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The Conscience of Chris Christie

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Often in the midst of my second glass of whisky do I ponder how it can be that seemingly savvy and knowledgeable people, people who clearly know better, people who you sense have a modicum of wisdom and perspective despite steaming piles of evidence to the contrary, so brutally decide against their own better judgment, against their own inner voice, against what they must know, way down deep, to be honest and true.

More broadly: how can it be that we as individuals, as a species, so often override our most innate, potent knowing simply because it is the popular choice or the thing that will gain us more votes, or Likes, or money or candy or sex or time or power or support or accolades or cocktails or bonus points or awards, particularly when we understand that such a choice will put us squarely on a collision course with illness, pain, and prescription meds by the fistful?

"How is it," I ask, already knowing the answer, "that someone like, say, New Jersey governor Chris Christie could so ruthlessly veto the gay marriage bill that came across his desk recently, as passed by his own state legislature and increasingly supported by a majority of New Jersey's (and the nation's) more open-minded residents, even as DADT gasps its last and gay marriage calmly if sporadically gains support and inevitability nation- and worldwide?"

(Warning: I'm going to assume for the sake of the next few paragraphs that Christie, a Catholic, has a shard of intelligence, appears reasonably articulate, understands what's happening in the culture and the world around him. I know, but let's just go with it.)

Indeed, part of the the answer is already encoded in the question. People like Christie are, of course, so locked like sad demons into their stiff little roles that they cannot help but toe the party line, delude themselves into believing what is so clearly a violent mischaracterization of love and marriage, even as they sell their own soul for the sake of the vote and the sneering, fundamentalist GOP nod. Hey, this is politics. The murdering of one's own humanity for the sake of power and position has been around since man first oozed out of the slime and demanded a campaign contribution.

But surely he knows. Surely he saw what just happened in Washington state, or even right next door in New York just a few months ago.

Surely he is hearing a tiny but persistent voice in the night, his own conscience as a screaming whisper: "Oh, goddammit, now I'll be one of those ugly footnotes. Now, in a handful of years when gay marriage is fully legal and no big deal, I'll be remembered as one of those dark smudges of ignorance who stood on exactly the wrong side of history, who jeered his disapproval, even if, deep down, I knew full well it's the wrong and immoral choice." Surely he knows. Don't you think?

Maybe he doesn't. This is the astonishing thing: we will choke down our better judgment, our own soul, in favor of the power and the cash, the political gain and the backslapping of approval from exactly the wrong kinds of people. Despite roughly one billion historic examples of how this is the unhealthy, hurtful, and spiritually vacuous path, we will do it anyway. Just ask the Catholic Church.

Make no mistake; this is not an immutable law. Nor is it, I believe, the true nature of the human spirit, to work from a bitterly reactive state of fear and suspicion, instead of from a proactive, intuitive state of possibility and love. It's just the way many have been trained, the prevailing modality, politicians' and organized religion's favorite weapon. Most don't know how to do it any other way. But as the wise ones and ancients say, it's also completely full of sh*t.

Occasionally, one falls through the cracks. Occasionally someone steps up, just a little, to reveal how life can actually be when you dial in to the core and listen to the true voice. It is no easy thing to do. In fact, it is often the most difficult task of all.

Occasionally you get someone like Maureen Walsh, a small-town conservative rep from the tiny burg of Walla Walla, Washington, once known for its famous apples and funny little name, and now known for its superlative vineyards and funny little name.

Did you hear?...

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Mark Morford is the author of The Daring Spectacle: Adventures in Deviant Journalism, a mega-collection of his finest columns for the San Francisco Chronicle and SFGate. He recently discussed how to be outraged in America, begged you not to eat this, and is fairly certain Jesus took magic mushrooms. Join him on Facebook, or email him. Not to mention...