Do your friends suffer from AUDS?

It has now been decades since the wiser and more humane adults in this society identified the injustice of stigma for all sorts of conditions. We have gone from cancer being the unspoken disease to having well-known charity drives for cancer research and treatment. We have the Americans with Disabilities Act and a solid push for parity between the treatment of physical disease and mental illnesses.

And yet in all this social progress there is a disease whose victims suffer alone and isolated, because their chronic condition is intermittently symptomatic and the expression of it is masked by its similarity to truly antisocial behavior. On most days, they are like you and me, with the full cognitive capacities that you admire them for. And then, every once in a while, out pops the expression of the disease, and the friends of its victims cringe, hope that the moment will pass, and keep in mind who their real friend is.

Of course, I speak of Anti-Union Derangement Syndrome, or AUDS.

We all know conservatives with AUDS — very sharp and hardworking people such as Fordham Institute VP Mike Petrilli who articulate reasonable views and, whether or not you agree with them, whom you know you should listen to simply because they make you think. And then, every few months on some venue, you hear something come out of their mouths that sounds much closer to the ravings of Glenn Beck than your friend who is normally a sensitive, humane conservative. It’s his AUDS that’s speaking out when he goes on an anti-union bender, not him.

We also know liberals with AUDS — yes, people such as Andrew Cuomo who come from a family with long liberal roots, who pushed forcefully for marriage equality in his state, and then does things like dismiss the continuation of a surtax on wealthy New Yorkers and simultaneously blame unions for all the state’s fiscal woes (in 2011). It’s very tempting to say it’s a calculated shifting relationship with frenemies. But it’s really AUDS.

Currently, there is no sure-fire cure for AUDS or even symptomatic help during outbursts. It is tempting to use rationality with a victim of AUDS, engaging in discussion with research about unions. Unfortunately, an AUDS flare-up is almost always accompanied by an expansion of extreme confirmation-bias syndrome, making this approach potentially counterproductive.

Until medical researchers come up with a treatment for AUDS, please be patient with its sufferers. For the most part, they are rational people, and unlike well-paid shills for the Koch brothers, they are not involved in explicit conspiracies or anti-social behavior. It’s just during an AUDS flare-up that it’s hard to tell the difference. Just pat them on the back and assure them, “I understand. This is your AUDS speaking, not you. I love you and know this will pass.”

Addendum: No, this was not sparked by any recent event, just a meditation on rationality and its occasional lapses.

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