On Rodents and Conservatives

My parents are always worrying about the bird feeders in the backyard. They think they’ll attract rodents that will get in the house.

First of all, in the years my parents have lived here, they’ve had the bird feeders and rodents have never gotten in the house. And, second, rodents are unlikely to ever get in because it is one of these modern sealed-up houses with no cracks in the foundation, no loose siding, no crawlspace to be easily accessed, and not even a drafty attic.

This is how the conservative mind leads to paranoia. Somehow something or someone who isn’t supposed to be here will get in, no matter how improbable according to a rational analysis. This is the same fear that is seen with immigrants, minorities, the poor, or anyone who is different. The way my parents talk you’d think that rodents are welfare queens trying to game the system, and admittedly rodents are sneaky critters who will take advantage of any situation. This is what would lead some extreme conservatives to sitting on their back stoop shooting at shadows in the dark — fortunately, my parents’ fearful attitude is a milder variety.

The fear isn’t rational, for fear is ultimately never rational, just an emotion that may or may not indicate something beyond itself. And so there is no way to counter fear with rationality. There is only one response that fear demands and that is taking action, which pushed to its end point means fight or flight. In my parents’ imaginations, it’s almost as if the rodents are already in the house scurrying about. There is very little distinction, in the conservative mind, between imagining something as real and it actually being real.

I love my parents dearly. But it can be a challenge sometimes. It’s not that the bird feeder issue is a big deal. It’s just one of those thousands of things that regularly come up. As my parents gave voice to their fear of a rodent plague destroying all that is good in the world, an uprising of nature against mankind and civilization, I could see the gears in their head clicking away. Looking out the window, they could see the rodents that weren’t there… not yet, but once night comes with naive liberals sleeping soundly in bed the rodent threat will swarm over the landscape.

Okay, I’m exaggerating a bit for effect. I’m just feeling amused.

It reminds me of a popular Buddhist story. Two Buddhist monks were walking along. They came to a stream where a woman was having difficulty in trying to cross. The older monk helped carry her to the other side. Then the monks continued on. Further down the path, the younger monk decided to chastise his companion because it was against their religious vows to touch a woman. In response, the older monk shared a bit of wisdom. He said, I put the woman down back at the stream, but you’re still carrying her.

As a liberal, that is how I see conservatives. They are constantly carrying in their minds all kinds of things, from rodents to immigrants, from welfare queens to terrorists, their minds overflowing with fears and anxieties. And they rarely if ever put them down. It’s hard for anyone to shake something once it gets in their mind, but it’s particularly hard for conservatives. Even when their thick boundaries allow them to temporarily cut off their worries and concerns in order to focus on some other matter, those worries and concerns never really leave their minds and will quickly return to their awareness with the slightest trigger.

It’s not as if my parents will bring up the imagined rodent problem all that often, but for as long as they live in this house it will remain at the back of their minds. Every time they see those bird feeders, the narrative of rodent invasion will play in their minds, though probably most often below the threshold of consciousness.

I should clarify a point. Conservatives aren’t always wrong about what they fear. Theoretically, rodents could get into my parents’ house. It’s just the probability is extremely low (from a liberal perspective, ridiculously low), not the kind of thing worth worrying about. If my parents lived in an old house with lots of cracks and crevices, their fear would be valid. That is the problem. Conservative fears aren’t dependent on context. To the extent that someone is conservative-minded, there is a state of fear constantly on the look out.

Still, motivated by rodent phobia, conservatives such as my parents might be less likely to have rodent problems or at least more likely to deal with them swiftly and harshly. War on rodents? Maybe Trump could look into that. With conservatives in the world, maybe we liberals benefit from being kept safe from the rodent plague, although it must be admitted that conservative European societies back in the day failed to prevent the rodent-inflicted Black Plague. So, I don’t know.

I just like watching the birds.

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3 thoughts on “On Rodents and Conservatives

  1. It is an interesting point you bring up, and something I have noticed in my more conservative c0-workers. One of them, the most conservative of them, lives far out into the woods. While I understand he may want a sidearm in case of the critters that roam back there, he is deathly afraid of somebody breaking into his house.

    I have also noticed that he is scared of breaking any of the rules at work, no matter how some of them have never been enforced and that most all of his issues are coached in the wording of “fear”. This can be as simple as “I am afraid not” when asked a question, or that he won’t break or bend even the simplest rule because he does not want to loose his insurance if (when) he gets hurt.

    We do find it ironic that he is the most safety conscious of our entire crew, but he is the one that constantly gets hurt.

    • Of course, I wouldn’t dismiss my parents’ concerns out of hand. They aren’t irrational people. And they are successful people, according to our society’s standards. Maybe they’re doing something right. It’s possible I’m not giving them enough credit and it’s because of their hyper-sensitivity that they’ve kept rodents out of their house.

      About your coworker, I could understand where he is coming from living out in the woods. I guess it depends on what part of the country. Rural areas on average have a higher violent crime rate than urban areas, including big cities. But it depends on what kind of rural area and which region. The rural South is particularly known for it’s violent crime and accidental deaths, including people accidentally shooting people they know. Actually, in rural areas, you are most likely to be killed by someone you know, often by family members.

      Your coworker sounds much more conservative-minded than my parents. As far as conservatism goes, my parents aren’t that extreme. I wouldn’t say they are all that fearful of people, just more concerned about certain things than those of a strong liberal mindset. Their conservatism is fairly obvious in many ways. I can’t say I’ve noticed them use “fear” wording that often. It’s more about what they focus on and how they focus on it.

      There might be something to your last point. Maybe there is a correlation between worrying about certain things and a propensity for those things happening. Conservative states have higher rates of work-related accidents and higher rates of accidents in general: car accidents, accidental shootings, etc. Maybe there is something going on there. It could be that conservatives are accident-prone for some reason and so their worries are justified, even if possibly self-inflicted.

      It’s hard to make sense of some of this. Part of the higher rates of car accidents in conservative states is drunk driving. Yet liberals have higher rates than conservatives of alcoholism (and drug addiction). Maybe liberals are better at holding their alcohol or maybe liberals are more likely to drink at home.

      It does get me wondering. Humans are strange creatures.

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