President Obama and President Bush make seperate State of the Union addresses
(Image by Ryan E. Hoffman) Permission Details DMCA
From 2000-2008 the government of the United States of America used fear, strong arm tactics, and a coordinated campaign of misinformation to promote a war that led to the deaths of 100,000 innocent civilians, thousands of coalition soldiers, and the almost complete erosion of at least two of the original ten civil liberties outlined in the Bill of Rights. Our collective memory of these events is so short, I have already begun to see odious bumper stickers asking if we've missed number 42 yet.
Yet even under a new Democratic administration, the American people remain largely indifferent to the collapse of basic constitutional protections. The current President of the United States, who, during his campaign, vowed to end the thuggish Nixon/Kissinger-like practices that had occurred over the previous two terms, has engaged in a secret war in Pakistan and Yemen, extended Guantanomo Bay and the complete suspension of Habeas Corpus , publicly authorized assassination of American Citizens, stripped whistle blowers of any recourse to expose corruption in government, and worked together with the Republican party to exert diplomatic force to quell a criminal case (original link in Spanish here ) being built against Bush's senior officials who falsified intelligence and set up a torture network around the globe! And yet, when these facts are brought up in discussion with certain liberals, their immediate reaction is to act as apologists for the administration. Their response to the facts at hand, invariably, is to point out how globally and domestically destructive the Bush/Cheney doctrine was. If we are to believe this fallacious, strawman reasoning, then we are to be grateful for the modest change we have experienced under Obama's new covenant, and mute any criticism or misgivings about his apparent embrace of Bush era executive abuses.
It seems Democratic sycophants are as dexterous at employing the fear technique as their Republican counterparts were. In 2004, the Republicans expertly manipulated public opinion with empty jingoistic and xenophobic rants from Washington. Democrats were "soft on terror," and if Republicans left office, Americans would be at the mercy of Al Qaeda. Only Republicans would and could keep America safe. In 2010, Democrats have turned that argument on its head: give power back to those wackos and watch the stock market crash again, watch your liberties disappear! Mention the fact that those same civil liberties lost during the Bush years have yet to be restored during the Obama years, and you may be labeled "some kind of tea bagger," or just unrealistically impatient.
Neither side can bear to hear any criticism of their leaders, and debates over alleged criminal or unconstitutional behavior typically devolve into a childish pissing contest of "I'm rubber and you're glue." This willful ignorance and blind deference to party dogma is akin to the behavior of another type of group: religious cults.
It should come as no surprise that, with the fusion of religion in politics, political parties themselves have taken on the same sociological phenomenons as religion itself. Cult like allegiance to political leaders is nothing new, and has, in fact, been the hallmark of many modern political movements. Even the "Atheist" regime of Stalin mirrored the messianic fanaticism exhibited by religion. In a recent debate, Daniel Dennett, a Philosophy professor at Tufts University and the Co-director at the Center for Cognitive Studies, argued a similar point.
"Let's think about Stalin for a moment. Was he an Atheist? At first you might think, 'well of course he was an Atheist,' but on the contrary, I think in a certain sense, he wasn't an Atheist at all. He believed in God. He believed in a god whose will determined what right and wrong was, and he was sure of the existence of this god. And the god's name was: Stalin."
The first step in merging religious fervor and political ideology is to create a climate of fear, necessitating a messianic savior. Frightened people are easily manipulated. As Naomi Klein points out in her book The Shock Doctrine , there is no better way for a government to enact or prevent radical policies than to terrify its populace. Religious cults promise paradise, but rely on fear to cow the congregation into obedience. The town hall hysteria surrounding the raging healthcare debate of last year was certainly reminiscent of the "fire and brimstone" sermons of pentecostal churches.
Like religions, the two major political parties in the United States exist to subvert each other and dominate with their own talking points, on talking shop media outlets with talking heads, and build up a frenzy of their own base to extend the battle to civilization: to the streets, to the dinner table, to the water cooler, to the bar, to our relationships, to our community centers, to our homes; our family to distract us from realizing their control over our daily lives. Their facts and rhetoric given to us to repeat like Gospel, or a prayer. Main lines of political ideology memorized like a creed. Satellite organizations like MoveOn.org or CPAC operate as their Jesuits, proselytizing to newcomers and their already hooked. Facts ignored, gross human rights abuses ignored, as long as everyone can chant "Four More Years!" in two, nobody breaks party discipline and points out the constitutional defilement by the current party popes.
Democrats are right to fear a Republican return to power. This past election you had individuals running for office on the Republican ticket that were giving vague hints towards physical violence, or whose campaign volunteers aggressively perpetrated brute squad techniques to silence opposition at a rally, but does that mean the current President gets a pass? Obama has not just continued, but has escalated the same policies that enraged Democrats and liberal media for 8 years; that sparked massive protests outside the RNC in New York in 2004; that were cause for keynote speeches in primary elections in 2008.
Do we now excuse the president for these hideously unconstitutional and criminal transgressions because he is a Democrat? If the answer to this central question is "yes" or some weak rationalization for this behavior, then, as a culture, we have landed in a place that is not so much ironic as anomic. Mum is the word in Washington among Democrats in these matters. Equally mum are the Republicans outside of the five minute moral stands of Ron Paul, but I suppose that's to be expected: they cannot really cry foul when they instituted the policies in the first place.
How can anyone call him or herself "liberal-minded", and yet blind themselves to the perversion of all of our hopes for a brighter future of restoration to constitutional civil liberties? How can anyone call him or herself "conservative" and not admit the massive expansion of government under a "conservative" president? And how can anyone deny that the American political system has degenerated into a modern day power struggle between two cults with no other interest than to maintain dominance?