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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Searching For Meaning And Unleashing The Beast

by digby

Sam Sedar did some interviews at the Beck Rally on Saturday. This one is particularly interesting because of the conflation of Obama being a Muslim and his adherence to Jeremiah Wright's ideology. I suppose there might be something other than race that informs her conclusions, but it's hard to see what it is.

She's a likable person actually, easy smile and laugh, and I'm sure she is. As with so many of the tea partiers, the impression I get is that they are inspired and energized by the solidarity they feel with others there as much as anything else. They are searching for fellowship and meaning beyond the normal religious and political realm. (In some ways they remind me of the fervent Obama followers of the summer of 2008.) And let's face it, what she says about the two party's failing and political corruption could have been said by any one of us. The problem is that the ties that bind her to her fellows are toxic know-nothingism and reflexive tribal identity based upon race, religion and fear and loathing of those who would stake an equal claim to America. It's a dark vision, although I'm sure they don't see it that way --- their lack of self-awareness, as that woman showed in that video, is intellectually incapacitating. And their willingness to listen to demagogues hypnotically reinforcing their insular worldview is apparently limitless. (You'd think they'd get bored at some point.)

I know people like that lady. In every respect but the political they are often good people. But this movement is giving voice to her demons, the bad place in her psyche that mistrusts anyone who is different, the fearful place that feels like she is losing her natural born position in the world, that lonely place where she feels as if she's on her own while others less deserving are getting all the attention. And these billionaire tea party financiers and opportunistic hucksters are manipulating her dark side, giving it permission to take over, releasing the beast that resides in all of us but which civilization, morality and reason usually keeps in check.

But like Obamamania (which made the opposite pitch -- "hope and change") these fleeting political obsessions in American life can't live up to the huge expectations that are poured into them. This woman is going to be very disillusioned. Her idols are plastic action figures manufactured by millionaires. They can't do this job either. In fact, politics isn't really the proper arena for any of this yearning, something which Glenn Beck may have come to finally understand, as so many demagogues have before him.

She has agency, so I don't feel particularly sorry for her. She is an adult, with the freedom to travel and the capacity to figure out what's wrong with the picture before her. It's not as if there aren't choices. But I understand what she's looking for. America is a soulless place these days, over-ridden with consumerism, greed and shallow entertainment values. Her religion has failed her by fueling the flock with hate instead of the affirmation of life it advertises. She yearns for meaning and Rupert Murdoch and Glenn Beck and the tea party are giving it to her in a nice recognizable package. But it's empty.

And once the human beast is unleashed there's no telling what it will do. These billionaires and their hired demagogues are playing with fire, assuming that they can control all this --- the anger, the fear, the ultimate disillusionment. But what if they can't?