures or were presented with different information. Despite the oft-heard longing for consensus, unity, and peace, the universal rift between conservatives and liberals endures because people have diverse psychological, physiological, and genetic traits. These biological differences influence much of what makes people who they are, including their orientations to politics.
Political disputes typically spring from the assumption that those who do not agree with us are shallow, misguided, uninformed, and ignorant. Predisposed suggests instead that political opponents simply experience, process, and respond to the world differently. It follows, then, that the key to getting along politically is not the ability of one side to persuade the other side to see the error of its ways but rather the ability of each side to see that the other is different, not just politically, but physically. Predisposed will change the way you think about politics and partisan conflict.
See, here’s what I’m thinking – or hoping, anyway. I’m thinking that once folks understand that we are all, to some extent, “born that way” when it comes to our politics, the all-American prejudice against prejudice will kick in, and hating on your political opponents might come to be seen in the same light as racism or homophobia. And then, if all goes according to (my) plan, the serious partisan politicos among us might stop tearing each other apart . . . and stop tugging on us ropes in the middle.
Of course, this rope will probably have snapped by then.