Here there be monsters (socratic) wrote,
Here there be monsters

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I don't get it

I'd like some help understanding a few things about what's going on right now in American politics. I think I understand the Bush administration and its allies. It's a combination of arrogance and avarice. They think that they can reshape the world in an image of what they think democracy and freedom look like (Elections, Christianity, a fair number of civil liberties so long as they don't interfere with the government's plans too much). They also think they can help make their friends stinking rich(er) at the same time. This is a fairly crazy point of view, America simply doesn't have the population, popular will, or economy to project power AND feed the graft monster at the same time (It doesn't even really have the resources for the power projection in and of itself.) It's crazy, but it's understandable. Great powers have always over-reached.

What I don't understand is the popular support. I've tried to understand, seriously tried. Directly after the election I was reacting with anger and betrayal over what happened. I'm still angry, still betrayed, but I'm trying to understand. 59 million people voted for Bush. I think it's safe to assume that not all of them were brainwashed pseudo-cultists, or arrogant greedy businesspeople, or even racist traditionalists. 59 million, it's a hell of a number.

The thing is, I can only see a few legitimate reasons to vote for Bush. One is greed. Rich people want more money and Bush will deliver it to them, at least at first. Torpedoing the dollar and hoisting the debt up to Everest levels will eventually cause economic ramifications that will hit the rich in their pocketbooks, but maybe they don't think so. I've heard arguments that deficits don't matter, and maybe people think they really don't. On the other hand some rich people might like to live in a country with a greater disparity of wealth, even if it means their absolute wealth is lower. There's something nice about having a beautiful mansion in a land of shacks if you want to play at being a blue blood. They'll be able to hire more servants, and their servants will be more obsequious. I get the rich.

The abortion issue also sort of makes sense to me. Some people think abortion is murder, and if that's something they truly believe then I could imagine that trumping all other issues. Imagine if you thought the government was letting 1.3 million murders a year go unpunished for WHATEVER reason. Wouldn't that trump any other issue that might come up in a political discussion? That makes sense to me, although it's weird how abortion constantly gets shoved to the side both in the debate and when it comes to actual policy initiatives. If George Bush truly does believe abortion is murder, why isn't he pushing that as his number one agenda with his political capital? Why restrict the activity to the partial birth abortion ban, which really only bans a particular procedure. The ban itself is odd in that it does not have an exemption for a situation where a mother's life may be in jeopardy. The whole thing just strikes me as odd and confusing. I think that most people who oppose abortion don't really think it's murder, at least not murder like walking up to a five year old and bashing his head in would be. There are some who do, and they're out there with their signs and their screaming and even occasional shooting just like you and I would be if there were concentration camps around where they were putting innocent people to death. The rest of the anti-abortion folks seem to find it distasteful and unsettling. I find abortion distasteful and unsettling, more so the later into the pregnancy it is. I find a lot of things distasteful and unsettling, from Ku Klux Klan meetings to religious home-schooling. It's not a reason to ban something. It's certainly not an issue to make your decision on in a time like this.

Beyond the abortion issue things get hazy for me. Some people support the war in Iraq for humanitarian reasons. I think that's silly, considering the humanitarian disaster Iraq is today, but it's sort of understandable. Saddam Hussein was a bad bad man and there's no reason to believe he would have started behaving better. It's possible to be optimistic that Iraq will improve in the fairly near future. I'm not optimistic about that, but one could be. On the other hand if the issue is humanitarian then why are we ignoring the Sudan, why are we trying detente with North Korea, why Iraq of all places? We know Iraq was less friendly towards terrorism before the invasion. We know how much the invasion is costing us and how much political capital it has cost us in the world. The Iraqi war doesn't make sense as an act of humanitarian largess.

Also the Iraqi war wasn't the reason people voted for Bush. The biggest issue that went for Bush was moral values, and that doesn't make much sense to me either, outside of abortion which we've already covered. Bush has lied to the country, has given big tax cuts to the wealthy, and has shown little interest in actually making the government more, well, Christian. I'm not really anti-Christianity more than I am anti any other religion. I think its basic tenants are actually pretty wonderful. Faith, personal responsibility, care for the least fortunate first (as well as caring for everybody in general), nonviolence, non judgment, and love. There are some aspects of Christianity I don't like much, like the relentless self-criticism and thought policing, but the fundamental concepts seem sound.

The thing is, Christianity by its nature is a personal religion, and whenever it's been shoehorned into a hierarchy it's gotten away from its basic belief structure. Look at the Catholic church, which did everything from try to run governments to kill people to sell indulgences. I'm pretty sure that when Jesus said it was harder for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to get into heaven he didn't mean because getting into heaven was REAL EXPENSIVE. Look at all the churches that endorsed slavery during the beginning of this nation and segregation after (although admittedly most abolitionists were very religions. That's the part of Christianity I like a lot.)

Modern Christianity is decentralized though. People switch churches and even denominations on a regular basis (This is very strange to me. If you think you know the ultimate truth once, and then you change your opinion and think you know the ultimate truth to be a little different than you thought it was, doesn't it enter your brain that just maybe you DON'T know the ultimate truth?) Why then would people ignore the primary Christian values for minor things like gay marriage? I'd agree that if you read the bible there's condemnation of homosexuality and on the balance Christian morality is against it. On the other hand, it's like #17 or 18 of things that Christianity is against, while the Bush government pursues policies that violate much more important aspects of Christian morality. Right now the Bushies are proposing eliminating tax incentives to employers who provide health care for their employees. This is just a way to hand cash to corporations while reducing the health care available to individuals. We're killing people in Iraq, including those who are injured and can no longer defend themselves. The U.S. government has an official policy of "Fuck the poor, we need to shovel more money into the trough of the wealthy."

So where's the morality? Is it a 'culture war' thing? Is it about things like nudity on television and the lack of traditional morality? Desperate Housewives doesn't only get ratings in New York and LA. Conservatives get divorced and screw around and do all the stuff they rail against too. South Carolina has the country's highest drunk driving fatality rates. Is this a matter of wanting to be saved from themselves? How is that moral?

I know ignorance has a role to play, people don't understand that Bush is the worst thing that's happened to the war on terror since the cellphone, and that he masquerades well but the more I read various theories and ponder the issues the more I feel like there's something, well, fundamental missing in this discussion.

The best theory I can come up with is that people are dissatisfied with the culture as it is now. They are tired of the shallowness, the callow way people treat one another, and the lack of community. They are searching for something to bring back a sense of certainty and balance to the world, and they think that authority and polarized rhetoric can do that. John Kerry was lambasted for changing his position on various issues. In a complicated world you need to constantly be re-evaluating issues and changing positions. It might not be comfortable but it's the way things work.

So why can't people recognize this and make satisfying lives for themselves despite or even because of the dynamic nature of the information age? Why do they reach out to regressive bullshit rather than seek philosophies that are more flexible and open? I don't understand. I have theories but I don't understand.
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