November 10, 2009

Actual basis for Obama disillusionment syndrome (Freudian analysis)

Okay, look: I'm an inveterate amateur psychoanalyst in the great tradition of amateur everythings, such as the amateur sleuths Sherlock Holmes of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Lord Peter Wimsey of Dorothy Sayers, and Father Brown of G.K. Chesterton. Anyway, it's not that difficult to be an amateur Freudian shrink. All you have to do is to attribute everything to unconscious motivations, and if anyone disagrees with you, you simply argue that they're engaged in Resistance based on Denial. A closed loop.

The great physicist Richard Feynman took issue with the validity of psychology on the ground that the advances in the field were too frequent and too variable to be characteristic of a real science. He pointed out that it took hundreds of years to get from Newtonian physics to relativity and quantum physics, whereas psychology seems to go through a major paradigm shift every decade or so. That's not characteristic of real science, only "heuristic" musing or subjective philosophy. Leave it to Feynman to think about things in a way which would occur to no one else. One of the many reasons his loss is so immense.

So anyone should be able to use psychoanalysis because it's not real in the first place. Dr. Phil certainly doesn't let his lack of the appropriate credentials get in his way.

Back to Obama: here's how it works. Consider an analogy, always helpful in the fairy-tale based "science" of psychoanalysis. A woman meets a charming, dynamic man, and they engage in a whirlwind romance. She's just coming out of an eight-year relationship with a lying, semi-deranged, hard-drinking brute, who knocks her around, cheats and is monumentally insensitive. The new guy really looks like a step up, especially by comparison. They get married, and then on their wedding night something strange happens. Prince Charming drinks a little, says something derogatory to her, and then hits her one in the mouth.

That's it. He never strikes her again, and in the ensuing months he's pretty reliable. Not a bad husband.

So here's the analogy. Most progressive, liberal types saw Obama as the Great Redeemer during his campaign and just before his inauguration. We had been through eight years of George W. Bush, who had fabricated evidence for an unnecessary war in Iraq; gotten about 4,000 soldiers killed over there, and refused to count the numbers of Iraqi dead (he couldn't be bothered); established a torture regime (Abu Ghraib, Bagram, Guantanamo, rendition) which violated the Geneva Conventions, the U.S. War Crimes Act and the Convention Against Torture; routinely and systematically violated the FISA law and the Fourth Amendment by spying without warrants on American citizens; and established a concentration camp in Cuba where the due process rights of many innocent people were completely obliterated.

Not a word of the above accusations is in any sense exaggerated, false or even controversial. Some of it has faded from memory, of course, but that's part of (Freudian) suppression. The overwhelming assumption among Obama's ardent followers (such as, ahem, Dr. Walden) was that Obama would kick some holy ass once he took power and cleanse the temple of all this filth and corruption. We can invent some convenient amnesia if we like, but that truth remains. Those salutary actions included the much-ballyhooed (and never realized) "accountability" moment so many talked about during the Bush years. If it meant that members of Bush's administration, including Bush himself, would be the subject of investigation and/or prosecution, so be it. Joe Biden said during the campaign that all of that was on the table; Obama kept saying that "no one was above the law."

Once Obama was sworn in (the wedding night), however, all of that changed for good. His murmured preference for "looking forward, not backward" became fixed policy. Then he took it further. His Administration, through his Justice Department, began interfering with private litigation based on Bush's various war crimes and felonies, using a broader definiton of the "State Secrets" doctrine than had Bush himself. He argued against releasing any more photos of detainee abuse "for the safety of the troops," meaning, of course (since the enemies of the troops were already well aware of the extent of the abuse), for Bush's safety from prosecution. His Administration redacted the CIA Inspector General's Report of 2004 on torture to an almost comic level. Once he decided to protect Bush from scrutiny, Obama used every legal and extra-legal method available to avoid inciting the citizenry's fading and dormant demand for justice.

Dormant, perhaps, but not really forgotten. It resides in a kind of collective unconscious. It affects the way we look at Obama. He's not our knight in shining armor at all. He kinda punched us all in the mouth. He's more like the previous guy than we really want to admit.

So he does good things, no doubt. He's progressive on health care, global warming, scientific research, a bunch of things where Bush was very much in the way. The world community respects us more, and they welcome a humane and emotionally healthy American President. Yet there's that lingering, shocking betrayal. Residing as it does deep in the unconscious, it "colors" our perceptions, and not in any racial way, not at all. I suspect that Freud was right, that our unconscious pushes our emotions around as undersea currents move the oceans. We can't help feeling the way we do, and it's just not possible to get excited about the new guy anymore. He just seems like a lot of talk, because that moment for action came and went and he displayed his true mettle. He never meant any of it.

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