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Welcome to Political Babylon

On Life

Ruminations and provocations.

Welcome to Political Babylon

Stephen H. Provost

We, the people of Political Babylon ...

I’m taking a timeout from talking about presidential candidates online. That’s not to say I’ll never do so, but I’m going to try to refrain – and here’s why.

It’s not that I don’t care about the election or have a preference. I have a strong preference and, yes, I do care. What I don’t care for is how this election has started to look like everything that’s wrong with organized religion.

It’s not the candidates but their supporters who have led me to this conclusion, just as it isn’t any deity that makes me wary of religious fervor. It’s the us-vs.-them fanaticism that drives people to turn against one another and feel as though it’s acceptable – even noble – to become backbiters, kitchen sink dumpers and even suicide bombers.

All for the sake of some cult of personality; for the privilege of following some Pied Piper.

The way people hurl abuse at one another in the name of one candidate or another is nauseating. It’s gotten to the point where one can’t make a reasoned observation about any candidate without one of his/her supporters shouting the political equivalent of “Blasphemy!” or “Heresy!” Facebook and Twitter have become venues for verbally re-enacting the Spanish Inquisition using less physical implements of torture: bullying, accusation, name-calling and the full gamut of fallacious arguments.

People defend “their” candidates like they’re Jesus, Gandhi and Martin Luther King all rolled into one.

They’re not.

Partisans and true believers go around throwing money into campaign war chests as though they're making offerings at some sacred temple. They refuse to risk upsetting any of the money-changers’ tables for fear one might topple over on their candidate and he/she will lose the advantage. The end justifies the means. Sure it does. Keep telling yourself that as your credibility disappears down the toilet. Do you even care?

Nearly everyone decries the tenor of the candidates’ rhetoric as unbecoming of a president. Well, look in the mirror. How's your rhetoric sounded lately? These politicians are putting on a show you’re paying to see, so kindly stop paying for it or stop complaining.

We the voters have personalized these candidates to such an extent we've adopted them as symbols of our own psychosis. In psychological terms, there's more projection going on here than you'll find at a 20-screen multiplex, and the image on the screen is just as two-dimensional.

No, I’m not joining the chorus of “let’s get along for the sake of party unity.” Party unity be damned. It’s just an excuse for people to act like one party or the other (or the two-party system) is “the one true church” and everyone else needs to be excommunicated. Whatever happened to voting your conscience? Whatever happened to staying civil for civility's sake? That concept seems to have disappeared down the toilet as well.

In the meantime, we’ve stopped talking about the issues. We’re so busy defending “our son of a bitch” because he’s our son of a bitch, it's as if we’ve forgotten why we started supporting him (or her) in the first place. This is what happens with personality cults: They become all about the person, while the issues are neglected and forgotten. The result is paralysis at best, demagoguery and despotism at worst. We get what we pay for with our 30-second attention spans.

Wonder why we tolerate people who flip-flop on the issues - who obfuscate, lie and spin everything under the sun? Then read that last paragraph again. We care more about party affiliation, name recognition and our own projections in this theater of the absurd than we do about the plot lines, the substance, the issues.

It’s what we want. It’s what we allow. If we don't have a Pied Piper, but we'll create one to follow. If we believe hard enough, these candidates will be everything we want them to be, right?

Be careful what you wish for, because the reflection in that mirror ain’t pretty. If we really want a candidate who looks just like our own psychoses, it won’t be long before we come to regret it. Then we’ll blame our savior: We’ll sacrifice him or her on the altar of our own denial, and we’ll start the ugly cycle all over again.

Welcome to Political Babylon.