Day before yesterday I penned a diary titled Birther Zeitgeist and Inner Selves Revealed which argued that the so-called Birther Movement was more a collective expression of well understood trauma sytmpoms than it was a genuine political movement.
Today I'd like to sharpen this thesis and better explain how the so-called Birther Movement is in fact low-level long-term trauma packaged up by cynical right wing political operatives to look like an actual political phenomenon.
Spending time in the proximity of Birthers / Teabaggers is an interesting and revealing experience. As a political activist and organizer, especially with Billionaires for Bush, I've had the opportunity to get in close proximity to those of the very angry right. And though most fall well short of Kurtz's dark heart and raving self-awareness, there exists a powerful sense of personal horror and self loathing in their tortured existence. In my experience they are more angry, depressed, guilt ridden, humorless, righteous, confused, incoherent, seething with rage, and ultimately helpless than they are driven by a political agenda.
Simply put, the overwhelming majority are damaged, weak, hurt, pathetic, and lost.
When I'm in their midst as a Billionaire, ostensibly aligned with their grievences for the few moments before they realize my game, I get no sense of a bond or connection around an idea or movement - from all appearances they seem to be strangely disconnected from each other. It's not at all like a lefty demo where people are joined in mutual purpose and share a common bond. They seem full of a wariness boardering on paranoia. Operating on a default mode ... DO NOT TRUST THIS PERSON. He is different, he is the other, he is not a true American, he has an ulterior motive.
And of course that last part is true. I do attend these events to satarize, to poke fun, to contextualize, to minimize their so-called movement and ideology ... I have my own reasons and issues too.
But back to the birthers and the point of my diary ...
Kendall Johnson, therapist and author of After The Storm, speaks to the experience of cumulative stress and angst ...
... the dread and anguish we feel when we realize that things around use are spinning out of control, but we must act anyway. Sociologists used the term to describe how ordinary citizens felt as they watched their old ways of life destroyed by powerful forces of impersonal industrialization. Now we feel a similar sense of loss, disconnection, and vulnerability. Political, economic, and technological forces beyond our influence increasingly shape our world. We feel powerless to protect our families - and ourselves - in any meanginful way. This is then the context then in which unfolding events mix with past experiences, contemporary angst, and everyday crises to produce the blend of symptoms we struggle to understand. It is our job to survive ...
So this then is the psychological landscape of people who are one step away from socio-cultural oblivion, but with a mythology that runs counter to their own sense of dread.
They are mixed up and looking for something or someone to blame. Along comes Barack Obama, a walking and talking checklist of the things they hate and fear most ...
- BLACK MAN - MUSLIM - TERRORIST - ELITIST - URBAN/URBANE - INTERNATIONALIST - HIGHLY EDUCATED - FOREIGN(ER)
Barack concentrates the entiretly of their confused notions and disclocations of the world as it is (in direct opposition to their mythology) and becomes the proverbial straw which snaps their back and drops them to the floor in a fit of rather unseemly decompensation.
As a mental health issue the psychology of the Birthers is a public policy challenge. As a rump political movement within the Republican Party it makes winning elections at the national level impossible. As a challenge to getting progressive government and legislation it ranks well below the problem of corporate dems and their lobbyist constituencies.