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Same Dark Spirit at Work

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This is the second installment of a series. The first installment of that "Craziness in America" series --"Obama Has to Address It"-- can be found at


It is now four and a half years since I first felt called, or pulled, into confronting the darkness that had taken control of America in the form of the Bushite regime.

In those years, there have arisen innumerable issues, and events, and players warranting comment and discussion. But beneath all the particulars, I have consistently felt, this American drama is best understood as being enacted at a more basic level-- one that might be called, for want of a better word, spiritual.

And that spiritual drama could be summed up in the ancient phrase, "the battle between good and evil" or --inasmuch as I see these in naturalistic terms, as involving the interplay of vast patterns that operate in cultural systems across the generations-- the struggle between the forces of Wholeness and those of Brokenness.

The place where I develop that idea in greatest depth is "The Concept of Evil: Why It is Intellectually Valid and Politically and Spiritually Important" (written in 2005, and posted at click here But in dozens of other essays I've continually made reference to this deeper perspective, using phrases such as "the same dark spirit" to call attention to this deep level of the human drama: the level where patterns of brokenness (or wholeness) act "as if" animated by intent, operating opportunistically so as to give the appearance that --more fundamentally than it is human beings governing events to achieve their own purposes-- it is the "spirit" that's using human beings to achieve its own destructive ends.

That notion of "the same dark spirit" seems especially relevant now. It is in this perspective that this new "rise of craziness" on the right in America can best be understood.


In recent weeks, I've come across perhaps ten commentators who have wondered out loud about the apparent folly of the course the Republicans have been taking. Why be so extreme, so obstructionist, so purely negative, so divisive, so focused on arousing their diminishing base, diminishing themselves into a regional party, making themselves so unattractive to the independent voters who will decide future elections, and so forth? Why do they seem so bent upon a path that will only compound the erosion of their political fortunes?

All good questions.

We are accustomed to looking at human action, and the conduct of professional political actors in particular, as motivated by rational calculations of how best to serve one's self-interest. Seen through that prism, the whipping up of this craziness may indeed make no sense.

But if we see these actors not so much as self-governing and rational agents but more as being (in some sense) possessed by a spirit of brokenness, this apparently self-destructive course becomes more explicable.

I wish to admit that when I speak of these "dark spirits," and of the notion of people becoming "possessed" by them, I am less than crystal clear just how these ideas are to be understood. These are dimension of our reality that, as I said in "The Concept of Evil," "are at once so difficult for us to grasp on the basis of our immediate and mundane experience [but also] so vital to understanding what’s happening in our world..."

But let's set aside the difficulties of comprehension and see how well it works to see things in this way.


First, as I just suggested, postulating this deeper spiritual level offers a solution to the mystery of the apparently self-defeating nature of the current strategy of the Republicans. It may well be that pursuing the course of whipping up craziness will condemn the Republicans to the status of a minority party for years to come.

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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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