Monday, November 10, 2008

The 'Reality' Of Rationalization

One psychological defense mechanism employed by the left hemisphere is rationalization. How this is employed can sometimes be mind boggling. When it's employed by otherwise intelligent people it can take a person's breath away. I'm going to list some examples of this which have appeared in print in the last few days.

Here's one from the Mormon Church complaining about the fact their temples in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City were picketed by people opposed to the Utah based Mormon church's interference in California's Proposition 8 battle:

"While those who disagree with our position on Proposition 8 have the right to make their feelings known, it is wrong to target the Church and its sacred places of worship for being part of the democratic process."

So why is it wrong for people to picket the places of one of the prime movers from which the campaign was organized and disseminated? It appears to me the LDS church leadership is insisting on an uneven playing field. They can use their churches and church property for political purposes but then want to hide behind the separation clause to protect themselves from the fallout. I guess they want full access to the democratic process, but only under their own rules. This is a classic rationalization designed to insure they still feel good about themselves for having vigorously promoted an attack on someone else's constitutional rights. They hide behind the very same constitution to justify their view.

Here's another one from Cardinal Mahony, Archbishop of Los Angeles:

"Proposition 8 is not against any group in our society. Its sole focus is on preserving God's plan for people living upon this earth throughout time," Cardinal Roger Mahony, archbishop of the Diocese of Los Angeles, said in a statement Thursday.

If anything, this is even more disingenuous. Prop 8 took away a constitutional state right, for a very particular group of tax paying people. Where this gets more interesting is that Cardinal Mahoney maintains Prop 8 was written to support God. Last I checked, California was a secular democracy, not God's theocracy. I'm sure it makes the Cardinal feel much better to rationalize that he wasn't advocating the removal of a state right for gays, that he was just supporting God. Doing God's will is a favorite form of rationalization for people who engage in irrational and not very nice things.

Here's one from Sarah Palin:

Palin said she's confident she can still work with Alaska Democrats, despite the bad blood that came from comments such as the one about President-elect Barack Obama palling around with terrorists. She said she has not become partisan.

"I don't know why (anyone would say that) except that I ran for vice president, with a presidential candidate, ran on a ticket...of a party that I've been part of since I was 18. Nothing has changed there, my values, my convictions, my ability to work with Democrats, independents and Republicans all together has never changed."

"So if there's criticism that all of a sudden I've changed and become an obsessive partisan, then it's not accurate criticism."

All righty then, straight from the standard bearer of the Republican rightwing we now hear she's not partisan. The woman who made the case for rightwing nationalism was really a uniter all the time. Other people made her do these things, and other people are not accurate in describing her, and other people, like certain cruel, petty McCain campaign people are out to get her. Rationalizations of the poor me, I'm so misunderstood, classic victim, she doesn't know why anyone would say these things about her. This is not the kind of rationalization which is used by the intellectual elite types.

Speaking of intellectual elites, we have this from George Weigel:

“It will be interesting to see how the ‘Catholic vote’ finally broke, but it will be essential to pick that vote apart and look at how regular-Mass-going Catholics voted as distinguished from occasional church-goers and other ‘tribal’ Catholics.”

This is a form of rationalization which extends the Republican strategy of 'real Americans' vs 'other Americans' to the Catholic sphere. The rationalization here is that Weigel's agenda was defeated by those 'others'. There is nothing wrong with the agenda or how it was presented. The classic "it isn't our fault we lost". The blame rests elsewhere, like on the other team.

This kind of rationalizing is not conducive to consensus building or reality checking, because the rationalization contains it's own justification. Regular Mass goers did vote for McCain, although not as strongly as they voted for Bush, and those 'other' Catholics did support Obama with numbers that Kerry must envy, and so there you have it. It's the fault of those slacker Catholics, who don't listen to their bishops because they are not in Church to hear them. The fact is over 100 of these bishops took the message to the media. They were heard. They still didn't get the results they wanted. As long as the divisions with in the Church are blamed on the people being alienated, there will be no change because their doesn't have to be any change. It's their own fault they feel alienated.

I could go on and on with this. Karl Rove comes to mind, who felt the need to insist that American is still a center right country based on the passage of four anti gay initiatives. I guess this balances all the other data which say something completely different, such as the rejection of all the anti abortion initiatives, and half the country going from red to blue.

And now it's time for a personal story

All of this reminds me of when the college basketball team I played on lost a game by 73 points and our coach tried to tell us it was a victory because we kept the opponent from being the first women's college team to score 100 points. From her point of view I guess it was a victory of sorts. From my point of view it wasn't.

The truth is somewhat different. We knew we were going to get clocked, and so we made deals with some of the opposition for them to keep it under 100. Their coach went nuts when time ran out and they had failed in her mission to reach that particular national record.

I actually felt sorry for them, but I also felt respected by them. One wonders if in the next four years any such deals will be made, and any respect given. Winning is one thing, but purposefully humiliating your opposition for your own ideological gain is something else. I don't get the feeling that President elect Obama is the kind of person who will humiliate his opposition, but I also don't get the feeling that too many of the right are interested in making deals that will help avoid that kind of humiliation. I've been there, and I've done that, and I feel a whole lot better about myself for having caved into reality to strike a deal that avoided permanent humiliation.

I gave up some points myself, (I couldn't exceed 14) but in the long run, it was a good deal. There were no hard feelings when some of us opponents wound up teammates on the same summer softball team.

This country can't afford any more rationalizations about this election season and what it means. It's time to get real and work with each other. Sometimes it works pretty well for both sides and everyone wins something.

PS: My prayers are with Fr. Andrew Greeley as he fights for life in Chicago. A lot of us are indebted to his pioneering work and his numerous writings. Whether you agreed with him or not, he made people think. That's always a good thing.


  1. Colleen, you missed one of the best ones from Mahoney regarding :

    In a postelection statement, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony of Los Angeles spoke about one of the biggest misunderstandings -- that the church's opposition to same-sex marriage indicates a rejection of homosexuals and lesbians as people.

    The Catholic Church understands that there are people who choose to live together in relationships other than traditional marriage," he added. "All of their spiritual, pastoral and civil rights should be respected, together with their membership in the church."

    Did he just say what it sounds like he just said?

  2. I'm sure the good Cardinal meant to add celibate to relationships, and it will shortly be spun that way. Or else it will be spun that he didn't actually mean gays. He meant divorced or cohabitating heteros, or singles with cats or whatever.

    Otherwise I'm at a loss to understand what this could mean, because it looks like the most positive statement ever spoken about gays and Catholicism.

    Nah, can't be. This is the church that just actively conspired to take away gay constitutional rights.

    I know!! It's a guilt inspired Freudian splip.

  3. Well, we will see what come of it.

    I just posted the quote and a brief commentary in the NCR Cafe under sexual ethics titled

    "Cardinal Mahoney Supports Gay Rights for Catholics"

    It will be interesting to see what happens next.

  4. Some synchronisity here in your blog Colleen.:

    "Doing God's will is a favorite form of rationalization for people who engage in irrational and not very nice things."

    I recently commented to Thomas on NCR Cafe regarding his quoting from Leviticus that it was "God's Will" to kill people under certain circumstances. He's definitely in dangerous territory and tying it in with the abortion issue. Carl also posted to his quotes from Leviticus.

    Good subject, this rationalizing the irrational. There is plenty of this going on. And it's been going on for too long!

  5. Speaking of rationalizing, have you been following Ms Palins press releases ... specifically blaming everyone and everything but herself for losing the election?

  6. No Carl, but it's been on the news and it looks like everyone else has a problem but her. According to Sarah Palin, who didn't know that Africa is a continent.

    And who knows in her mind where she thought it was. all these years! I have to wonder if she ever stopped to look at a globe. Good grief! And to think she could have been a VP - heaven did forbid!