Just Above Sunset
October 31, 2004 - The Cult of Personality Returns (atavistic instincts are fascinating)













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"I care about freedom and liberty. I care about my family. I care about my country. Because I care, I promise to work hard to re-elect, re-elect George W. Bush as president of the United States."

 

That’s the chant that now opens Bush campaign rallies.  Everyone stands and recites it.  The faithful are inspired.  The group gathers collective strength for the battle ahead.  The man is the state and all happily recite the words pledging fealty.

 

This is most curious.  As reported by Chris Sullentrop in SLATE.COM, this started, or he first saw it, last week at a Bush rally in Florida.  Florida State Senator Ken Pruitt opened the rally with this: “I want you to stand, raise your right hands and recite the Bush Pledge.”  The willing masses rose as one and chanted the words, pledging themselves to the man.

 

Brad DeLong, that economics professor at UC Berkeley, saved me a lot of time looking for reactions to this by posting, on his site Semi-Daily Journal, reactions he found to this.

 

This from “Linkmeister” –

 

… There's something really, really wrong--really UnAmerican--going on here. In America we pledge allegiance to the United States of America. We swear to defend the Constitution against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We do not swear ourselves to individual politicians.

 

Sullentrop in SLATE.COM –

 

I know the Bush-Cheney campaign occasionally requires the people who attend its events to sign loyalty oaths, but this was the first time I have ever seen an audience actually stand and utter one...

 

This from The Talent Show – 

 

As the old joke goes, I'm sure it sounds better in its original German. Somebody out there has to have a video of this...

 

This from Uncertain Principles –

 

I look at this election, and the personal veneration of George Bush on the right is just profoundly creepy.  It's all about him - his personal faith, his moral clarity, his "doctrine" for foreign policy.  The message is that you should vote for him because he is personally superior.  And yet, if you ask for reasons to support conservative policies independent of Bush personally, what you get is the rhetoric of individual achievement: conservatism is all about allowing individuals to take power over their own lives, and removing the heavy hand of the State from personal business (except where it's needed to squash uppity homosexuals)....  I think this is part of why I'm so creeped out by right-wing politics (that, plus the theocratic social policies).  I could sort of buy some of the individual responsibility... but I find it hard to reconcile the rhetoric of individuality with the politics of personal veneration...

 

This from Bilmon at Whiskey Bar –

 

The truly sinister thing - and the reason why that Slate story made the hair stand up on the back of my neck - is that even as these people move, like sleepwalkers, towards a distinctly American version of the cult of the leader, most of them honestly appear to have no idea what they're doing, or creating.  I'm not even sure the Rovians themselves entirely understand the atavistic instincts they've awakened in Bush's most loyal followers.  But the current is running now, fast and strong.  And we're all heading for the rapids...

 

This from Orcinus –

 

The resemblance of the conservative movement's ideological underpinnings to these core traits of fascism is in many ways startlingly clear - but there are also noticeable differences.  The ultranationalism and selective populism are unmistakable, but the... aspects... based on the myth of a phoenix-like national rebirth... is... subdued....  [T]he claim to represent the authentic national identity is rampant... but it nonetheless cannot be said to be a trait unique to the conservative movement.  It is for this and similar reasons that I call it pseudo-fascism: The familial resemblance of fascism's architecture is unmistakable, but it is not fully fleshed out.  It is like a hologram, a skeletal outline, of fascism...

 

This from Kevin Drum at the Washington Monthly

 

The inexplicably cultlike devotion that George Bush receives from many of his supporters?  I mean, sure, he's a conservative and he's a Republican, so conservatives and Republicans are going to support him, but let's face it: he's basically a pretty mediocre guy.  So how does he end up getting described as "magnificent," being compared to Abraham Lincoln, and convincing a quarter of the country that he was chosen by God?  It's kind of scary, really...

 

Oh Fatherland, Fatherland, show us the sign
Your children have waited to see.
The morning will come when the world is mine.
Tomorrow belongs to me!

 

Bob Patterson, who is published weekly in Just Above Sunset as the World’s Laziest Journalist, and almost weekly as the Book Wrangler, commented on this in an email to me – "If Germans swore an oath of allegiance to their leader, why shouldn't Americans?  Think of all the money we'd save each election year."

 

Yeah, I suppose.  I wasn’t around in the mid-thirties.  Hitler and Mussolini did save their countries the cost of many an election, I suppose.

 

But let’s think about the etiology here – and that word is used by doctors to describe the process or processes that cause a particular disease or disorder.  Of course, one must assume that there actually is something wrong here – something wrong with chanting a loyalty oath to a man who is to be thought of as the nation made flesh in one person.  Clearly half of the electorate sees no problem, so this disease model is silly to them.  So the other half needs the etiology here.

 

A crude model is this.  You make the statement about those who have doubts or alternatives or questions - You are for us or against us.  There is no middle ground.  Then you say people should watch what they say, as Ari Fleisher said a few years ago as White House spokesman in regard to comments the comedian Bill Maher on his HBO show.  The Attorney General, Ashcroft, then says criticism and dissent gives aid and comfort to the enemy – and “giving aid and comfort to the enemy” is a phrase from the statutes regarding treason.  Then you say you pray a lot for guidance from your God, and you believe your God helps you make decisions.  You are asked, by Bob Woodward of the Washington Post, about your biological father’s concerns about occupying a hostile foreign nation, printed in his memoirs on the first Iraq war, and say you yourself listen to a Higher Father, as He knows better than your own father, the former president.  Your surrogates, like Zell Miller at the Republican National Convention, suggest opposing you is opposing America.  And all along, when critics raise issues or suggest alternatives, the commentators who support you repeatedly ask one question – why do these people hate America and support our enemies.  (Ask Max Cleland about that one.)  Slowly it sinks in.  Dissent, or even questioning, is opposing America and the one chosen by God to be the concept of the country made flesh.  Patriotism then is best shown by swearing allegiance to the nation, an abstract concept, made flesh, and to the man God chose to be his word made flesh – a humble vessel, but His vessel nonetheless.

 

That’s a little overstated, but not by much.  Should Bush lose there will be hell to pay.  People have been known to fight to the death for their God and for their country.  Bush has become, in an odd way, both.  Listen to the chant.

 































 
 
 
 

Copyright 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 - Alan M. Pavlik
 
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