Who are these people?! Where do they come from?! Ordinary Americans might wonder why anyone would stoop so low as to follow Glenn Beck, Fox News and Dick Armey (and their corporate sponsors masquerading as "FreedomWorks") as they organize their "9/12 March On Washington" to cynically exploit the 9/11 attack.
Patriotic Americans might question the organizer's aim to provide a media forum for dimwitted right wingers to scream "Liar!" "Socialist!" "Antichrist!" "Muslim!" "Death Panels!" "He's not an American!" and so on and on and on about the commander in chief charged with defending us from further attacks. And some people might even cry "shame on you!" to the more mainstream Republicans participating that include Dick Armey of FreedomWorks, as well as GOP Reps. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Pence of Indiana, Tom Price of Georgia, and South Carolina GOP Sen. Jim DeMint.
Ordinary folks from Planet Earth may ask why the Republican Party, right-wing activists and members of the Religious Right seem so unreachable with mere facts let alone decency and decorum.
Frank Schaeffer's articles (the second I've posted on this blog -- see the two posts for September 9th) continue to fascinate and scare me. I'm still working my way through his memoir, Crazy For God, as well as Jeff Sharlet's The Family: The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power.
I guess I could list a bunch of conscious reasons I'm interested enough to read further on the "Religious Right" and right-wing extremists.
First, I'm usually intrigued by beliefs, ideas and behaviors that seem alien to my own. Finding them triggers my seeking circuits.
I'm also curious about the emergence of attention by the media and people willing to watch or read about these particular manifestations of Republican politics, the Religious Right and right-wing -- and, for that matter, left-wing -- extremists in American culture.
The questions Schaeffer poses -- or offers to comment on -- are mine as well: Who are these people? How did they come to be who they are and believe what they do? Why do they do what they do?
I'm especially alert to the extreme negative emotional energy, foreclosure of debate, and rigid incivility that seems to flourish in their engagements with the rest of the world. These are dangerous symptoms in a supposed civil society.
I've had the opportunity to be in the same room with religious extremists and others who operate on a very primitive psychic level. I'm sure there are people like this in Tennessee, maybe some not that far away from where I live. I see them on TV and I monitor the Southern Poverty Law Center's Hate Watch blog and Hate Groups map.
I have no doubt that digging into this issue is not comfortable. I put a fair amount of thought into what I was doing before I hit the publish button to share the first Schaeffer article. Any kind of helpful discussion we could have as a nation about this issue is just getting underway. I think we would do well to nurture that conversation and keep it as civil as possible, feeling the energy it arouses but not acting on impulses.
As I mentioned, Schaeffer's book scares me. I don't know all the reasons why, because -- yes, Virginia -- there is an unconscious. Because of my training in psychoanalysis, I read that fear as a clue to get curious about it, and dare to explore it further. After many years of practicing psychoanalytically, I trust the process. I'm sure I'll blog on about it.