The Seduction and Recruitment of Progressives
by T. Patrick Donovan
April 15, 2004

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Fear is a most amazing energy.

It can activate the responses of fight, flight, or freeze.

Sadly, among people who consider themselves progressives, fear has recently activated what can only be called Let's Beautify the Empire.

Fear of Bush, and the Bush regime's use of fear, seems to be compelling voices formerly critical of imperial adventures overseas, and police-state tactics here at home, to find ways of perfecting the very mechanisms they once railed against.

Let's begin with the 9/11 Commission. The very name of the commission is Orwellian, since the terms of the debate and investigation has been limited to only a discussion of the events prior to the day itself. Within the parameters already set, government officials who have been called to testify have essentially driven home the point that "structural problems" and the lack of being on a "war-footing" are the fundamental reasons why 9/11 slipped through the radar.

What this portends for the Commission's recommendations is more Patriot Act-type legislation and intelligence-agency restructuring to create the war-footing that will supposedly guarantee our safety and protection. Progressives and liberals are salivating over these "revelations" because they are being advanced as "criticisms" and exposures" of the Bush regime. We are becoming cheerleaders in our own oppression.

This is yet another effect of the Anybody But Bush mentality: progressives making it easier for an even more draconian domestic clampdown to be unleashed.

This is what happens when "making the U.S. safe" from future terrorist attacks is the only consideration. If this is one's orientation, it is an easy step from here to lining up in favor of more pre-emptive wars (and occupations) of countries "that might" do us harm (read: Iran, Syria, North Korea, et al.). After all, safety first!

So far, it seems like an effective recruitment campaign that the powers-that-be have undertaken.

And what about the seduction? This is the best part of all.

Within a seemingly disparate spectrum, that includes the likes of Thomas Friedman to Jim Garrison (whose new book is America As Empire), an entire chorus has arisen that echoes Bush's evangelical vision of America as dispenser of worldwide democracy. This is perhaps the most dangerous sentiment infecting the ranks of progressives, because it promises both safety (under a security blanket of a global Pax Americana) and re-ignites their idealism that America -- as it is constituted today -- can actually be a force for good in the world. Jim Garrison actually imagines that America will be the empire that ends all empires.

(Garrison's book was recently excerpted in the magazine "What Is Enlightenment"?, which has been a public forum for philosopher Ken Wilber, and is the brainchild of guru Andrew Cohen. This only underscores that the vision of America re-making the world in its own image is not just the province of right-wing neocons.)

Absent from this view is any consideration that the world may not share this vision of an even greater American hegemony, or that U.S. imperialism may not be the pinnacle of human evolution.

It is time for all progressives to reacquaint themselves with (a) the foundations upon which this country was conceived and built; (b) the fact that our much-vaunted freedom has been purchased at the price of oppression, enslavement, and extermination of people and the environment around the world; and (c) that when the U.S. rulers speak of freedom and stability they only mean freedom to exploit, commodify, and consume, and stability for capital to pursue the highest rate of profit.

Nothing more is meant by the use of these noble words. Nothing.

There was a time when progressives had succeeded in partially pulling back the curtain of U.S. empire and revealing the mechanisms at work that deluded us all into believing that we were living in the Land of Oz. The movements surrounding Vietnam, racism, women's oppression, the environment, etc., did indeed open many eyes.

Will we now allow the fear, anguish and despair of post-9/11 to draw us into the position of: seeing the likes of John Kerry as an answer; of demanding this oppressive system be made more effective as the key to our safety; and of assisting the Curtain of Oz to once again cloak empire in the guise of spreading democracy?

Will we be seduced and recruited by our own desires for safety so that we erase the grim history of this nation and return to a place of willful blindness and denial as to what the American Imperium has meant and continues to mean to the peoples of the world?

It is time to snap out of it.

T. Patrick Donovan is a student of Depth Psychology. He can be reached at feelslikerain9@yahoo.com.

Other Articles by T. Patrick Donovan

* "Anybody But Bush": The Big Abdication



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