A friend recently asked me why I was so despairing after listening to the Democratic National Convention; had I expected something other than what was delivered?
I replied that, no, I had not expected the Democrats to show up any differently. What struck me right in the solar plexus is that the American empire -- whether in its Republican guise or its Democrat guise -- is hell-bent for leather to control the world.
That the die is cast is a hard truth to come face to face with. Yet at the same time there is a liberatory quality knowing the real deal, knowing our illusions about America are just that: illusions.
Witnessing the Democratic Convention was an abject lesson in the wages of fear.
A quick review.
Kerry and Edwards wrote their own speeches, so all illusions that they are mouthing some speechwriter's rhetoric can be dropped. The real nature of their hawkish plans and policies gets more apparent everyday.
Any illusions about Obama and Sharpton becoming anything but Democratic versions of Powell and Rice can also be dropped, since imperial aims know no racial distinctions.
Teresa Heinz Kerry's bid for the independent, outspoken, feminist heroine First Lady is another illusion that can be dispensed with; been there, done that.
With the “swiftboat” morphing of the Vietnam War into a heroic endeavor -- the battlefield where America used chemical and biological weapons -- we can also let go of the illusion that America is the least interested in the people of the world (except, perhaps, where it can threaten, cajole, or bribe them into serving as cannon fodder for the empire or as targets of the empire).
Anybody But Bush still permeates the rationalizations that have people cheering the Democrats' version of conquering Iraq and expanding the empire. Imaginative political visions of “creating more breathing room” for progressives by voting for Kerry cannot be made congruent with the Democrats’ plans for the domestic suffocation of civil liberties. Cries to “honor the warrior but not the war” can never be reconciled with the cynical uses to which American armies have been put, serving as shock troops for subjugating and exploiting the people of the world and the world itself. Kerry and his Band of Brothers are just the previous version of Bush's Crusaders, and the only way to “honor the warrior” is to tell him and her the truth about who sends them to war and why.
The spectacle of the Democratic Convention raises the profound question: why vote at all?
I have concluded from all of this that there is no reason to vote in this year's Presidential election.
Progressive people ask: where is the antiwar movement? Where are the boycotts of multinational war-profiteers sucking at the Iraqi teat? Where is the outrage? In my assessment it has all been swallowed up in the liminal space of despair.
A liminal space is that place of transition, where the horizon of the familiar has disappeared and the landfall of the new is not quite seen yet. Deep in our unconscious there is a knowing that the old ways of protest will not do the job. Of course there was a time when it may have been politically strategic to vote Democrat (or even Green). That time is no longer. The maneuvering room for the American empire is rapidly constricting, and with it there is less ability to befuddle and con us with the always trite distinctions between Democrat and Republican. No wonder we are frightened and discombobulated in the liminal space.
The liminal is a place of destabilization, so much so that every fiber of the psyche -- in this case the political psyche of progressives among the American people -- wants to return to “normal.” Kerry represents both what's normal and what's dangerously regressive at this point in time.
We Americans who are so hungry for peace and justice, freedom and equality, are like the mountain climber depicted in the film “Touching the Void.” Post-9/11, and in the middle of the Iraq occupation, we have fallen into a deep crevasse and broken our leg. A dozen feet above us is the illusory sunlight of our halcyon past; our broken leg is our continued belief in electoral politics and our sacrosanct clinging to “our vote.”
As with the climber in the film, we cannot reach the sun and freedom with this broken leg.
As with the climber in the film, the only way out is DOWN, into the despair, into the unknown, into the darkness, wherein lies a great and vast field of potential and possibility.
We have frightened ourselves witless by polarizing despair and change. What is wrong with despair and demoralization anyway? At least initially.
At least despair turns us toward the dark truth of our contemporary world, and in so doing it has the potential to turn us also towards our own resources, our own strengths. Daddy Republicans and Mommy Democrats turn out to both be dangerous and abusive parents. If a major move towards individuation (psychologically and therefore politically) was ever required, it is now.
Perhaps the gift of this liminal place is in its potential to turn our organizing efforts towards rallying the people of America, in unity with the people of the world, in calling into question the ways we live our lives, the ways we live on this planet.
Between the empiric zealotry of the Republicans and the deadly cynical “take back America” populism of the Democrats, there lies a third space that brings into focus the truth that the American people must remember that their only hope lies in making common cause with the international human family.
For once we cut the umbilicus that sustains the American people as part of the world's people, we are fair game for all the fear-mongering-inspired plans for a “New American Century.”
Paradoxically, it is our meeting with despair that opens the doorway into this third space.
Are you ready?
T. Patrick Donovan is a doctoral student in Depth Psychology. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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