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Wednesday, November 03, 2004


understanding my opposites

at this time four years ago, i was relatively happy. gore, i had surmised, was running a campaign too populist for my liking and was abandoning his 'new democrat' heritage. (and, while clinton had been a decent president, he had also been a damned liar under oath -- intolerable for one who wishes for accountability). bush, on the other hand, made consistent noises about tolerant "compassionate conservatism", a humbler foreign policy without kosovo-style interventionism, support of free trade and a healthy appreciation for clinton's (lucky) fiscal rectitude and the need to continue it.

then came 9/11 -- and bush became exactly the opposite of everything i thought he campaigned on. and he proved himself a damned liar, and potentially a jesus-freak fascist besides.

so, though i didn't vote for bush in 2000, i ostensibly backed him -- and his betrayal of all promises is a political lesson this voter will not forget soon.

but i cannot say i really understand fully his supporters now. philosophically, i find it confusing -- and disquieting. accountability? civil rights? fiscal prudence? all have been summarily junked by many people who heretofore claimed (facetiously, apparently) that such principles stood at the heart of their politics.

and for what? i continue to ask and observe and formulate, but i've come upon a few things, i think.

group identification --
many republicans, as with many democrats, don't think politically. their fathers' chose their team for them when they were small, and they have no thought or reason to controvert what they were told. the political arguments they might use to defend themselves are taken rote from stock propaganda, and have no meaning to them beyond group identification.
greed --
the more machiavellian bush supporter, i think, may find that the end justifies the means. small government particularly is a useful battle cry when one is attempting to rein in one's opponents in power, but loses much of its appeal when actually pulling the levers. with their team (which is all that matters, having no principles of consequence to defend) empowered, stabs at global conquest are welcomed. there's nothing wrong with being unprincipled, but that's what it is. most of these believe that "tax cuts" materially enrich them -- even if they don't, for perception is all that matters.
these two i cannot argue -- unprincipled followers exist on both sides, and one can only hope they cancel each others' deleterious effects.

but the rest i find more bewildering.

terrorism --
particularly, the galvanizing, petrifying fear of what they saw on the television that september morning. so pervasive and profound is that fear (and the associated anger) that many have been trapped in a paranoid mania ever since, unable to assess risk reasonably (as though that were a human strong point anyway) and act accordingly. it has made it easy for them to see enemies in allies like france, germany and china; and it has colored their perception of myriad issues, making all seem as terrorism, including iraq.
morality --

coming from a rural background, i'm sympathetic to cultural conservatives. i, like them, see a civilization hellbent on antisocial emancipated individualism at all costs, fleeing from its traditions. to live in a time of decadence is disconcerting, and i'm convinced many conservatives feel that and are trying to resolve it through stabs at primitivism.

these folks, for better or worse, have cast their lot with the republicans. but i think they number fewer -- the genuine article, that is -- than many suppose. for they are suffused and hidden within a broader, disingenuous, non-traditional religious movement in america of ideological christian fundamentalism. these cults have risen to power only in the last few decades, preaching values as a means to power, offering catharsis to the weak-willed who are confused, displaced by decadent times and seeking clarity.

but few strongminded conservatives, it seems to me, can reconcile philippians 2:3 or colossians 2:18 with what they see in the rise of evangelical christian cults.

national arrogance --
this too crosses the aisle, and it is repugnant wherever it is found. it has been long brewing, but the doctrine of 'american superiority' has now found its center and clearest manifestation in neoconservatism, which is underpinned by a revisionist nationalist mythology and openly calls for the establishment of an american planet -- an 'empire of liberty' (without irony, as though it was not oxymoronic) centered on a totalitarian central government led by enlightened american neoconservatives.

such messianic utopianism quickly finds common cause and method with christian cults. in such a worldview, american will is virtually holy, its aims virtuous by definition, its enemies likewise evil. and, given the extreme polarity of such definition, good is unrestricted in the pursuit of its crusade against evil.

when animated by the use against us of terrorism -- which is willfully recharacterized strictly as the maliciousness of a religious enemy and a challenge to our national existence, instead of the desperate method of a popular insurgency against misrule that it is -- there then exists a hubristic, noxious tripartite cocktail that has proven very intoxicating for many americans.
i find traces of all these aspects in the writings of many bush supporters. stephen green conveys arrogance and terrorism paranoia here, for example.

having now four more years under george bush, i will carefully watch for signs that his support is deteriorating, either as a result of some event or simply by the loss of momentum that manias often succumb to. but i eagerly await it, for it would offer an opportunity for a return to the sensible, humble and decent government for which the united states was once known.

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