There’s an old adage that goes back into the mists of history: The greater the evil we try to depose, the more hatred we’ll encounter.
Arianna Huffington asked Nancy Pelosi in an interview last week, “Are you too well-behaved to get us out of Iraq?” It would have been more germane to the reality of our predicament if Huffington had asked: “How would you feel about all the hatred you would encounter if you were to become effective in routing the neo-cons and the evil they stand for?”
Here are two more questions Pelosi might ponder: Please tell us why this time in our history is any less earthshaking than 1776? Do we need as much fearlessness and revolutionary spirit now, in 2007, in order to secure our democracy and create a sustainable economy?
In the interview, Pelosi gave her standard reply about trying hard to end the war in Iraq, noting the forthright criticisms she has made of the president’s leadership. “I don’t think the president thinks I have been a lady in terms of what I’ve said about him and this war,” she said to conclude her answer.
Why did she say that? Why should she give a depreciating nickel for what that man thinks about her manners! Also last week Pelosi revealed some likely guilt concerning her ineffectiveness when she said at a luncheon with reporters: “I don’t disagree with the public evaluation that we have not done well in ending this war.”
This all reeks of codependency. Codependents or enablers are usually “well-behaved” on the surface, but nonetheless are passive and in denial. Some of their worst features include a willingness to endure unpleasant situations rather than take action, a readiness to blame personal failures on external circumstances, and a tendency to imagine the worst that can happen and allow that impression to paralyze them.
Codependents are also compulsive reactionaries—they’re always reacting passive-aggressively to the individual on whom they are emotionally fixated and whose wrath they fear. She’s trying her hardest, Pelosi says, to wrench Bush’s bloody hands off the war machine. But she and the Democrats are like children who, though abused and marginalized, still find their place in the universe by gravitating like satellites around their drunken, crazed, bloody-eyed father. Such children are convinced they’ll perish or die if they were to try to escape that environment. The Democrats, it appears, are convinced they’ll die a political death if they move out independently to cut off war funding or impeach Bush. Though he’s blackmailing them with the lives of our soldiers, Pelosi and the Democrats are playing by the rules. There’s a time and place for the rules, of course, but in extraordinary times such as these we can perish by the rules.
Consider the extent to which Martin Luther King was hated. King believed in “a radical revolution of values,” as he put it, and he devised his own rules for engaging the enemy. He knew that heroism and death are partners in great leadership. He led the country forward during “an era of revolution”—again to use his words. In 1967 he took a public stand against the war in Vietnam when he identified a correlation between the brutal consequences of America’s military economy and the social abuses inflicted on this country’s poor.
What King said wasn’t altogether different from what Peter Stark, the San Francisco Democrat, said last week in the House of Representatives (for which he was rebuked by Pelosi following an outburst of right-wing rage). You refuse, Stark said, to fund health insurance for children. “But you’re going to spend it to blow up innocent people if we can get enough kids to grow old enough for you to send to Iraq to get their heads blown off for the president’s amusement.”
Stark may lack some of King’s eloquence, but Pelosi clearly lacks King’s revolutionary imagination. She is a refined and gracious person, and as a politician she would obviously prefer to conduct the nation’s business in a civil manner. However, trying to destroy the neo-cons that way is like thinking there’s a shortcut to the moon. If Pelosi is going to fulfill her destiny, she needs to move toward the hatred, into the hatred, and through the hatred, ablaze with the fervor of the Lady of Liberty and possessed of a willingness to die for us. She will be protected by her goodness, by our emotional support, and by her determination to represent the nation’s best interests. The more hatred she feels, the better. It means she’s flushing out the bowels of darkness where the national-security state and predatory and disaster capitalism grind our laboring muscles into the blood of perpetual war and the pulp of infinite debt.
Let her evoke the spirit of great American women before her, many of them much hated by vile rogues, regular bad guys, and slow learners. Abigail Adams, Harriet Tubman, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, and Gloria Steinem never apologized for their activism and ardor. Remember, too, what the T-shirts say: “Well-behaved women seldom make history.”