Arthur Silber has another post up that quotes Alice Miller, one of the most important psychologists of our time. I have read all of her books that I can find, repeatedly, because for me, nobody else even comes close to explaining human dynamics as well as she does. She states that parents' behavior greatly affects their children, a statement so obvious that I can't believe it's under debate. Children raised with kindness, respect and tolerance will grow to be kind, respectful and tolerant. Children raised to be blindly obedient will grow to be thwarted, cold, obedient adults. It's not rocket science, yet their implications are so important that Miller's theories terrify people.
The most conservative people are often, by definition, the most obedient and authoritative. The theory is little more than authoritarianism wrapped in a flag. Obedience to family, God and country are utterly central, and disobedience to one is seen as disobedience to all. The child is told to obey without question, with the implicit or even overt threat of withholding love from the child as punishment. And of course the the threat of corporal punishment hangs over all disagreements with the parents. Worse of all, the child is expected to feel grateful and loving towards the parents who have no regard for and often belittle his opinions, wants and needs.
The result is depressingly predictable, and disastrous. The child squashes his feelings of resentment and anger, and soon all feelings, since they cannot be turned on and off. This makes him cold and indifferent to others' needs and suffering. He is always needy, since he has never received the love and respect from his parents that everyone craves. He is also dangerously, mindlessly obedient, to whomever orders him around, makes him feel safe, and strokes and praises him. He can mask the neediness with arrogance, but it's there under the surface. And because his reactions are so ingrained and so predictable, he is easy to sway and manipulate. You might say it's child's play.
I suspect that the gender roles that are maintained so rigorously by conservative people are merely the codifying of abuse into sex as well. The qualities that are held up to such high esteem by conservatives are those of abused children and their parents, their perpetrators. Boys are to be strong and endure pain silently, especially emotional pain. They are violent, eager to kill and ready to be sacrificed on another's order. They demand obedience from those in their power, and give obedience to those who have power over them.
Girl victims are to be silent sufferers also, obedient also, never active and always passive. It is especially disturbing to think about what is required of child sex victims--always be sexually available to a man, always dressed in accessible clothing, her decisions regarding her own body made by a man. Any conservative woman worth her salt has written endless columns on how women should dress--in skirts, with make-up--and act--subservient and obedient to men.
Conservatism is a sickness of the mind. It needs to eradicated, because it is a symptom of the lack of moral compass in America.