The central purpose of the book is to examine what has happened to the United States for the last six years under the Bush presidency. That is the "Bush legacy" -- our national character and national identity have been fundamentally degraded, our moral standing and credibility in the world eroded to previously unthinkable depths, our government engaged in the very behavior which, for decades, we have collectively deplored, our trust in America's governmental and journalistic institutions reduced virtually to zero, and our country placed on a plainly unsustainable course as a result of the militarized, imperial role we are choosing to play in the world.
At the heart of this process lies a binary moralistic view of the world, one which seeks to define every conflict and political challenge, both foreign and domestic, as a battle of Good versus Evil. The crux of this mindset is the continuous identification of an Enemy, one which embodies Evil and which must be stopped, typically destroyed, at all costs. No competing considerations, no rational arguments, no counter-balancing objectives, not even constraints of reality or resources, can compete with the moral imperative of this mission. The mission of destroying Evil trumps all. . . .
This Manichean mentality not only drives George W. Bush personally, but it also consumes our political discourse almost entirely. It is this mindset, more than any other single cause, that has driven us to embrace extraordinary policies and truly radical beliefs that are as ill-considered and incoherent as they are destructive. This is the "moral reasoning" which led us to invade and indefinitely occupy Iraq, to vest previously unimaginable power in the President, to allow our country to become symbolized by orange-jumpsuit-clad, shackled and leashed detainees locked away and brutally maltreated in lawless prisons around the world, and which has brought us to the brink of still new wars in the Middle East, most alarmingly with Iran. It is this reasoning which has rendered our country virtually unrecognizable, and has placed us on a course which simply cannot be sustained.
First of all, I suppose we need to define "Manichean" for the non-Catholics out there:
An adherent of the dualistic religious system of Manes, a combination of Gnostic Christianity, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, and various other elements, with a basic doctrine of a conflict between light and dark, matter being regarded as dark and evil.
The ultimate problem with this belief is that it denies both human nature and free will. People are not just puppets either of God or Satan (or however you define your deities). This sort of black and white think usually ends up working against people. They might think that anyone invoking the name of Jesus must be purely good and so you end up with crooks like Jim Bakker or political hacks like Pat Robertson getting rich on the charity of naive people and putting a holy glow around their own political agenda.
And on the other side, you have those who are different being tarred with the worst possible slander. If you ask a really hard core right winger what he thinks about Muslims, he won't just talk about what the person believes, he'll automatically believe that they live only to kill non-Muslims. So by that reasoning, this is a battle to the death -- there is no negotiation, no co-existence, just kill or be killed. If Iran develops a bomb, of course they'll use it immediately. If there is an Islamic neighborhood somewhere in Paris or Brussels, that means that "Eurostan" is just around the corner. It's like they're living the book of Revelation in their own minds every single day.
Of course this is insanity when it becomes the political policy of a superpower nation like the United States. When Bush told the world that they were either "with us or against us," he really believed it and really believed that even if the whole world thought he was off his rocker, God himself would intervene since he was fighting the good fight.
And if we grabbed a bad guy -- which would be defined as anyone who wasn't a True Believer -- then he was a demon-possessed brute and must be tortured to find out what evil plans they have at the moment since reason would have no effect on such a sub-human and they are ALWAYS plotting death and destruction.
And it's not just Bush's holy war. If you are an environmentalist, you are denying God's creation as well as the dominion that he gave man. You are a heathen who worships Gaea. If you believe that the poor should have enough to eat, you're a Communist and everyone knows that the commies hated Christ. If you support abortion, even at the earliest stages of pregnancy, you are a killer because God mysteriously endows humanity on the single cell at the moment of conception. They can't explain it or prove it, but they sure do believe it...
It's almost like a new Dark Ages. Reason has gone out the window and everything these folks believe is faith based. Three of the candidates running for the Republican nomination don't even believe in evolution. Denying science in favor of literal interpretation of the bible is the litmus test of the True Believer.
And yet these same folks are the ones who complain that Islam must be destroyed because it's full of discredited ideas and superstition. Go figure...
I just hope that there are still enough Americans left who maintain some shred of rationality that the next president will operate on reason rather than a twisted form of faith. Otherwise, the beliefs of the True Believers might come to pass as their hatred and ignorance drives a wedge deeper and deeper into humanity.
Note: Wizbang Blue is now closed and our authors have moved on. Paul Hooson can now be found at Wizbang Pop!. Please come see him there!