Trump's America

America: the Split Brain Version

Reflecting on the disastrous Supreme Court decisions of late, I’ve come to the realization that it isn’t the United Fucking States of Fucking Stupid, it is the United Fucking States with the Split Fucking Brain. Our collective left hand don’t know what the fuck the collective right hand is doing! The liberal left is freaked the fuck out by what the conservative right is up to. It is like we are pursuing two different agendas with two wholly different goals in mind.

The split don’t stop there, either. The conservative Christian voter has never understood what the conservative Christian “leader” was up to; otherwise, they’d never vote for them. The conservative Christian voter thinks they have to live in Cancer Fucking Alley and die of abnormally high rates of cancer because Christian values.

They is pissed at the left for trying to take their place in line — which we ain’t — after they have sacrificed so much — which they have, but it is needless sacrifice — to allow the wealth of the nation to grow. But, that ain’t even true, since most of the corporate polluters who are gladly condemning them to live in the hell of Cancer Fucking Alley keep their profits off shore and out of the American economy.

In order to live in these gawd awful conditions, they make up reasons that will explain their inexplicable behavior. It is a type of cognitive dissonance that in a different setting might could even be classified as its own mental health disorder, but that is a different blog post altogether.

The Split Brain

And all this matches the experiences of the split brain patient almost perfectly.

Corpus_callosumSplit brain is the term that us uneducated types use to describe a brain surgery procedure in which the the halves of the brain are surgically separated. Apparently, there is a thick bundle of nerves called the corpus callosum that connects the left and right halves of the brain together. Without it, the two halves will literally have little or no communication kinda like liberal and conservative America. The official name of the surgery is a corpus callosotomy. Unfortunately it does not come with a collostomy bag to catch all your bull shit before it comes out your mouth. Ha ha ha ha ha. I really crack myself up sometimes.

The surgery is a last ditch attempt to save the lives of people with severely debilitating epilepsy. It has some interesting side effects while being an effective treatment when all else fails. Overall, there are few if any noticeable changes to behavior, thinking, or personality. Weird, right? But it does have an effect that crops up from time to time. I provide this anecdote for your amusement and edification:

In the first months after her surgery, shopping for groceries was infuriating. Standing in the supermarket aisle, Vicki would look at an item on the shelf and know that she wanted to place it in her trolley — but she couldn’t. “I’d reach with my right for the thing I wanted, but the left would come in and they’d kind of fight,” she says. “Almost like repelling magnets.” Picking out food for the week was a two-, sometimes three-hour ordeal. Getting dressed posed a similar challenge: Vicki couldn’t reconcile what she wanted to put on with what her hands were doing. Sometimes she ended up wearing three outfits at once. “I’d have to dump all the clothes on the bed, catch my breath and start again.”

— Nature The Split Brain: A Tale of Two Halves

If that don’t sound like America right now, I don’t know what does. Perhaps, this example does not convince you of how well split brain captures contemporary American politics, so let’s take an anecdote from none other than Mr. Split Brain 1961, Michael Gazzaniga, himself concerning a task in which the participant was asked to arrange four blocks to match the design of an example:

…As the right hand kept trying to get the blocks to match up to the picture, the more capable left hand would creep over to the right hand to intervene, as if it realized how incompetent the right hand was. This occurred so frequently that Gazzaniga eventually asked Jenkins to sit on his left hand so it wouldn’t butt in.

When Gazzaniga let Jenkins use both hands to solve the problem in another trial, he again saw the two brain hemispheres at odds with one another. “One hand tried to undo the accomplishments of the other,” he wrote. “The left hand would make a move to get things correct and the right hand would undo the gain. It looked like two separate mental systems were struggling for their view of the world.”

— The Atlantic One Head, Two Brains (emphasis added)

Come on, now. That’s just spooky, isn’t it? It’s like he’s writing a NYT editorial… oh wait it’s too coherent for that, and it doesn’t condemn the right hand at the same time as minimizing and justifying what it is doing while vilifying the left hand and claiming to support it.

Ready Explanations for the Inexplicable

The parallel doesn’t stop there, though. It just keeps going. You see, when split brain subjects are confronted by the contradictory behavior they display, they have ready explanations! This goes beyond your usual cognitive dissonance. Check this story from the anals of split brain research:

Gazzaniga showed the left side of a participant’s brain a picture of a chicken’s foot — why on god’s green earth? A freaking chicken’s foot! — and his right hemisphere a snowy scene. Both hemisphere’s were presented with eight pictures that might combine both images. When asked to pick out the ones that matched what he had seen, he picked out a chicken head — understandable given that he had seen a chicken’s foot — and a shovel — also understandable since it could be used on the snow.

Now, here’s were things get weird and you gotta understand something of how the brain is organized: language is processed and produced by the left hemisphere meaning that the right hemisphere is mute and does not use language in its “thought” process. The left hemisphere only saw the chicken’s foot. The puzzle for the left hemisphere to solve was to explain why the shovel was chosen when the only thing it knew about was the chicken’s foot.

So, when Gazzaniga asked him why he had chosen the chicken’s head and the shovel, he immediately said that it was because the shovel could be used to muck out the chicken coop. The left hemisphere made up an answer to resolve the seemingly (to it) inexplicable choice of a shovel. This pattern repeated with participant after participant and trial after trial. The left language-producing hemisphere explained the actions of the right mute hemisphere with pure unadulterated bullshit.

So, when you ask god-fearing Jesus-worshiping conservative Christian voters why they support an adulterous lying cheating mean-spirited motherfucker like the Ol’ Pussy Grabber, they, like the uninformed left hemisphere, explain their inexplicable actions with some bullshit. When you ask them why they will turn strangers who might actually be JC in disguise out of their homes, they’ll answer you with some god-fearing Bible-thumping unadulterated bullshit. This pattern will repeat for any Christian value, Commandment, or verse from the Sermon on the Mount that you care to choose. This is motivated reasoning on steroids.

The real lesson here is that we have this running narrative going in hour heads explaining to us why we’re doing the things we’re doing. As we’ve seen from the split brain studies and other posts on Ye Olde Blogge, we are emotional decision-makers and the rational language-producing parts of our brain simply rationalize our emotional choices. So, when someone violates their sworn values as egregiously as the Congressional Repubes have done, the Repube Party in general, or conservative Christian voters have done, then you know it is because that is how they really really feel.

Believing Your Own Bullshit Smells Like Chocolate

Now, here’s the second weird thing, we believe the stories we make up to justify our actions. The conservative Christian voter believes their own bullshit about why it is okay to take children from parents and refuse asylum to people fleeing war, famine, and terror, and all the other shyte they try to foist off on us as adhering to Christian values.

Cognitive psychologist, Deanna Kuhn, calls these bullshit responses, everyday reasoning, and her studies reflect the use of “pseudoevidence” to support them. Once some evidence is found, no matter how flimsy, we stop thinking about the problem. Our illusory explanation of our position makes sense to us, so why continue when you’ve got a perfectly suitable answer.

Studies show that the more pressure people feel to defend their position, whether it is because it is important to them, or it is fear of public humiliation, or whatever it is that is raising the stakes, the more motivated people are to justify their position. Confirmation bias becomes the rule of thumb. People motivated to come to a conclusion will only search for evidence to support their conclusion and will be totally deaf to any counter arguments.

In our analogy to split brain patients, this motivated reasoning and the concomitant deafness is the corpus callosotomy, and, god, do we ever need the collosotomy bag to catch the bullshit before it is spewed forth.

Our inability to reach across the divide to work with each other, to adhere our norms, mores, and laws, to understand the motivations of each other is getting to be akin to the surgical splitting of the hemispheres of a brain. It is exactly as if the liberals and conservatives of America are unable to communicate.

However, unlike the surgery, our inability to communicate is elective. Conservatives do not have to be so authoritarian so as to (a) steal a Supreme Court seat, (b) threaten to steal any and all Supreme Court seats from a Democratic president, (c) to use any means necessary to suppress the voting turn out of citizens likely to vote democratic, and (d) deny rights to groups identified by federal courts deserving of protection, i.e. women, PoC’s, and the LGBTQ+ community. They can choose to follow our Constitution, laws, norms, and mores that we have fought so hard to establish, promote, and defend. But, they don’t.

4 replies »

  1. The Republican Party drank the Newt Gingrich Kool Aid of the possibility of a permanent majority, in essence, a one party state, as its prime goal, a monotone value, to which all other values are subordinated. It is a “Only winning matters, and we don’t care how we do it.” position. At about the same time, Congress Persons and Senators began to stop moving to Washington (Paul Ryan sleeping in his office) and instead going home on weekends and not socializing with members of the other party (one of the knives in the national corpus callosum). The other party became simply the enemy. Only a few old dinosaurs could even utter the word “bipartisan” without having to spit.

    libertarian billionaire oligarchs (virtual anarchists) persuaded (conned) frightened “Christians” and would-be theocrats that the actually cared about abortion and gay marriage and such.

    Damn, Jack, the split brain model works to explain a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

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