Years ago I heard about a children's book called, “Why Mommy is a Democrat.” In it a mother squirrel teaches her two baby squirrels some of what the author believes are core Democratic values. For example, the book says “Democrats make sure we all share our toys, just like Mommy does.” The picture shows the baby squirrels playing together while in the background two wealthy humans (Republicans?) ignore a panhandler.
I think the book illustrates a key to understanding the political and social turmoil in our country. There are many ways to look at the social divide in our country; Right and Left, Liberal and Conservative, Republican and Democrat. I am wondering if it might be best to view the two sides as “Mommy” and “Daddy”.
Those on the Left, Liberal, Democrat side tend to view the government as our Parent. I saw this expressed most clearly during a presidential debate in the form of a town hall meeting. A man asked President George Bush Sr. (yeah, that's how long ago it was!) what he would do for us since he was like our parent. Personally, I wanted the President to say something like, “I'm not your father! Grow up and take care of yourself.” But ironically, that is almost exactly what you would expect a father to say.
Doesn't it seem like Democrats are most powerfully motivated by maternal instincts? Like the children's book describes, their values are those of a mother. You almost hear Democrats saying, “You poor dear. Let me make it better.” Anyone who suggests that such an attitude might actually be intrusive and over-protective or smothering and counter-productive will be attacked violently.... to protect the children.
Yet, if one sees the government as parent, then the Right, Conservative, Republican side is the father. Whereas mothers tend to nurture the weak, the father's role is to kick 'em out of the nest. “Stand on your own two feet!” “Be strong and independent.”
When we are young, of course, we all need both mother and father. As we mature we need less mothering and more fathering until eventually we are on our own. But the tension between mothering and fathering, while natural, becomes toxic if the father rejects maternal values or the mother refuses to “cut the apron strings”.
I'd say the political atmosphere today is toxic. The mother is convinced that the father is uncaring and greedy. The father thinks the mother is more concerned with domination and control than the welfare and independence of “the children”.
One hundred and fifty years ago the fight within this family turned bloody and almost ended in divorce. We could be headed in that direction. Still, the future will not be determined by mother or father, but by us; the children. We can succumb to the subtle but shaky promise of safety and comfort. Or we'll stand and say, “Mother, please, I'd rather do it myself!”