I have no idea how to solve the partisan rancor that has evolved in America. But I do think I have some insight into why there is now such a political divide despite the fact that I claim no expertise in politics whatsoever. My expertise, rather, comes from 31 years of teaching literature and several years as a creative writer. The problem, you see, is that liberals and conservatives regard our government through the lenses of different metaphors. Yes, metaphors.
It boils down to this: Conservatives think of the government as their father, while liberals regard it as a family recipe.
Dear liberals, here is how conservatives think about the U.S. Government: You can’t criticize or change your dad; it’s arrogant, disloyal, and bratty to even try. And it’s not your place. After all, you’re only a child. *(Democratic Presidents are not actual fathers; they’re evil, usurping stepfathers.)
Dear conservatives, liberals think of the government as a stew, let’s say a beef stew, based on an 18th-century recipe handed down over the years—a recipe that has changed and been improved upon many times and that should continue to be amended whenever some new cook figures out a way to make it tastier or more nutritious.
So let’s say that the issue is the impeachment and removal of President Joe Biden’s predecessor, hereinafter referred to as DT.
A conservative thinks, “Are you insane? The government must be honored and revered and thanked for keeping us alive. Father knows best; it’s wrong to backtalk him.”
Liberals think, “The meat is fatty and gristly, the potatoes are rotten, and the carrots are a very unnatural orange color. Actually, they’re not even carrots; they’re just badly dyed parsnips. The recipe itself is OK, but if we don’t throw out the spoiled ingredients and get better ones, we’ll all go hungry. Let’s just go to the farmer’s market.”
Conservatives respond, “Are you lunatics? It doesn’t matter if Dad is high or screwing around on Mom or neglecting us or threatening the Muslims or Mexicans next door. He’s our dad. Can’t you get that through your thick skull? If he’s made some mistakes, we shouldn’t talk about it. In fact, we should do our best to cover it up, pretend it never happened. We’ve got to protect our family’s reputation, do all we can to keep the stink of shame off of us.”
Liberals counter, “We’ll tell you what stinks—a steaming stew with rotten potatoes in it. We’re gagging and almost puking at the very thought of having to eat that crap. Why would you insist on making us sick or starving us when it’d be so easy to replace the meat and vegetables? And for the love of humanity, quit trying to change the written recipe so that it actually calls for gristly beef, rotten potatoes, and bizarrely orange parsnips.”
“You family-haters don’t deserve stew. Eat shit, you ungrateful bastards.”
“You food poisoners need to go to foster care for your own good. You’ve got a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome. Even you will be better off when DT is put in jail and they throw away the key.”
And that, my friends, is how liberals and conservatives have gotten—metaphorically—into a terrible, boiling stew.
(Bill Spencer is author of Uranus Is Always Funny: Short Essays to Make You Laugh.)