The Reverse Mirror

05/25/2011 11:50 am ET
  • Deepak Chopra CoAuthor, 'Super Genes​'; Founder, The Chopra Foundation

In a recent post I asked, "Why is conservatism so uncompassionate?" I anticipated some angry responses. I have no argument with committed right-wingers or the chronically angry, for that matter. They are what they are. But the rest of us have acquiesced to a culture of "bad is good" that reflects morality in a reverse mirror. The damage has gone very far. Just as "polite" anti-Semitism was accepted in the best drawing rooms until after World War II, we find ourselves politely tolerating grossly immoral attitudes once again.

This has always been a paradox for humane values. If you practice tolerance yourself, where does it stop? Are we to tolerate Tom Delay because he is labeled tough, effective, great at getting Republicans elected? His friends and the media at large use those approving terms all the time. Or are we to brand him as narrow-minded, authoritarian, the worst of self-serving prigs and influence peddlers? No one seems to know with any certainty.

When the words "good" and "God" are hijacked, the mirror gets even stranger. The bald fact is that right-wing fundamentalists have turned Christianity, a religion of love, into a sect of hatred. If I favor abortion rights and think the Bible doesn't belong in the classroom, then in fundamentalist circles it is "good" to vilify me and tell one's children how bad I am. It's also "good" to say that such vilification comes from God and his son Jesus. I can't understand why other conservatives, who stand fast on their so-called values, condone such attitudes except out of cynical convenience.

This shouldn't be an issue based on politics. Liberal or conservative, moral people don't go through the reverse mirror. Unfortunately, those who have switched good and bad don't understand what they've done. They've fallen prey to social conditioning. Immorality has also taken them to the highest seats of power.

Life in the reverse mirror has its price, though. Do we really imagine that humane values can survive what we've done in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo? What we've done in selling democracy out to lobbyists and corporate corruption? What we've done to generations of the poor and disadvantaged? What we've failed to do for the global ecosystem? All I can think is that truth-telling is now everyone's duty. We must practice tolerance, but that doesn't mean the reverse mirror looks just fine.