[Note: This is my first-ever published diary though I'm a longtime lurker - be gentle. At the suggestion of nailbender, I expanded this from a comment made the other night on one of the Clint Eastwood threads.]
Could Clint Eastwood's jaw-dropping performance Thursday night at the convention actually prove to be a healthy development for the people of the Republican Party? Could it even lead to a cure for Obama Derangement Syndrome (ODS)? Hear me out here.
What Clint did onstage Thursday night was, as many others have pointed out, enlightening and instructive about what the Republicans have been going through these past four years. He was addressing a version of Obama - again, as many of us have repeatedly been pointing out all this time - that doesn't really exist outside of the GOP's heads. As Jon Stewart said, it was the version of Obama that only they can see!
What do we know about Imaginary Obama (IO)? First of all, he hates America and wants to destroy it. He was raised in an Indonesian madrassah and wants to institute Sharia law. He's an "angry black man," a ghetto thug. He's a political mastermind of the Chicago school, fixing elections with practiced ease. He's a welfare queen who wants to loot the Treasury and give away "our" money to lazy black people. And a crony capitalist funneling money to his Solyndra fat-cat buddies. He's a Muslim, a socialist, a fascist who wants to take away our guns and close our churches! (The fact that he hasn't actually done any of this stuff so far is just proof that he's lulling us into a false sense of security.)
Now, a reasonable person not in the grips of ODS would recognize a few logical problems with this litany of evil qualities ascribed to Imaginary Obama:
(1) Most of them are mutually exclusive. He's both a lazy welfare queen, a crude ghetto thug AND a tireless, sophisticated political operative. He's a socialist AND a crony capitalist. And so on.
(2) None of them even remotely resemble the real person currently residing in the White House. A Muslim who drinks beer and brews his own? A Muslim who sponsors GLBT marriage equality? A socialist who bailed out the auto industry and Wall Street (instead of, say, nationalizing them), a socialist whose health care plan depends on preserving private health insurance? A gun foe who hasn't done anything about guns? An "angry black man" famous in the real world for never getting angry? And so on.
In short, Imaginary Obama (as opposed to the real one) has all the makings of a classic "bogeyman" figure - a fictional construct the mind creates to embody its deepest fears. None of it has to make sense, because the bogeyman is created by the lizard brain. Logic doesn't enter into it.
Imaginary Obama represents all the Republicans' deepest, darkest fears about race, class, government, and American society as it moves forward in 2012. He's the wave of angry black people who seek to destroy the 1950s-esque stereotype of America that the GOP clings to desperately. He represents their worst suspicions about what a "majority-minority" America will look like - a post-revolution Rhodesia where whites are lynched, Islam is mandated for all, and the "rabble" has taken over.
So what are we to make of Imaginary Obama, and how has Clint Eastwood offered us a way for the GOP to work through its feelings about him?
For an answer, we turn to the field of Gestalt therapy. One central exercise used in Gestalt is the "empty chair technique." Say the patient is having issues working through his feelings about his father. The Gestalt therapist would put an empty chair down opposite him and say "There's your father, siting right there. What would you like to say to him?" The therapist then encourages the patient to role-play both sides of the conversation with his father, hopefully illuminating new aspects of the relationship in a way that leads to growth and understanding.
One nice thing about this exercise is that it doesn't matter whether the "person in the chair" is real or fictional. What matters is how the patient feels about that person, and how their relationship affects the patient's psyche.
How does this apply to a "bogeyman" figure like Imaginary Obama? Well, a bogeyman represents uncontrolled, unexamined FEAR in its rawest form - and as such, the power of the bogeyman dissipates when it is examined and the associated fears dealt with. If a patient were suffering continued nightmares about a bogeyman figure, the therapist might well place the bogeyman in that empty chair and have the patient ask it, "What do you want from me? Why are you out to destroy me?"
I think Clint Eastwood has shown us a way for Republicans to work through their feelings about their bogeyman - perhaps their feelings of loss of control in a diverse country, the ongoing process of civil rights expansion since the '60s (to racial minorities, to women, to GLBTs, etc.), their need for a benevolent white male father figure to discipline and protect them... any or all of these issues might apply to each individual.
As with any discussion involving today's GOP, there's also a huge amount of projection involved - Imaginary Obama's angry feelings about whites might mirror their own unexamined feelings about blacks, for example. Just asking Imaginary Obama "What do you want of us? Why are you doing this?" would be a valuable first step towards leading ODS sufferers back to reality and mental health. For, as self-help author Marsha Sinetar put it, "The thing in us that we fear only wants our love."
Now, there's also another thing about the bogeyman - he's often invented or invoked by one or both parents as a way of frightening children into obedience. You can make an excellent case that this bogeyman, Imaginary Obama, has been constructed quite deliberately and efficiently by the right-wing media machine in order to keep their voter base in a state of constant panic - during which the GOP also offer themselves as the "white male father figures" needed to restore order and rightness. This brings up a whole new set of issues, because if the frightened Tea Partiers looked too closely at Imaginary Obama, they'd see who was pulling his strings. Examining that awful, awful guy in the chair might lead them to a breakthrough about how they themselves have been manipulated by the GOP in the years since Nixon's "Southern strategy" first came along.
But that's a topic for another session - our time is all up. But I think we've made valuable progress here today! Please thank Dr. Eastwood for starting this whole process rolling.