Now and again, I walk into the sunroom of our house, and there is my cute little fur-ball of a cat lying prone next to the window, taking in every ultraviolet ray, rolling back and forth in delight. In mere seconds, however, my fuzzy little friend can transform into a tormented sociopath.
When she spots a rabbit, chipmunk or squirrel in the backyard or up in a tree, the simple existence of the fluffy little trespasser on her turf is enough. She'll start clawing at the window, meowing with gusto, and let's face it, dreaming of dinner - with the look of a compassion-free hunter on her face.
Think Chris Christie with his nose pressed up against the window-pane of a Krispy Kreme.
I'm reminded of this during trying times, like the ones we've witnessed over the past couple of days. Namely, that we - Homo sapiens - are not as far removed from starring in Animal Planet as we like to think. We're really not all that many generations past the days when we were swinging from trees ourselves.
The lack of humanity has been evident clear across the world this week, from the con-man in California who produced a bigoted anti-Muslim film, to some crackpot, cracker of a preacher who promoted it, to a bunch of zealots in Libya who murdered innocents, people performing public service whose only crime was to be from the country from which the film hailed.
Then there was the American presidential candidate - Mitt Romney - who grinned like the Cheshire cat as he politicised the death of innocent Americans, including our ambassador to Libya. All of this occurred, mind you, within 24 hours of 9/11, when an act of unspeakable inhumanity led to mass death and suffering in the United States. Not a good few days for the human species, I'd venture to say.
What does this all tell us? Mostly, it reminds us of some sad realities with which we're already all too acquainted. That while religion and ideology can lead to spirituality and righteous passion (think the civil rights movement), they can also lead to the suppression of women's rights, the justification of economic subjugation, and when it comes right down to it, hatred for one's fellow man (and woman) for no other reason than they are "different".
The very same Christian Right politicians in places like Oklahoma, who are just shocked (shocked, I tell you!) by Islam's "barbarity" and worry that along with the wind, Sharia law, at any moment, will come sweeping down the plains (yes, they have proposed laws to address this), do their best cowboy-boot-clad impression of an American Taliban.
They are the first in line to curtail women's reproductive and economic rights, and would probably reinstitute colour-coded terror alerts to prevent "rampant lesbianism" in high school bathrooms, given the chance (yeah, I'm looking at you Senator Coburn).
|In-depth coverage of the US presidential election
Ideology, meanwhile, is the religion of political power. When you look back at this presidential election in the future, this moment will likely be Mitt Romney's Waterloo. To be so crass, so power-hungry, so tin-eared as to attack the President as your fellow countryman are being killed, and to do it with a perma-smirk on your face, that takes some serious "brass", as Bill Clinton might say.
But if Romney has done anything this campaign - besides embarrassing himself and bringing the car elevator back into vogue - it is to display raw opportunism. This is backed up by an ideological inflexibility so fanciful that it is reminiscent of the Communists that Republicans used to obsess over, mock and denigrate, when not too busy acting out scenes from Red Dawn in front of the long mirror in the basement.
Romney has now likely lost the press for good (1, 2, 3, all together now, "liberal bias!"), as the American media stops playing neutral when it comes to foreign policy. As (ostensible) human beings, the stench of a Joker-faced plutocrat almost relishing the death of other Americans just so he could stick it to the Commander-in-Chief, is not what most in the press - even in the cliquish and snob-filled world of Washington DC media - would consider "likeable", or perhaps even stable.
Yet, the sickness of right-wing extremism will continue to rear its ugly head in the Republican Party, just as it will in the most cultish precincts of Islam, Christianity, Judaism and every other major world religion. Understanding this is the first step towards any plan to try and evolve beyond our most animalistic impulses.
Cliff Schecter is an author, pundit and public relations strategist whose firm Libertas, LLC handles media relations for political, corporate and non-profit clients.
The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial policy.