The Comfort of Illusion
We have come to prefer the comfortable lie to the uncomfortable truth —Bill Moyers, Washington Post, September 1, 1991.
Why is President Bush popular? The answer is really quite simple. Americans prefer the comfort of illusion. Americans want to believe in myths and fairy tales. Logic is reserved for the most interesting characters of science fiction. The majority of Americans prefer to play make-believe. Politicians understand our collective need to be comfortable and play to that need.
Here are some myths that need to be challenged.
There is one God and He's on our side.
I apologize to the millions of caring Americans (including Bill Moyers) whose religious faith gives them both strength and courage but listening to apologists of Trent Lott point to his religious faith as they absolve him of his sins has sent me into a rant. Like Trent, I believe that Christianity and other monotheistic religions should be taught in public schools. Unlike Trent, I would combine them with a curriculum including Greek and Native American mythology. I loved Greek mythology and I am sure that kids would love to be taught Judeo-Christian mythology as well. Mythology that explains creation—along with countless stories of temptation, murder, sex, and violence—should keep the kids awake in class.
Understandably, in a time wherein the physical world has constantly revealed more and more of itself, we have chosen to believe in myths to explain what we can not comprehend. We have evolved from worshipping the sustenance of life, to multiple heavenly gods with human bodies and animal heads, to the one real god who made us in his image. My favorite myth is that God made man in his image. It tells us so much about our social development. We are egotists. Not only did our individual genetic material beat 40 million other sperm cells to fertilize that lucky egg, but we also won the God's-favorite-country lottery over 94% of the world's population. We've got God on our side and he's grrrrrrrrreat!
Of course, logic dictates that we made God in our own image. Based on facts and logic, the religious beliefs of many Americans would qualify them as real-life cast members for Milos Forman's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest or Frederick Wiseman's Titicut Follies. George Carlin, whose rant on religion should be in the hall-of-fame of comedy, can speak sensibly about God and religion because he is a comedian. Politicians need to keep telling the comfortable lie.
The United States is intervening in the Middle East to promote democracy and to protect homeland security.
One could be deaf, dumb, and blind and yet comprehend the truth that the United States is intervening in Afghanistan and Iraq to control vast amounts of oil reserves. Oil is why the Soviets invaded Afghanistan and why the United States originally supported the Mujehedeen rebels and their campaign to destroy the oil pipelines that the Soviets attempted to build. Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the world. The United States has approximately 6% of the world's population and consumes over 20% of the world's oil. We are in Afghanistan for the same reasons the Soviets were; September 11 just gave us a better pretext for invasion than Soviet marketing ever could. Then again, is it not our religous destiny to return to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers?
A generation of American intervention around the globe has been justified as what the United States of America does to protect the democracy that makes our country great. The 2000 election exposed this myth for all to see. African-Americans were openly and systematically stripped of their right to vote. The suffrage granted to African-Americans after the abolition of slavery and with the advent of Reconstruction had historically been fought by southern Democrats. Those voting rights were now fought vigorously by the Bush family dynasty and the Republican Party, with the aid of the United States Supreme Court. Adding insult to injury, the Court used the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution to justify handing the presidency to a man and a machine that African Americans had rejected by a 19 to 1 margin. Did Americans rise up in opposition to this travesty of justice to support democracy? No, Americans pretended that the rule of law resolved a crisis when the facts indicated a political coup d'état had taken place. Logic tells the real story. Politicians, especially Republican politicians, need to keep telling the comfortable lie.
President Bush will keep the American people secure.
I question even the premise of this myth, given that the American public is about as secure as a Boston altarboy alone on an overnight camping trip with a parish priest. Bush has thrived on keeping Americans insecure. If not for September 11, Bush's popularity would nosedive. The American people's support for intervention in the Middle East is based on fear. During my lifetime, the Republican Party has used fear of Communists, fear of outside agitators, fear of crime, fear of African-American men, fear of anything different they could exploit for electoral advantage. Bush and the Republicans shamelessly exploited fear associated with September 11 to win a majority of congressional seats and the national media played along.
Bush learned from his father's loss to Clinton that war can obscure the underlying truth of the Bush presidency; tax cuts for the rich and increases in spending will leave Americans burdened by deficits for years to come. Bush's cowboy diplomacy will continue to inflame world tensions, not alleviate them. Logic tells the real story. Politicians need to keep telling the comfortable lie.
Americans appear all too content to prefer a comfortable lie to the uncomfortable truth, a social reality that breeds fascism not democracy.