How Decent People Can Support an Indecent Political Force: The Idea of the “Module”

The previous piece here –“An Ugly Intrusion of Republicanness into My 50th High School Reunion”– was also published on Daily Kos, where it stirred up a real firestorm: an unusually high number of “recommendations,” and an unusually large number of people attacking me.

One of the supportive comments asked, “Did anyone stand up to this asshole?”

I responded, with the subject line, “I do not see this fellow as a bad guy,” in the following way:

“I was never close with this fellow, but we played football together for three years, and shared cafeteria time and so forth. Over the years, we’ve exchanged brief pleasantries at reunions. Also, I have it from other people that he’s generally a decent fellow.

“So I do not see what happened here as necessarily indicative of something deep and core about who he is.

“It’s part of who he is, of course. But I’m more inclined to see this as being a kind of module that’s been inserted into his personality.

“I speculate that it’s a place where a degree of arrogance and ambition in the young man evolved into something that could be exploited. When we were in school, he worked very hard to fulfill his ambition to be a big winner as an athlete. I further speculate that that part of him might have gotten bruised a bit when he found, as a grown man, that he could not maintain that status he enjoyed in high school as the all-conference star player in three of the biggest sports. And then came the political force to which he gave his allegiance to exploit that part for its purposes.

“(I’ve studied what happened in Germany in the years from, say, 1918 through 1945, and one can see these kinds of moldings of modules to bring what were apparently good people into service of a power whose spirit was anything but good.)

“In the case of today’s Republican rank and file — the people who get their news from Fox News, or from Limbaugh — the vulnerable parts of them have been hijacked and exploited. They’ve been taught to bring some of the worst parts of themselves into the political realm. they now operate in the political world from their worst selves.

“I say ‘political world’ because in the rest of the world they can be the nicest, most decent folks you meet.

“That’s the nature of the module. When they enter a particular space, they adopt the self that was entrained by the manipulative force.

“Up there with a microphone, as I imagine it, this basically decent fellow just naturally, conceivably even reflexively, allowed this module to kick in.

The Manchurian Candidate is but an extreme version of what happens all the time to people in social universes dominated by manipulators.

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  1. similar thing happened to me at reunion. i am basically a Catholic Worker anarchist. when one of former classmates asked me if was a “Christian”? when i made some comment about nuclear weapons and/or refugees from Central America i was immediately stunned but i also went thru the process Andy described. they are individuals who still believe in the American Dream and are unable to see how it has crippled them. it is real no use to sit and argue with them because they really lack the imagination and fortitude to see alternatives as of now. well; to be patient and tell our truth is all we really can do. for now.

  2. “they are individuals who still believe in the American Dream and are unable to see how it has crippled them” Paul Quinlan

    Andy, maybe this would not be inconsistent with your intended purposes here if Paul Quinlan would elaborate here on what he thinks is the American dream and how some ,he thinks, ‘still mistakenly(?)’ believe in.. AND, too, how he thinks this has ‘crippled’ them.

    If you check back, Paul, and with Andy’s permission,, maybe make plain your views on these realities as you feel or see them.

    NOT critical at all but so we can understand what you are saying.

    (as for this Catholic Worker anarchist thing we see where they are risking a lot here and there protesting and drawing attention to gross wrongs carried on by the ‘powers that be’. In some cases we would have to see it as extreme ‘patriotism’ for the true ‘Right’)

    “who still believe in the American Dream” ?
    ” and are unable to see how it has crippled them” ? Paul Quinlan

  3. Richard H. Randall

    Don’t ever dismiss the effect of willful ignorance, and a general form of racism and malevolence in these people. They think John Wayne was a war hero (he was a draft dodger)and Ronald Regan should have been king. The nation has been lied to for many years, and many of the so called opposition forces have been too weak and busy assisting in sending jobs overseas and gutting the social safety net to really ‘get down to brass tacks.’
    Last week I was discussing Senator Tom Coburn (R) and what I consider his awful record. Just learned recently he is amongst these trolls who are actively considering impeaching the President. I assume this is because they are expecting to lose the financial showdown in the fall: if Obama actually stands up to these traitors, this is what I think they will do.

    • One minor point, Richard, if you don’t mind. I think we should not join the right-wing in using the word “traitor” loosely. It has a legal meaning, and with very heavy implications. You know that I think this right wing force is an atrocity, is monstrous, is dishonest and destructive, and I think we need to fight with all our might against it and therefore against those who choose to be its channels. But they are not aiding and abetting our external enemies, even though they themselves are degrading and damaging the country– some of them knowingly, I would guess, but most of them out of their broken and deluded way of viewing the world. And if I understand correctly, that means that they are not traitors.

  4. Richard H. Randall

    OK: treason does imply aiding a foreign power against the interests of the nation. The term I probably should use is therefore seditionist, sedition being defined as deliberate actions leading to insurrection, subversion, or disabling of a constitution, or government.
    Your point is well taken.

  5. Does Aiding and Abetting a known Terrorist Organization known to be Anti-American, i.e. the Muslim Brotherhood, constitute as Treason?

    • I don’t think the Muslim Brotherhood has ever been listed as a terrorist organization by the U.S Department of State, which generates such lists. Also, I don’t think “anti-America” is sufficient to make an organization an “enemy of the United States.” Also, I’m wondering who you have in mind as having “aided and abetted” the Muslim Brotherhood, and frankly, I suspect your question reflects your having bought into some fear-mongering lies. But perhaps you can clarify your implications here.

  6. first, i kind of think that american dream is at best an illusion. it is kind of like the donkey and the carrot. ever so often the donkey does get the carrot but all still remain the ass. poetic metaphor but the reality is that it has never really been experienced by that many people (immigrants, their descendents); and also african americans and native peoples were excluded from the beginning and never fully realized by most Americans. and with shrinking resources and increasing violence both within and without it doesn’t appear close to realization for most of us.
    by crippling i mean the increasing levels of addiction, familial disorganization and dysfunction on all levels of society. society is an abstraction which i believe the state can minimally influence. (not denying the social gains somewhat of the 1960’s;). but in a lot of white people conciosness ‘blacks have arrived’) anyone paying close attention to zimemerman trial and racism surrounding obama can see that fallacy.
    andy got it right. deal with them as individuals and respect without patronizing or violent abuse and/or rhetoric. ‘the powers that be’ is what st paul referred to as the ‘principalities and powers’. i apologize to any jewish readers but it is also what the prophets railed against as well. and look at the example and writings of abraham heschel. same message different time. repent and seek metanoia; and as a jamacian priest once said to me that means: ‘come to your senses.’

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