What do liberals and conservatives have in common? According to this article by Dr. Bruce E. Levine, when their goal is to control a disruptive personality, get rid of their uniqueness, and mold them into something that fits their worldview, they’re really just two sides of the same coin; it’s an oppressive form of behavior control, any way you slice it.
For many people I know — especially many young people, Native Americans, and others alienated from American dominant culture — the difference between liberals and conservatives is only in technique used to coerce conformity and gain control.
My friend Roland Chrisjohn is a psychologist and a professor in the Native Studies Department at St. Thomas University, and he is also an Oneida of the Iroquois Nation. Roland says, “Protect me from my ‘friends’.” While his enemies on the right murdered indigenous Americans to steal their land, Indians’ so-called liberal “friends” forced assimilation through boarding schools that prohibited the use of tribal languages and customs, which made it easier to divide and conquer and then “legally” rip them off. While the right favored massacres, the liberals preferred “curing” indigenous Americans and came up with sayings like, “Kill the Indian to save the child.”
I spend a good deal of time with non-Indian kids who are also not fitting into American society, specifically its schools. A few of these kids are manipulative, exploitative caricatures of a manipulative, exploitative society. But most of the kids I see are a pleasure to hang out with precisely because they don’t fit into their schools and society; and for these kids, liberals and conservatives are also two sides of the same oppressive coin.
When I write articles or give talks questioning the wisdom of prescribing kids speed in order to get them to shut up in a classroom, pay attention to a boring teacher, and do their meaningless homework, I get superficially different — but essentially the same — reactions from self-identified conservatives and liberals.
The conservative reacts, “Yeah, these kids don’t need medication. They need their parents to get tough with them and show them whose boss. These teachers have their hands tied by liberals. Too much coddling has ruined America.”
The liberal reacts, “While I agree that some children are incorrectly diagnosed and improperly medicated, my son was getting Fs in school until he was prescribed Ritalin, and now he is going to college next fall, every parent’s dream.”
Similar to America’s liberal-conservative “Indian problem” debate, something is missing from the liberal-conservative “problem child” debate. What’s missing is the possibility that nothing is essentially wrong with these kids. What’s missing is the possibility that they simply don’t fit into the dominant culture that has opted for efficiency, bureaucracy, and corporate feudalism at the expense of meaningfulness, diversity, and genuine democracy. What’s missing is the possibility that perhaps there is something admirable about their rebellion against authoritarian hierarchies and manipulative relationships.