Mythology, Fundamentalism, Politics
I was watching Senator Sanders speak last week. He was holding a rally in Portland Oregon, ahead of the caucuses there, which he won by a wide margin. As he was speaking a small bird landed on the stage, and then, a few moments later alighted on the podium.
The crowd went wild.
I have to say I found it amusing. I enjoyed the spectacle myself. It was an inside joke playing itself out on the national stage. It was as if mother nature herself was colluding with the Sanders campaign, as if the spirit of Portland was endorsing the candidacy of BS, as surely as the citizen of Portland would days later; in overwhelming numbers.
The crowd went wild.
People in the audience behind BS, were gazing into the heavens, hands coming together in prayer. It looked to me as if they expected the sky to crack open and the booming voice of God to announce God’s favor for BS.
Of course that did not happen.
Nevertheless, the mythmakers proceeded to tell the story as if that is exactly what happened. A sign was given in Portland. A bird joined BS at the Podium. God was pleased with Birdie…I mean Bernie Sanders.
I found myself feeling resentful.
It is not that I did not appreciate the joke; the symbolism, the unexpected, unplanned for, unasked for moment, the delighted look on the face of BS. It was great. However, the charm of the moment was immediately lost, as the sanders campaign and its supporters began to put forward this moment of happy fortune as a rational for his candidacy.
Human beings have a latent susceptibility to the power of myth.
I do not believe that the incident with the bird convinced anyone to support BS who otherwise were not in his camp, but the quasi-mystical packaging of the event (after the fact) validated their support in a way that I can only characterize as anti-rational.
Those of us whose political affiliation falls on the left wing of the political spectrum are not used to having the label of fundamentalist attached to us. Fundamentalist thought processes are a dominant feature of right wing conservativism. However, no ideological system is immune to it. The entry point to fundamentalist thinking is the rejection of the rational, and the embrace of magical.
The first casualty of fundamentalist thought is truth, the second is community.
Fundamentalists retreat from discourse with their opponents. Adversaries become enemies, heroes become villains, angels become demons, gods become devils. In that nexus of mythological/fundamentalist thought, the stakes of the context get magnified beyond their actual dimensions. They take on cosmic proportions. A regular campaign for the presidency, which happens every four years; becomes a “revolution,” the stakes become “our entire future,” what is at risk is “our way of life.” The hotter the rhetoric gets the more divorced from reality it becomes.
The fundamentalist denies the obvious flaws of the candidates, or belief systems they support, and imagine flaws that do not exist in those they oppose, as creationists do, or flat Earthers do, or climate deniers do.
Genuine political discourse is impossible in that environment.
Last week I listened while Susan Sarandon; actress, activist, movie star, told MSNBC that there was no way she would support Hillary Clinton if she wins the nomination. She said she would support the Republican, even if it was Donald Trump. She expressed the belief that this would “bring on the revolution” that much sooner. Her sentiment was that the Republicans, and especially Trump, would be such a disaster for the country that the revolutionary forces that support BS would then be able to rise from the ashes and usher in a new era.
Sarandon does not speak for the Sanders campaign. She is merely a supporter, but a vocal one, and it is fair to say that her sentiments represent a wide swath of the feelings of the BS supporters.
What is clear to me is that Sarandon is caught up in that mythological space, she views the campaign a revolution (which it is not nor could it be), she sees herself as a revolutionary hero; as such she must see the HRC campaign as the enemy, she would rather imperil the country in order to open up the possibility of a future victory than accept the loss that will likely be handed to them when this nomination is over.
Sarandon is not alone. These feelings are being blasted across the country; reflected, echoed repeated thousands of times a day dividing the far left from the middle, dividing democrats and liberal progressives from one another.
I saw a meme posted by a friend of mine, a supporter of BS featuring HRC as the Wicked Witch of the West, green face and all, threatening to kill Bernie Sanders “and his little bird too,” as if BS was as innocent and plucky as the hero Dorothy from the Wizard of Oz, which is ironic because in reality, his revolutionary promises, as empty as they are, make him more like the man behind the curtain; just a dude with a penchant for casting illusions.
I implore all people of good conscience to pull back from this form of extreme and dangerous thinking. It may seem funny, but it is not a joke. A successful democratic administration following that of Barrack Obama has the potential to change the direction of the country (not to remake it) for generations to come. If Obama is followed by a Republican, the gains we have made will be lost. But if there is a disaster, another economic collapse, war; the wealthy like Susan Saradon will be just fine, the American people will suffer, and the response to social/economic chaos is never an embrace of radical change, but is always a retreat toward conservativism.
Here are some facts that the supporters of BS should contend with:
HRC has won more states than BS; by one.
HRC has won more pledged (earned) delegates than BS; by two hundred-sixty three.
HRC has been given more support by “super-delegates” than BS; by four hundred-thirty eight.
HRC has won more votes than BS by; more than two and a half million.
There has been a lot of talk among the supporters of BS that HRC has the election rigged, that the fix is in, that the process is undemocratic. But the facts are these, HRC has simply won more support, more people have voted for her, and among the people who have voted for her, there is greater diversity, ethnic, geographic, and cultural diversity.