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Hating Bush Only Hurts Us

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It's appropriate to dislike George W. Bush. It's reasonable to find him pathetic. We're justified in being disgusted with him. But it only hurts us if we hate him.

Hatred feels like power, as if it can annihilate those at whom it is directed. But hatred won't deter Bush and what he represents. It's more likely to strengthen him because it gives him and his followers what they're always looking for--something to oppose.

We have what we believe are legitimate reasons for our hatred. Bush ignores our ideas and beliefs. He doesn't take us seriously. Since 2002 he has completely ignored our protests against the Iraq war. With a smirk, he overrides our objections to his policies on critical issues such as global warming, taxes, the economy, health insurance, religion in public life, energy conservation, and air pollution.

Nonetheless, hatred is a self-defeating emotion. Though it feels like power it's really a phony or pseudo-power that drains our energy and defeats our purpose. The negativity of hatred has its source within us. Often, it arises from our own unresolved entanglement in a sense of helplessness and powerlessness. We need to eliminate this negative emotion for the sake of political progress as well as for our health and happiness. Let me explain.

Right-wing commentators get a lot of traction with undecided voters when they accuse us of being hateful toward the president. The claim that we're anti-American is thrown into the package deal for their readers and listeners. Millions of voters are persuaded that we're negative and acrimonious. They're tempted to believe the worst about us because doing so eases their inner doubts about their own goodness and value.

Roger Cohen, editor at large of the International Herald Tribune, wrote last month that, "Among hyperventilating left-liberals hatred of Bush is so intense that rational argument usually goes out the window." Others are making similar points and include writers with large readerships such as Thomas Friedman of the New York Times and Joe Klein of Time magazine, along with a hoard of right-wing broadcasters. If there's a shred of evidence for their assertions, many voters jump at the chance to believe it.

Our enmity and spite, whatever much of it we harbor, can indeed affect our rationality. Is it possible, for example, that hatred is hiding out in our yearning for Bush's and Dick Cheney's impeachment? This is not to say that pursuing impeachment is wrong. It's just that an attempt to impeach them is more likely to fail if we don't clearly see the hidden motivations that might be accompanying our conscious reasons. The right wing failed in seeking Bill Clinton's impeachment, in part because the public, seeing into the right's hatred and righteousness, was not supportive of the attempt. Bush's crimes dwarf Clinton's, of course, but hatred for Bush on our side will still trigger sympathy for him on the other side.

Rancor, venom, and blocked anger only cause us emotional suffering. We want to blame our bad feelings on Bush and his policies. We are, however, less eager to acknowledge that blaming others is usually a cover-up for something we're not seeing or dealing with in ourselves. Besides, Bush is so dysfunctional that he very likely takes pleasure in causing us grief as he relishes his power over us. We don't have to go looking for extra helpings of his crow pie.

We can be more emotionally detached from the grim fact of his presidency, and still be as effective (if not more so) in overthrowing what he represents. Great satisfaction can be felt in our patriotic pursuit of democratic progress. Petty tyrants such as Bush can bring out the best in us instead of the worst. As we rise in unison to crush the feeblemindedness he represents, we may discover that our life has never been more purposeful.

As the left rises to power, we don't want to sabotage ourselves with discord and infighting. Such behaviors would emerge from the same inner source as this unchecked enmity for Bush. We simply won't be able to instill progressive values permanently into the political life of the nation if our personal evolvement is lacking. Let's be led instead, in Abraham Lincoln's words, "by the better angels of our nature."
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Peter Michaelson is an author, blogger, and psychotherapist in Plymouth, MI. He believes that better understanding of depth psychology reduces the fear, passivity, and denial of citizens, making us more capable of maintaining and growing our (more...)
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