Most of us have long suspected that there are profound differences between the brains of Republicans and Democrats. Now new brain-scan technology has scientifically proven this to be the case. No, Democrats’ brains are not noticeably smaller than Republican brains. The difference lies in how Democrats and Republicans react to being shown certain stimuli.
According to researchers at UCLA, differences were noted mainly in regard to the expression of empathy: “One Democrat’s brain lit up at an image of John Kerry ‘with a profound sense of connection, like a beautiful sunset,’” according to researcher Joshua Freedman. Brain activity in a Republican shown an image of Bush was “more interpersonal, such as if you smiled at someone and they smiled back.” In other words Republicans may be better at building real and realistic relationships, while Democrats are more likely to see the connection between a Democratic victory and continued and unimpeded flow of government handouts.
It hardly takes an MRI to spot such differences. Liberals are notoriously more awash in empathy for the poor, the needy, even the pregnant, than most Conservatives. After all Liberals are responsible for inventing such tomfoolery as the Empathy Belly Pregnancy Simulator and keeping vegan restaurants in business. The problem with empathy is that it can be put to both good and evil purposes. “A con-artist may possess and rely on empathy — awareness of others’ thoughts and feelings — but fail to experience sympathy, which might prevent him from victimizing others,” experts say. But even empathy combined with a sizable dose of pity accomplishes little good. More important is what one does after empathizing with and pitying, say, a homeless drug addict. The Liberal will immediately page a reporter and commence to make a speech blaming Republican budget cuts for the poor man’s plight, then, feeling smug and self-satisfied, she will retire to her $300,000 Greenwich Village townhouse. Or she may slap a “What is the problem with you people?” bumper sticker on her car, or buy the latest “Do they Know It’s Christmas?” CD.
The truth is one can never wholly put oneself in another’s shoes. One can never know all of the myriad circumstances, dumb decisions, and misfortunes that turn one down the dead-end road to becoming a homeless person, a murderess, or a city councilman. An actor empathizes with his character, but in the end he is simply play acting. It is but moonshine and mirrors. A Democrat may see a wino digging through the trash may empathize with him, while humming “there but for fortune go you or I.” But her empathy is but pruning the branches of the tree of evil. The Republican prefers to hack at the roots. Thus, a Democrat will volunteer five hours a week at a shelter for unmarried teen mothers, from which she gets this warm and fuzzy feeling of connection. But a Republican will seize the unmarried teen mother by the collar and try to shake some sense into her, while garnishing the deadbeat father’s wages.
In another segment of the test, according to the Associated Press, “voters were shown a pro-Bush commercial that included images of the September 11 attacks. The amygdala region of the brain — which lights up for most of us when we see snakes — illuminated more for Democrats than Republicans. The researchers’ conclusion: at a subconscious level, Republicans were apparently not as bothered by what Democrats found alarming.” I’m unclear exactly how researchers came to this conclusion, though it should be noted that the lead researcher’s brother Tom Freedman was a consultant to President Clinton. Dr. Freedman’s conclusions suggest that Republicans are not as troubled by 9/11 as the Democrats were, which seems patently absurd considering the Republican administration’s response, or Liberals’ constant objections to homeland security measures and American troop presence in Iraq. A more sensible conclusion is that Democrats, viewing a Bush ad, saw metaphorical snakes and panicked, while Republicans felt a profound sense of security knowing that W., and not John Kerry was on the job.
There seems to be serious problems, not with the new technology, but with the way politically connected humans are analyzing the data, to say nothing of the way the press has reported their conclusions. Somehow the researchers’ data missed the fact that Republicans are just as concerned about poverty, crime, disease, and indeed all social issues as Democrats, but are more thoughtful and less grandstanding in the way they address such problems. Meanwhile political consultants are already busily working their angles, hoping to find some political advantage in this new brain-imaging technology. Frankly, the whole scenario seems a bit too much like The Manchurian Candidate for my comfort. Not that I’m suggesting our Liberal friends will resort to brainwashing voters. They already have Michael Moore for that.
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