Dehumanizing the Enemy
by Paying Attention, Fri Aug 10, 2007 at 02:59:37 PM EDT
Over the last few weeks, the GW Bush camp has been attempting to humanize our Decider-in-Chief in order to up his approval ratings. We saw the NYT article in which Bush Sr. talks about how hard it is to be the father of a sitting president. And Bush Jr. has recently been crying on the friendly shoulder of Fox's Neil Cavuto about the fact that names CAN hurt him. While not surprising, this attempt at controverting Bush's carefully constructed image as the brush-clearing, O'Doul's can-crushing cowboy is at least a little audacious. And it makes me scratch my head as to how much of the public ire the Bush Co. actually brought on itself and how much is simply overhead from our (all-too-human) tendency to dehumanize the enemy.
When first contemplating the option that GW is actually incurring his just desserts, my initial impulse was to run through my standard litany of Bush evils: all the way from 2000 vote-stealing and caging lists through Gonzales and contempt of Congress. But where does that get me? We all avoid rehashing our regrettable moments (in fact, I make it a point NOT to document my Facts of Life rerun marathons for fear they may be used against me), and it's just part of the deal that when the president of a country has them, we all end up suffering. But is it that simple? Can any of the mistakes that I've made be placed on the same level as those of the Bush Co? How much does intent matter, and how much of Bush's nonsense has been intentional? "In other words," is Bush a fool or a knave? And how much of a role should levels of responsibility and visibility play? All of these questions may be relevant, but answering them doesn't seem likely to make it any easier to for me to watch a Bush speech. As a result, I must explore other rationale for why I am so very deeply put off by the man.
So, this brings me to the parts played by image and dehumanization. The thought that I am so easily swayed by style, is of course, somewhat disconcerting, but in all honesty, I may have been turned off by Bush before he ever became the Decider. Even before I knew much about his lame Texas governorship (or really, anything significant about him), I was suspicious about the way he walked, the way he talked, and the entirety of his "bringing honor back to the White House" rhetoric. Just looking at him reminded me of the smarmy, superficial frat boys I had known who had used their connections and underhanded tactics to get out of things like the Vietnam War and into things like the Air National Guard. Which makes me wonder: In spite of all of my soap-box rhetoric and high ideals about America's place in the world, civil liberties, and social justice, do I loathe Bush for the same reasons that Republicans loathe Clinton? Am I just as easily swayed by style as by substance? And do I just use Bush's wrongdoings as an excuse to dehumanize him and call him names like "Geopolitical Warmonger", "Grossly Withoutcompetence", and "Grinning Weasel"?
The answer: I'm afraid I'll never know.