Joined: Sat May 29, 2004 11:46 pm
U.S. view: Who supports Bush's sinking ship?
So many of our destructive tendencies are so deeply inculcated, I don't expect the American people to change anytime soon, barring the Second Coming or another Great Depression
by Keith Gottschalk
September 26, 2005
Curiosity about the motivations of Americans abounds in Canada and there is no greater curiosity than why about a third of all Americans, even now, steadfastly support President George W. Bush.
Let me say I do find the lack of loyalty to political figures among Canadians to be a most refreshing aspect of your society. I'm sure Stephen Harper wishes for allies as long lasting and loyal as George W's about now.
Even on rabble.ca's babble message board there are a few Canadians who have risen to the defense of the American President, ominously using the same talking points coming from the evil lair of Karl Rove.
But to understand why this steadfastness toward Bush's seemingly sinking ship, one must understand the psyche of Americans in general. Canadians know much more about U.S. history and politics than the average American, but I fear the real knowledge gap is the psychology of the population.
To go there is to descend into a dark cellar that unfortunately contains the alive and twitching relics of the worst aspects of American history and culture that fester like a boil just beneath the outer skin of the body politic.
So presented for your consideration, are the gut-level, strip away the propaganda, the “we only say these things to close relatives while drinking” reasons that around 35 per cent of the American voting population will support this President no matter what he does.
Greed — In his refusal to raise taxes or rescind tax cuts for the rich to pay for the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast, Bush again highlights a main reason for his core support. The plutocracy of America believes that Bush will let them keep more of their stash than certainly any so-called “tax and spend” liberal (I know, the irony is striking, isn't it?). And let's face it, when you have a movie figure like Gordon Gekko of Wall Street fame turned into a cultural icon by Donald Trump for defending greed, it should not be surprising that even go-to-church Christians who believe God helps those who help themselves, believe in George W. Bush's version of economic Darwinism.
To those who say most Americans aren't and won't ever be wealthy enough to truly count themselves in this group, I'll remind you that one of the most evergreen American myths is the naïve belief among a surprising number of people that if they work hard at the American Dream ™ one day, they too, will be as wealthy as Donald Trump. (subgroups: magical thinkers, Randian objectivists).
Racism — It is no secret that America has wrestled with its racist legacy since Columbus first set foot in the New World. And while many people were aghast at the racism inherent in the Federal government's response in New Orleans, there were many others who silently applauded. After all — why should we go to the trouble of rescuing people who “live like that” anyway?
Various Christian groups applauded the destruction of the American Sodom and Gomorrah and many other Middle Americans silently nodded at the televised scenes of African-Americans looting, which reinforced their racist attitudes perfectly. Western Iowa's Congressman Steve King received letters of support in the Des Moines Register for voting against the New Orleans aid package, claiming “fiscal responsibility” to the taxpayers of Western Iowa (a very retrograde place) as his main reason. If you read between the lines, you'll pick up the subtle racist overtones that underpin these rationales.
And for all these people, Bush is their man. They believe in some way, whether it be on issues of illegal immigration that King makes his cause célèbre or on affirmative action (on which Bush's people promptly changed the government's stance once in office), that despite his words, that deep down this “good old boy” from Texas stands with the Christian White, er, Right on issues of racial privilege. (subgroups: xenophobia).
Homophobia — Hand in hand with racism, many Middle Americans look to Bush as the person to keep “radical homosexuals” from perverting America. Is it any wonder that Focus on the Family, a support-Bush-at-all-costs organization, has flooded Canada with staff and cash to fight Bill C-38 as best it could and to attempt to influence Canadian politics to reconsider same-sex marriage when the Conservative Party wins control of the government (again, remember, this is rooted in delusion, not reality).
Consequently, Middle America uses Canada as the bogeyman for what would become of God's United States should the homosexuals be allowed to desecrate marriage (50 per cent divorce rate), flaunt their sexuality (any U.S. prime time TV show) or come after their children (like military recruiters and Catholic priests). (subgroups: sexism, sex phobia, identity disorders).
Militarism — There are those who are weaned on the myths of American history as young children who truly believe that America is at its greatest and most moral when at war. To my Canadian friends I would invite you to compare most Canadian history books against their American counterparts. In most cases, our history textbooks look at U.S. history as progressing from one President to another and from one war to another, seamlessly.
In our culture, military service is wrapped up in the myth of patriotism. It is seen as a rite of passage, proof of love of country, and a way to also prove one's masculinity. Remember George C. Scott's soliloquy in the movie Patton? Also, it is a direct consequence of the mythology of envy, which produces the hoary canard that other nations “hate us for our freedoms.” When Bush was filmed in the flight jacket on that carrier (“mission accomplished”), his core supporters, far from snickering, shed a tear. This is the ideal of the true American — a warrior for truth and justice who will keep the world safe for our rapacious consumerist lifestyle at the business end of a rifle. Peace, love and understanding is for liberal losers in our society. Also remember how many Americans owe their livelihood to the military-industrial complex. Bush is clearly their man. (subgroups: patriotism/Chauvinism, masculine overcompensation, anger issues).
Religiosity — This is, actually, the weakest reason of all, trumped by the four reasons above in most circumstances, but useful as a catchall rationale when needed. Of course, it's no secret that the U.S. is the most religiously indoctrinated country in the world from a Christian perspective. And, of course, since our brand of “Christianity” is perverted by greed, racism, homophobia and militarism (as it always has been) it takes on a peculiar flavour all its own — as a justification, rather than a real life code.
Does any thinking person really believe Bush when he calls himself a practicing Christian? Not really. But he plays the game well enough that Christian conservatives can wrap him in the cloak of good intentions and claim him and that's good enough for many American Christians, many of whom believe Bush to be a Godly man because he says he is. (Why they didn't believe Clinton when he said he was is another matter).
Of course, this doesn't play in the progressive Christian community in the U.S., but unfortunately, they do not have the same access to the halls of power, political fund raising acumen, or network of media mouthpieces as the Christian right does. Nor do American liberal Christians use their faith as a justification for un-Jesus-like biases against tolerance, charity and freedom either. Remember Bush's smirking imitation of Texas death row inmate Karla Faye Tucker (a new Christian convert) pleading for her life? I bet Pat Robertson and his followers thought that was funny too. (subgroups: magical thinkers, millennialists/Dominionists, Creationists).
Well there you have it. I didn't say it would be pretty and it is, after all, only my opinion based on a short lifetime of observations. The reasons for this myopic support of Bush can be wrapped up in one or any combination of the above rationales. There is more, much more (consider the subgroups), but I believe these to be the basic explanations for the 35 per cent hardcore support of Bush. Sadly, so many of our destructive tendencies are so deeply inculcated, I don't expect the American people to change anytime soon, barring the Second Coming or another Great Depression.
Keith Gottschalk has written for daily publications in the Midwest U.S. and was formerly a radio talk show host in Illinois. He frequents babble as the Américain Égalitaire.
"Behind every great fortune lies a great crime."
Honore de Balzac
"Democrats work to help people who need help.
That other party, they work for people who don't need help.
That's all there is to it."
~Harry S. Truman