What do we have in common that unites us? Why do we support policies that others vehemently oppose and why do we strongly oppose their policies? Read Part 1.
What binds us, and what binds our opponents, is our sense of what is morally right as expressed by our moral values. And what research since the 90s by Professor George Lakoff and others has shown is that there are two distinct and opposing views of what is morally right and two sets of moral values. We are all some combination of those two value systems. A few are extreme but most are a mix.
Our sense of what is morally right and our moral values were learned as the younger members of our families. Different families and other life situations taught us our different values. For some, our values changed over time.
According to Professor Lakoff, those two values systems are represented by two family models: strict father and nurturing parents. Other research documented in Conservatives Without Conscience by John Dean documents that authoritarian personalities in the US are almost exclusively represented by our opponents. The authoritarian personality is very minor on the left side of our political spectrum. The strict father/authoritarian family model is something we all recognize in people like the husbands of Melania and Lynne Cheney.
For those of us mostly affected by the nurturing family model, “We came together because of our moral values: care and responsibility, fairness and equality, freedom and courage, fulfillment in life, opportunity and community, cooperation and trust, honesty and openness. We united behind political principles: equality, equity (if you work for a living, you should earn a living) and government for the people–all the people.” — Professor George Lakoff, cognitive linguist.
Moral Values of Nurturant Families:
Nurturing families support equality, caring for self and others, community involvement, and cooperation with and trust of others. They teach their children responsibility for themselves and others. They are involved in their communities for the common good. They give others the benefit of the doubt. They promote empathy as a strength. Nurturing and growing empathy is key to teaching their children. The primary tool of nurturing parents is hugs and equally demonstrating love of all life.
The research documented by Professor Lakoff shows that empathy is actually hardwired into the brain from birth. They discovered mirror neurons that allow mammals to emotionally relate to other mammals without prior experience.
Moral Values of Punishing Families:
Strict father families are authoritarian and believe in social hierarchy and inequality. They believe that individual responsibility and self-discipline will overcome any adversity. They believe success is self-made and the unsuccessful are their own worst enemy. They teach their children that their future is their sole responsibility. They avoid community service and hoard what is theirs. They think those lower in their hierarchy deserve their position in life and need no community support. They consider empathy a weakness since it tends to empower those lower in their hierarchy. They believe that children are born evil and severe punishment, starting at a very early age, is necessary to replace the evil with their authoritarian ideas on what is morally right. James Dobson is their saint on discipline. Punishment is the primary tool for teaching their moral values on hierarchy, inequality, and individualism. This punishment includes many tools: fists; privately owned weapons of mass destruction; 911 phone calls against people of color; denial of service based on religious fundamentalism; using religious freedom to enforce inequality; blind funding of a military-industrial-complex; militarization of the local police; etc.
Government based on Nurturant Family Model:
The moral values of a nurturant family are represented by a government that equally protects and empowers all citizens. This nurturing government equally protects all citizens from the economic, social, racial, and environmental injustices by those who refuse to self-limit their freedoms and abuse others. This protection includes: national defense that puts diplomacy first; local policing without racial profiling or military weapons of mass abuse; maintaining resources for warning of national disasters; support after national disasters; impartial judiciary; enabling individual and class action suits against those who abuse their power; national healthcare to end bankruptcy from uncontrollable events ; Social Security to minimize poverty in retirement; patent protection; clean air and water; etc. This nurturing government maximizes individual freedom for all by equally empowering citizens through: equitably funded public education; massive public infrastructure over land, across water, and circling the globe to form the foundation of an economy for all; publicly funded research that provides empowerment tools; preservation of public lands for all to enjoy; a living wage; etc.
Government based on Punishing Strict Father Model:
The moral values of the authoritarian strict father family are represented by a government that protects and empowers rich, heterosexual, misogynistic, Christianist, white, men and the corporations they own. This punishing government ignores the abuse of those lower in their authoritarian hierarchy while protecting only the wealthy citizens and mega corporations. This protection includes: blocking prosecution of the wealthy; enriching the wealthy with subsidies and tax breaks; national defense with massive spending to expand the empire; militarizing local police for enforcing the hierarchy; packing the judiciary with corporate lackeys; turning responsible citizens into obedient consumers; allowing media consolidation and content control based on profit-over-people; etc. This punishing government minimizes individual freedoms by empowering the wealthy: elimination of federal oversight; suppressing majority rule with voter suppression and election fraud; regime change for accessing foreign resources; defunding, privatizing, and pillaging all that is public; etc.
Government policies reflect our moral values:
Our moral differences on nurturing to maximizing equality and our opponents' on punishing to enforce a hierarchy of inequality are also reflected in our different governmental policies.
Our opponents promote federal policies that nurture the wealthy through tax breaks and/or government contracts for those who build, or fuel, our WMDs. On the other hand, they defund social programs for those not at the top of their hierarchy. They eliminate assistance programs outright. They privatize what’s left to enrich themselves. They enslave those who were forced to take on unnecessary debt to pay for corporatized higher eduction. They would punish the rest by reducing the minimum wage to zero and enslaving them with debt just to stay alive, barely. They balance the national economy by creating massive economic inequality.
By contrast, our federal policies will equally nurture all citizens to maximize their freedoms and possibility of success: with jobs during severe economic downturns; by empowering our mobility with freeways and public roads; by advancing science and creating tools that empower us like the internet or protect us like weather satellites; by creating high tech green jobs to protect our air, water and land; by providing healthcare to protect us from bankruptcy and the threat of early death; by providing high quality public education to empower us without the enslaving debt; by providing a living wage; by balancing the national economy for maximize equality; etc.
Know your moral values:
Our sense of what is morally right determines our moral values which in turn drives our support for policies and laws that represent them. When you talk policy, include your moral justification.
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