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I, Too, Have Been Damaged by the Evil Bushite Forces

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In my recent piece, "What Happened to Hillary at the Level of the Spirit," I advanced the idea that Hillary Clinton had been morally and spiritually damaged by her traumatic encounter with the dark forces that assaulted her husband's presidency --and her personally-- during the 1990s.  Ultimately more impressed by the effectiveness than outraged by the unscrupulous and dishonest nature of the tactics which America's proto-fascists employed against the Clinton Administration, Hillary ended up emulating the dark forces that traumatized her.

The encounter with evil left on her the imprint of the pattern of evil.

I can see how I, too, have become more like the Bushite forces that I detest.

In my case, it is not a matter of adopting the Bushites' amoral, "winning is everything" approach to life and power.  The impact on me has been on a different level.

In the 1990s, I did a great deal of talk radio in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley, where I lived.  It's a very conservative area --politically, culturally, religiously-- and I felt called to create conversations that would delve into and sometimes bridge our differences on controversial topics.  My purpose on my radio shows, as I put it at the beginning of each show, was to create a conversation "in a spirit of genuine inquiry, as if we might actually learn something from one another."  I loved what felt like my ministry in modeling tolerance for diverse opinions and openness to being shown that one's own views should be changed.

Now, as I continue to do radio by phone to that area, and as I contemplate possibly resuming a program of my own on my return to that Bushite part of the country, I feel repelled by the idea of talking with those people about our political controversies.  I find what I regard as wrong-mindedness as intolerable as many of the Bushites of rural and small-town Virginia used to view my "wrong" ideas.

During the 1990s, I was quite aware that while I regarded my conservative interlocutors primarily as my fellow human beings, and embraced them as such, a good many of them looked on me --progressive, cosmopolitan, intellectual, Yankee that I am-- as a kind of enemy.  I approached the show as part of an encompassing "Us," and at least a lot of them approached me in terms of an "Us vs. Them."

Now, as my psychic system continues to process the trauma of the Bushite nightmare that these people supported, my map of humankind has become much more like theirs.  For me, the experience of fascism coming to power in America has drawn a line across the landscape-- a line that separates "Us" and "Them."  A visceral feeling tells me that those on the wrong side of that line are my enemies.

This is not how I WANT to feel.  

While I can find major justifications for my adversarial stance, and for my feelings of repugnance, I do not believe these attitudes I'm describing are the most enlightened.  If would prefer to come from another place in my heart, if I could.  But thus far, my feelings of disgust and enmity seemingly come from a place in my being beyond choice.

Where I am is, rather, part of the reverberation of my experience of trauma as the forces of darkness have swept over this land and impacted the deepest fibers of my being.  It is a traumatic injury of the soul --just as I imagine Hillary's was-- and the effects seem likely to be slow to heal.

Evil has been assaulting my country, and I felt called to place myself between the two.  On the one side, perhaps I can entitle myself to believe that I've played some small role in impeding the triumph of that evil.  But on the other, I can see in my heart that, through the intensity of this encounter, evil has left its imprint.

I have become more fearful, just like the fear-driven people through whom this evil has worked.

Where I would wish to be filled with compassion even for my enemies, my compassion now is buried beneath my scorn-- just as the people with whom I used to engage on the radio had learned to regard "librels" with scorn.  

Where I would wish to be a builder of bridges, I now can see in myself a longing to live in a world without certain sorts of people-- the people who are on the other side from me of some of our major political and cultural divides.  The moat looks better to me than the bridge.

Where I would wish to love humankind, as I always used to, I find that now my view of my kind has become harsher-- just like the harshness of those Bushites in Virginia in whom I used to try to spark some wider feeling of empathy for other people, and other kinds of people.   I now experience a Swiftian disgust at human foibles, closer to those whose sin-drenched religious vision feeds a vision of a world at war.

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Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District. His new book -- written to have an impact on the central political battle of our time -- is (more...)
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