Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Here's someone else's post -- and my response

Over on AirAmerica Radio, I saw this post which struck me as penetrating and worthwhile:

"'m going absolutely insane considering the idea that there is even a remote possibility that Bush may actually win another term as President (if that is even what you can call him). I have done a lot of thinking about how this could possibly be the situation we find ourselves in. The only conclusion I can reach is that it's the fault of the citizens. Of course you can point fingers at the media, at the lying liars, and the absolute circumvention of good-faith political discourse. However, if the people do not go the extra mile and look past the propaganda, the fault falls on their shoulders. Here are all the offenders that I can think of, feel free to add to this list.Overly "Macho" MenFor some reason, many men have decided that the macho thing to do is support Bush. This insane "kill 'em all and let god sort 'em out" mentality that many men adopt in order to prove some self percieved testosterone quota has been met meshes perfectly with Bush's unwavering dedication to war.Religious FanaticsOverly religious people believe that their beliefs are more important than the United States. They believe that the constitution should be subserviant to the bible, even when the two are in contradiction. Bush caters to these people at every turn. I know he isn't one of them completely because war profiteering isn't exactly a Christian activity (although that fact hasn't stopped them in the past).Irrationally Frightened PeopleWe live in a post-9/11 world. Obviously, 2004 comes after 2001. However, when Bush and his supporters bring that fact up time and time again, they are really saying "be afraid, be very afraid". The idea that terrorists didn't exist before 9/11 is a crazy one, and the expectation that attacks will hit the United States with voracious frequency is completely counter-intuitive. Yet that is the exact assertion planted when "post-9/11 world" is uttered before some rediculous comment. Unfortunately this preface to a statement, to many people, gives the statement a visceral response. These people believe that Bush has somehow thwarted all kinds of attacks because reality doesn't fit their expectations. They believe Bush will keep us safe, even though every single act on his part proves otherwise.Greedy PeopleSome people refer to this group as "fiscal conservatives". They would gladly do away with many important social programs just to save fifty bucks in taxes. These people only see the ® next to Bush's name and assume that their interest in "small government" will be met. They are duped into thinking that it's true because, at the expense of the security of the United States' economy, Bush gives them tax cuts that we cannot afford. They don't understand that, in the long run, they will wish they could give that money back when they realize what they have lost is worth a lot more than fifty dollars. These people also don't realize that the republican spending platform far exceeds the democrats.Out-Of-Control "Nationalists"The insane idea that blindly supporting the president is a prerequisite to being an American is an extremely dangerous proposition. One man deciding what an entire nation does without question is called a dictatorship. The people guilty of this un-American American Nationalism are the ones who say "screw the UN". They are the same ones who feel unilateralism, for any reason, is preferable. These are the people who claim that not supporting the war is somehow an inslut to the troops. They also claim that pointing out any flaw in the United States or its actions is an indicator that you hate America. These people love Bush because he loves to tell the rest of the world to shove it.Stupid PeopleTo a certain extent this is an umbrella for the other groups, however, there are plenty of people that don't fit into the other categories that still fit into this category. These morons can't see past the propaganda of Republican pundits. They believe the answer to the question "Why shouldn't we hold Bush accountable" is "because Kerry is a Flip Flopper". Logic eludes these people at every turn. For some reason the facts are lightly dealt with after the conclusion is drawn, and in dealing with the facts, they pick and choose which ones to look at depending on whether or not the information fits the conclusion they have already reached. Unfortunately, stupid people are the majority in both the United States and the rest of the world.-This is my first post, thanks for bearing with me.. I look forward to some discourse based in reason and fact (for a change). "

From a poster called richbleak, I believe.

Here's my reply:Re: Richbleak’s thoughtful post:

I have been struggling with the same questions, and have long thought the “blame-Bush/blame-the-media” story line allows our fellow citizens off the hook far too easily. The truth is about half of us approve of Mr. Bush – did in 2000, and do now. I think your breakdown touches on the main strains of Bush support, though I’m sure people could and will quibble with some details.

Americans have a long and shameful history of embracing the sort of public madness which is currently raging across our land. From the very beginning, fanatical zealotry has been a persistent strain in our nation’s history. Breaking it generally requires two things: 1) a sort of fanaticism-fatigue, where expending so much energy on something so abstract and irrelevant seems less and less worthwhile to more and more people; and 2) a catalytic event/leader. The current election cycle seems to me to demonstrate increasing fatigue. We nearly had a catalyst in Howard Dean’s mad dash for true progressivism. Whether or not John Kerry’s run for the WH will be catalytic will turn on whether he wins.

I alternate, basically based on the last thing I read, between being absolutely convinced that this current cycle of public hysteria is breaking like a wave, and will soon seem as silly and shameful as McCarthyism, or alternately being absolutely convinced that we are in fact trudging inexorably down the same path that Germany and Italy went down in the 30’s, and that the insipient fascism we’re seeing has a strong enough hold that we’re all doomed and had better move to remote New Zealand ASAP.

For many, trying to influence which of these visions comes to pass involved political activism. I know it does for me. But it also requires us to remember that our deluded fellow citizens aren’t truly all that different from the rest of us, and that what unites is can be stronger than what divides us. I come from red-state country, have family there, and still visit often. I talk with people who support Bush and can be categorized as overly macho, religious fanatics, irrationally frightened, greedy, nationalists and/or stupid. It seems to me that what these folks have in common is fear. Machismo is an outward response to in inner insecurity, no? And, when I hear religious fanatics explicating their elaborate theories at length, the thought I cannot stop having is that these people are desperately trying to convince themselves, not anyone else. To want so badly to believe in these palpably unbelievable stories shows, to me, enormous fear. I think greed is just greed in some cases, but when I hear middle-class people talk about politics, it is mostly fear that the liberal democrats are going to take what little they have in the form of high taxes. I could go on, but I think most thoughtful people will agree that Bush supporters are powerfully driven by fear. The best way to win them over is not to attack them, or make fun of them, but to support them, embrace them, help them understand that the path out of fear is not hatred, as the Bushes say, but is through hope and love, as the Democrats say. Republican thought plays a valid and useful role in our system when it is the voice of caution, the reminder that people sometimes behave badly, and the keeper of our worst fears. Similarly, Democrats are the party of change, progress, hope and the future – keeper of our fondest hopes and desires. The fair interplay of these forces produces appropriate change over time. We shall see, soon enough, whether this balance is to be restored, or whether the forces of evil have even more triumphs in store. But the best way I can see to effect the outcome is to recognize that those on the right are not so different from those on the left, that in most respects we really do agree on most things, and that like it or not, we are certainly stuck with each other so the best course is to make the best of our common strengths and interests.

I see a lot of hate and vitriol on liberal sites, and I can certainly understand the frustration. I am of course not immune from it. But it is not the way to move things forward.

Thoughts, anyone?

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