Robert Suskind has an article in the past week’s New York Times Magazine about the role of faith in Bush’s presidency. It’s not quite what you would expect, and I recommend reading this – not so much for the information as for the piecing together of things and for the rather fascinating quotes from various administration and party officials.
For some reason, this article has disturbed me more than almost anything I’ve seen in the news in the past several months. The conjecture and the analysis ring too true, and the possible consequences are far more alarming than most possibilities of war.
If this article is correct, and I believe that there is a strong chance that it is, our president believes that he is receiving direct instructions from God about how to run this country, and these instructions trump everything else, including all observations of the world around him. It indicates that his followers – both within the party and more broadly in the populace – are aware of this and approve, and would like their president to be doing this.
Let me put this bluntly: Someone who believes in God is one thing. Someone who believes that God is talking to him and telling him what to do has got a serious problem. (“God talks to me and tells me to kill” sounds like something out of a bad serial killer movie – but “God talks to me and told me to go to war?” That goes almost beyond comprehension)
I’m not going to discuss whether he’s right or wrong in this belief. It could well be that God is talking to him. The reason this isn’t relevant is that “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you, but just because they’re out to get you doesn’t mean you’re not paranoid, either.” You can be right and still be crazy; the guy who believes that government spies are watching him to the extent that he starts to stockpile guns and shoot at people will pretty soon actually have government spies watching him – but that doesn’t mean that he’s suddenly become sane. The problem is that he believes this independently of the evidence around him.
I am terrified, genuinely frightened, that our president, a man with the power to start a war or end one with a word, a man who can send hundreds of thousands of troops into harm’s way essentially on his own (now that our Congress has essentially ceded its backbone) is non compos mentis, that is, insane in the literal sense of the word. I am more frightened still that he has found a substantial portion of the country willing to go along with such a thing, and surrounded himself successfully with only people willing to agree completely with anything he says, brooking no opposition in even the slightest thing. (For a recent example of the extent of this isolation, try this story from a Bush rally in Oregon. Those people were Republicans.)
Perhaps this scares me more than most people because I’ve seen messianic dreams before, and I know that those always lead in a very, very bad direction. Jerusalem is famous for those; Israel’s police has a large number of forces dedicated full-time to hunting down and stopping just the Jewish messianic types who are absolutely certain that, say, blowing up the al-Aqsa mosque is an absolutely critical step in bringing about the coming of the Messiah. You wouldn’t believe what the even crazier ones want to do. And I know what happens with larger-scale messiahs, too; not small-scale nuts like Jim Jones, but large-scale nuts like Shabbetai Zvi or Jean d’Arc. When they go down, a lot of people go down with them.
Right now, we may have a man who is not of sound mind, who believes that he is on a personal mission from God and is acting out divine orders, sitting on the trigger of the world. We have this man and his acolytes demanding an ever-increasing level of absolute support and devotion for all of his policies – or one gets thrown out of the inner circle, of the party, thrown in jail, prohibited from flying, and so forth. This has been getting worse, not better, for several years now. His friends openly use the word “treason” – a black word in any language – to describe anyone who opposes them.
Can disaster be far behind?