Filed in Gather Politics News Channel by on September 10, 2008 0 Comments


Let me see if I can try to address why I am so passionately fearful of the McCain and Palin ticket – about which I have no difficulty stating my categorical position without any reservations. I consider myself relatively fair, and reasonable and try to be as open minded as I can. But when I sense danger my antenae protrude full length as I become hyper aware of unsettling details.

So what unsettling details about the Republican ticket have me so hyper aware?

I lived through the Nixon election and presidency fearful before, during, and post his term in office – as it turned out, rightfully so. My suspicion that Tricky Dick from the very inception of his running for President was not trustworthy proved to be true. I had the same hyper concern when George Bush first ran for President but I gave him a pass. But all doubts vanished as he validated my negative assessment of him during his second four years. That the two of them happen to be Republicans is not the issue. I would sense the same danger if one or both of them were Democrats.

 I will try to analyze my admittedly biased reactions.

There are a few books whose content and style captures the essence of my strong concerns. These include: R.D. Laings' Politics of Experience, One Flew Over the Cuukoos' Nest, The Caine Mutiny, and most importantly Eric Fromms' Escape from Freedom.

Fromm asks the question, why in Nazi Germany were so many sensitive and highly educated and sophisiticated people deluded by their charismatic leader, who was idolized and idealized expressed in the collective roars of Heil Hitler!Wasn't it obvious that he was manipulating them and playing to their basest instincts? I am inclined to believe most people felt that way but were motivated less by reason than by the need to avoid uncertaintly anxiety.

Fromm's profound title: Escape from Freedom, asserts that uncomfortable existential anxiety is an unavoidable fact of everyone's life whether tolerated or not. Psychotherapists  know that most new patients  complain about painful and dreaded anxiety which is often the central motivator  driving them into treatment hoping that the therapist is able to relieve them of their pain if not get rid of it forever.  

Normal anxiety intensifies in bad times. Bad times are characterized by fears of economic ruin, threats to life and security (terrorism, increased crime), rampant corruption, multiple crises of trust, unrealibility, caring. These factors are all present in our world.

Anxiety is contagious. Witness how typically God fearing folks in both the North and the South when whipped up with excitement and fear transformed into collective lynch mobs revelling in placing nooses over the heads of strangers  they didn't like, gleefully hanging them from the nearest trees.

Fromm believes that people, individually and collectively will go to great lengths in order not to experience anxiety head on. In the pursuit of this aim they often quite willing to project their final authority onto leaders who promise everything good but typically abuse their authority once iit is consolidated. More often than not these abusive authorities think in black white extreme dichotomous thinking.

 Their ethic is you are either part of the problem or part of the solution. Loyalty is the highest value, dissent is the worst. They typically come across as totally confident, tough as nails, absolutely certain about their positions, believe they have a direct connection with God whose grand plan they are enacting for the benefit of all mankind. (Woe to those who don't happen to like the particulars of the stated plan).

Thus a grand bargain is made between the collective and the apparently super-hero leader. The bargain consists of: just give up one's final authority to the great leader expecting in return, the leader  takes care of them by providing external structure.

In so doing the ruled are able to cope with their fears, and doubts by projecting blind faith in the idealized leader of the moment. Rather than wrestle with trying to answer the big questions of life: who am I, who and where is my self, what is truly valueable to me and the likes, they often by pass such complicated questions and look too the revered leader to assure them that he or she knows the absolute answers to all of these complicated problems. This blind faith in the super powers of the idolized leader – has the net effect of reducing the dreaded experience of painful anxiety. However, this false security is paid for by individuals sacrifcing their freedom. 

Now,{I am tempted to say my dear friends} these false leaders are easily spotted. All of them profess openness, honor, loyalty, power to the people, country above all else -but when push comes to shove, they act to stifle all significant dissent.

They pretend to be fair and reasonable but characteristically turn out to be obtuse, mystifying, distorting, twisting facts to suit their aims, shamelessly switching positions when it suits their political positions, obfuscating the truth, simplyfing complex issues into superfluidies, asserting the need for unity and inclusiveness while actually acting in  devisive ways to purposefully sow division, and exclusion, to keep the natives restless and fearful of one another. Instead of working towards true unity their hidden agenda is to divide and conquer. 

They claim to seek the peace but  are more comfortable with war as they are unable and willing to take any responsibility for failures instead projecting their messes onto an external enemy. Note – our present enemy is exclusively the "terrorists" never ourselves.

Real leaders are trustworthy – relatively consistent. They say what they mean and they mean what they say. They characteristically have a more balanced view of the nature of evil and failure often expressed as the Pogo problem. "We have met the enemy: it is us).

We all know that the most successful therapy experience is when we can start with a fear ridden patient and help them learn how to grow up. Growing up means moving from reactive to reflective, to have healthy self esteem (healthy narcissism). This means that a mature person will be able to have a relatively objective awareness of both their strengths and weaknesses. They will not have false modesty nor will they rationalize their lacks. Above all successful patients will accept themselves as their own final authority, stand on their own two feet planted firmly on the ground, demonstrating an attitude of benevolent neutrality towards all strangers: affirming those who are trustworthy while being chary about those who are not.

Such successful patients will be firmly flexible – with the emphasis being on the firm part. They will be suspicious of all authority that professes freedom but acts to curtail differences and dissent.

I hope you can now better understand why I firmly believe we are at a historical crossroads. We can either vote for sophistry or for enlightened although imperfect leadership. If it turns out that my favorite candidates lose this election and we get another government like the Nixon and the Bush eras, we will have no one to blame but ourselves.

May the best leaders prevail.

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