The gut-wrenching virulence of McPalin acolytes got me wondering, "What are these people so AFRAID of?" Then the familiarity registers. This is the classic behavior of abusive relationships. Mr. and Mrs. Republican are unable to leave the old white guy and his screechy female counterpart even though their extremist views underlie all that ails us. They are so very familiar.
The abused are defending the abusers. They need each other to be sure that nothing changes, even though the change would clearly be a vast improvement. That "other one" is ... different.
It's no accident the abused/abuser scenario is also a precise fit for fundamentalisms -- freemarket economic fundamentalists, political reactionaries, educational holdouts or religious stalwarts -- authoritarians all, strumming the fears of their followers to keep them in line.
But not so fast, I think. I'm afraid, too. I am afraid of the Republicans' relentless and rampant defiance of the most fundamental rights of any democracy -- my right to vote and to have my vote affect my future.
It's good to be humble in the face of fear, just as it is to be alert the the realities of abuse. Perhaps, I tell myself, if I could find a foothold for generating at least a little empathy for those frightened McPalin supporters, I could use that empathy to engender constructive action.
So I embrace my own disconcerting fear of willful and would-be tyrants, and listen for wisdom in the voices of some of the people we've welcomed to our program over the years.
It was Sandra Mackey, a Middle East expert, who just after American's ill-conceived adventure in Iraq made some sense of that fiasco and of "9/11" for me. Globalization is terrifying to fundamentalists -- Islamic , Hindu, Christian and Jewish alike. Whatever one thinks globalization is, whether we "like" it or not, clearly human technology has changed the game on this planet, in ways no one -- no one -- can predict. So McPalinistas hug tight to desiccated 19th century illusions of certainty in an effort to ward off the 21st.
Fast forward to January, 2006, almost a year before fall elections began to loosen the authoritarian vice-grip of the Bushites, supported by Senator John McCain. _Our Endangered Values: America's Moral Crisis_ focused our conversation with its author, President Jimmy Carter. In his analysis of religious fundamentalists -- and he is not one -- he characterizes fundamentalism with three words: rigidity, domination and exclusion.
Rigidity. Domination. Exclusion. Here's an alarmingly good fit for any backward-looking perspective that is fueled by fear. And how very Republican! To the barricades! Defend the status quo even while it's killing you! Be afraid, be very afraid! No scruples need apply when securing and advancing established power, ersatz or otherwise! And at all costs, guard against defections!
This is no joke. Together, these people are holdouts against the essence of life itself. Like it or not, everything -- EVERYTHING -- changes. It's a biological certainty. That openness gives Republicans vertigo, Obama would have us embrace the adventure of it all.
The McCain/Palin/Bush/Cheneys of this world have been with us always. They're fronts behind which hide the patricians and autocrats determined first to hold on to power, and having done so, to channel whatever change they cannot stop to serve their own ends. People of modest personal capacity, they're mouthpieces for the very same people who have -- since the founding of this nation -- despised democracy. They really do loathe the fact that -- all evidence to the contrary -- the people of the United States really are SOVEREIGN.
The great philosopher Frederick Ferré calls people who willfully destroy in order to further their own ends "vandals". The business interests and plutocrats of the United States fit that bill perfectly. That's why they have -- from the first breath after Abraham Lincoln drew his last -- controlled and used the Republican Party to fulfill their wishes.
Susan Faludi, in making sense out of the "terror dream", as she calls our response to "9/11", reminds us that the first step in addressing fear is truthfulness. Face it -- the Republican Party has vandalized us, collectively and individually. And make no mistake. This is McPalin writ large. They have demonstrated, time and again, that they will honor no codes of decency nor of honor or fair play in desperate attempts to maintain and reinforce their entrenched position.
The second step in harnessing fear is to act. The lazy version of "vandals" is also insidious. "Philistines" is what Dr. Ferré calls people who just "go along", are too self-centered or simply too lazy to counter the vandals. That includes complacency, i.e., "Oh, Obama's already won, the lines might be long, I think after all I'll just pass on voting ...."
My personal antidote to my all-too-reasonable concerns that, once again, the Republicans will cheat the American people is this: I have genuine faith in the democratic process from which Senator Obama has emerged. Faith sustained by action.
So, I'm putting my own fear in it's place, intent on transforming it from obstacle into engine in this pivotal year. We must elect Barack Obama President. Then we must be there for and with him when the real work begins -- embracing not our fears, but life -- joyously -- in the face of all its uncertainty. Happily, we already know by heart the words for our 21st century aspirations: "the land of the free and the home of the brave."
A world of antidotes to fear, illusion and deceits can be found in our hundreds of "Conversations with People at the Leading Edge" which include Sandra Mackey, President Jimmy Carter, Susan Faludi and others. Take your pick at our website, PaulaGordon.com and watch a growing number of video excerpts at