Bush's Politics of Fear: Neocon-Patriotism Only Acceptable Ism

“Knowledge is the antidote to fear.” Emerson


Two years ago, shortly after American troops “had taken” Baghdad, Stefan, my Greek economist-friend and former classmate at UCLA, paid me a short visit. During his stay, the topic of Bush’s lunacy occupied much of our time together and, for once, found us in synchronized agreement as to this folly’s likely outcome.

Not my intent, however, to recount our castigation of Iraq’s invasion, or the prophetic pronouncements we both made on the WMD idiocy, or the “pacification” problems that would be encountered… not for months, but for years to come. My “Behind the mirror” columns gave at that time ample commentary on Iraq’s occupation.

It is the associative comments that Stefan made during our morning jogging sessions that have stuck in my mind. These daily four-mile treks included several blocks of the neighborhood where I live… one that houses mostly professional people with above-average education and income, probably the closest thing to what might be called a middle class enclave.

During our pit stop at a Starbucks coffee shop in our trip the second morning, Stefan made a calculated comment which he posed as a question. “Ben,” he said “we passed 32 houses in your neighborhood; of them, 27 were displaying the ‘stars and stripes’… and of those 18 had a ‘Support Our Troops’ sign, don’t you find that rather odd midway between Memorial Day and Fourth of July?” I am not sure what my reply was then; but one thing for sure, I was counting flags and signs on our way back. Just those flags waving in front of residences, and not those that adorned both side-mirrors of several “monster” trucks which passed us on the road… driven by what appeared to be first-class yahoos.

Two years later, you can still count 9 flags and 3 signs on daily display in the same stretch of my unmodified exercise route. Support for the war has worn thin, it would seem, although one suspects that the reasons may not be as idealistic and peace-loving as one would hope. In this residential area, it would be a safe bet to say that none of these households have a member or close relative serving in the enlisted ranks of the military… which brings forth another comment made by Stef, “those signs would make more sense if they read ‘Support Our Mercenary Troops’.”

Going back to the early days of the post-9/11 period, the surrendering of liberties via the Patriot Act, and the preparation for invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, patriotism began to take on a fascistic tonality. Polished by rhetoric from the Bush administration that would tolerate no definition of patriotism other than its own, Americans-all Americans- were expected to be of the same mind… and any dissent from that line of thought likely to be judged in very unpleasant terms, terms designed to bring shame to one’s soul.

Freedom of expression seems to have an empty meaning when that freedom appears to reside in a vacuum; when your neighbors question it; and when you feel isolated.

When most people around you seem unable to differentiate between a concerned citizen who dissents to a course of action, and one who is disloyal or subversive, much of what one believes and holds sacred comes into question. It’s one thing to be in a minority, to be different in whatever aspect or belief, and quite another to be in fact deemed a traitor. And that has been evidenced even by those who are less than vocal.

The neo-conservative hordes, from their intellectual elite and political leadership, to their media mercenaries, to the rank and file, all made sure that those who didn’t support Bush were seen by their neighbors as unpatriotic, ungrateful Americans… not deserving to be part of this Land. And they were successful in achieving their quest, although some of that success has eroded, and continues to erode in this parade of never-ending bungling events which are helping to disrobe the Bush administration of its purposeful pseudo-patriotism.

For almost four years, Americans have been subjected to Bush’s politics of fear… to the one simple rule that if you weren’t of one mind with him, you were against him. Nothing wrong with that, one might say, except that he wrapped himself with the American flag in a way that to many in the nation, defiance of his actions almost equated to treason.

Americans are just as susceptible to brainwashing as any other people on this earth. The United States has seen the punishing of every ism deemed not to have been homegrown… and so, under the auspices of good old jingoism, economic, religious and political doctrines have been summarily censured as anti-American. To be judged a Liberal, a Socialist, a Progressive or several other radicalized epithets, is to be popularly “revoked” of your American citizenship, whether you acquired it by birth or by choice... that when in truth most people don’t have a clue as to what those ideologies stand for.

Even now, when the mainstream press is bending over backwards not to antagonize the administration in power, and thus derelict in its duty, it is being widely characterized as liberal; which is about as cockeyed as describing a contented pig… as a wild boar!

It was Karl Menninger who warned us that the voice of intelligence is drowned by the roar of fear… and never before in American politics has the roar of fear, through the spread of ignorance and deceit, been louder, or more menacing, than during these times under the yoke of the neocons.