Us versus them is a straightforward way to view to world politics. (The United States can and will go it alone against all who attack or threaten us.) Us versus them is an uncomplicated way to think about social issues like abortion rights. (Things like that don’t happen to people like us.) Us versus them makes it very easy to demonize anyone who is different or causes discomfort. (Gays marrying threatens traditional families like ours.)
Traditional religions thrive on the concept of us versus them, even though it is hypocritical. The greatest Christian commandment says that we are to love our neighbors as ourselves. It does not say that we are to love our neighbors only if they look like us, pray like us, love like us and agree with us.
The simplicity of the us versus them worldview explains the appeal of George Bush. His plain speech does not require a lot of thought on the part of his listeners. His shallow explanations do not challenge people to expand their understanding of issues. His lowbrow approach to difficult problems makes him accessible and comfortable to many Americans.
George Bush is a father figure with easy answers to those Americans who are seeking to avoid fear, stress and the transience of our culture. According to Erich Fromm they are escaping from freedom by accepting what amounts to authoritarianism. It is “the tendency to give up the independence of one’s own individual self and to fuse one’s self with somebody or something outside of oneself in order to acquire the strength which the individual self is lacking.”
In times of uncertainty, people look for a person or thing to which they can attach themselves. “…he cannot bear to be his own individual self any longer, and he tries frantically to get rid of it and to feel security again by the elimination of this burden: the self. By denying the self, he gives up his identity and freedom; however, he gains a new kind of security, and thus pushes away the feeling of self-insignificance.”
"The person who gives up his individual self and becomes an automaton, identical with millions of other automatons around him, need not feel alone and anxious any more. But the price he pays, however, is high; it is the loss of his self."
Our nation is not only threatened from outsiders, it is threatened from within. We are at war amongst ourselves. We cannot allow our freedoms to be whittled away before our eyes. We cannot allow fear and intolerance to rule our country.
Below is an example of the hate George Bush’s re-election has strengthened. It makes me sad and scared. This e-mail was sent to Andrew Sullivan, a well-known gay conservative commentator: “I wonder if you noticed that yesterday all eleven states that considered the question of gay marriage voted to ban it. ALL ELEVEN. I think this sends a very clear message -- true Americans do not like your kind of homosexual deviants in our country, and we will not tolerate your radical pro-gay agenda trying to force our children to adopt your homosexual lifestyle. You should be EXTREMELY GRATEFUL that we even let you write a very public and influential blog, instead of suppressing your treasonous views (as I would prefer). But I'm sure someone like yourself would consider me just an ‘extremist’ that you don't need to worry about. Well you are wrong -- I'm not just an extremist, I am a real American, and you should be worried because eleven states yesterday proved that there are millions more just like me who will not let you impose your radical agenda on our country.”
I hope that anyone who voted for George Bush reads this with an open mind. I hope everyone who reads this will buy or borrow a copy of “Escape From Freedom” by Erich Fromm.