I know that many progressives have come to the conclusion that electing Democrats won’t solve many of the problems we face in this country. And I agree. Although, I do think a case for incrementalism can be made…less people will die due to lack of health care, response to national disasters, etc, with a new Democratic administration. This is not something I am willing to dismiss easily. But I don’t see a Democratic administration being able to make the changes necessary to stop the continuing disaster of our foreign policy and how we treat the most vulnerable among us.
There are a lot of things that need to change in order for me to have much hope in this country. But, as I started to talk and think about in my last diary on authoritarianism, I’m most interested these days in what is wrong with our collective psyche (my therapist self just will NOT go away!!) that keeps us from even seeing these issues clearly, much less working together to demand the changes. I suppose its kind of like the difference between a “top-down” solution that would come from electing the right leader and the “bottom-up” solution of changing what people are looking for in leaders. I think the latter deserves much more attention than we have been giving to it.
There are many ways to look at this issue, but today I’m really interested in an article from Salon written by Gary Kamiya and titled Why Bush Hasn’t Been Impeached (h/t to TerranceDC). I’d recommend that everyone read the article, but I’ll just pull some of the more salient quotes to give you an idea of what he is saying:
Bush’s warmongering spoke to something deep in our national psyche. The emotional force behind America’s support for the Iraq war, the molten core of an angry, resentful patriotism, is still too hot for Congress, the media and even many Americans who oppose the war, to confront directly. It’s a national myth. It’s John Wayne. To impeach Bush would force us to directly confront our national core of violent self-righteousness — come to terms with it, understand it and reject it. And we’re not ready to do that.
Bush tapped into a deep American strain of fearful, reflexive bellicosity, which Congress and the media went along with for a long time and which has remained largely unexamined to this day. Congress, the media and most of the American people have yet to turn decisively against Bush because to do so would be to turn against some part of themselves.
To this day, the primitive feeling that in response to 9/11 we had to hit hard at “the enemy,” whoever that might be, is a sacred cow. America’s deference to the shoot-first-and-ask-questions-later approach is profound.
It is not just the law that America has turned away from, but what the law stands for — accountability, memory, history and logic itself.
A society without memory, driven by ephemeral emotions, which demands no consistency from its leaders but only gusty patriotism, is a society that is not about to engage in the painful self-examination that impeachment would mean.
This “violent self-righteousness” goes beyond just our policies about war, torture, rendition, and other crimes that our government has committed. Just take a look at other examples: We are coming dangerously close – and maybe even over the line at times – with wanting to punish people we (in all our wisdom, cough, cough) have decided MIGHT be capable of crimes (the one percent doctrine applied to the criminal justice system). And certainly rounding up and/or condemning brown people because we think they might be here illegally comes from the same place. Even our dialogue with those with whom we disagree is too often charactarized by (verbally) violent self-righteousness.
I agree with Kamiya that there is something seriously wrong with our collective psyche and until we can find a way out of the morass of violent self-righteousness, no election is ever going to change much. I wonder what would happen if we turned all the energy and money we currently spend on trying to find leaders who we think can get us out of this mess, and started using it to enact that age-old saying…”Physician, heal thyself,” might we finally begin to find what we’re looking for??