Many blindly follow Bush despite failings
BY JOHN SOMMERS-FLANAGAN
October 1, 2004
I still feel stunned when a woman tells me she's returning to live with a man who recently broke her jaw. With her teeth clenched and mouth wired shut, she says she's going back, "because he loves me and I love him."Pardon me if I'm not bowled over by the magic of love.
I still feel shaken by the boy who tells me, in great detail and with boundless enthusiasm, all about the father who abandoned him when he was 4-years-old. And I am still disturbed by the good soldier who blindly follows his leader's orders and marches into danger -- although his leader has shown, time and again, poor judgment, lack of planning, and disregard for the men who serve him.
As a psychologist, I should know better than to be stunned, shaken or disturbed by these images. After all, I know why humans behave irrationally. I even do it myself.
On Sept. 9, 2001, President George W. Bush's approval rating was 55 percent. Only three days later, after the worst attack on U.S. soil in history, his approval rating was 86 percent.
In psychology, the enhanced allegiance to a person associated with your abuse is referred to as trauma-bonding. It is a powerful phenomenon. It accounts for why a woman might return to the husband who broke her jaw. It explains why otherwise intelligent people begin worshiping those very people whose behaviors have threatened their safety.
When our world is shaken, we seek safety. And who better to protect us than the big, strong, tough-talking leader who has been in charge all along. The competence or morality of our leader becomes less relevant. We are afraid. Change might make things worse. As Vice President Dick Cheney has so eloquently claimed, we'd better not vote for John Kerry or we may be hit again by terrorists, this time even worse. Never mind that Cheney's former company is a big benefactor from the hit that occurred on his watch.
Bush and his people consistently claim to be results-oriented. That the American people and the press accept this statement is irrational. The facts and results suggest that Bush has repeatedly and sometimes perversely failed the American people.
He claimed to be a uniter, not a divider, but Republicans and Democrats are more divided than ever. He asserted ad nauseam that Iraq and its weapons of mass destruction were an imminent danger to America. But time has shown these assertions to be untrue. Never mind the absence of weapons, he now says, because Saddam Hussein had links to Al Qaeda and was an architect of terror. And although Hussein was very bad, with 1,048 Americans dead, 20,000 Iraqis dead, 27,000 Americans wounded, and Iraq a center of insurgency, there's more terror emanating from Iraq now than before our invasion.
Bush said he was not interested in nation-building, but now we're begging the international community to help us build a new Iraq. He said he was a fiscal conservative but has racked up record budget deficits.
Still, despite the facts and, yes, flip-flops, we follow him. We still approve his performance. In this regard, we're being irrational in the massive and self-deceptive way characteristic only of humans.
The abuser never admits mistakes, never truly apologizes and never shows weakness. The abuser, despite his inconsistent and capricious decisions, insists he has not changed his philosophy. He is determined and resolute.
The abuser manipulates us with fear.
Unfortunately, the abuser does not have our best interests at heart. He's interested in oil, money and power. He's interested in control and domination. He will act like he's concerned and compassionate, but when he has regained control, he will turn away from the poor, the weak, the hungry, the women and the children.
The choice is clear: Shall we believe in ourselves, risk his disfavor, and assert our independence, or will we continue to irrationally cling to our failed leader? Shall we boldly vote for change November 2, or will we wire our jaws shut for another four years?
JOHN SOMMERS-FLANGAN, PhD, is a clinical psychologist and author on the faculty of the Counselor Education Department of the University of Montana in Missoula.
A wag of the tail to Dave Steimling of Midnight Mecca for this article. There are times when something crosses your desk that is so well stated, it would be foolish not to get it out before the public eye. This is one such piece.
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