Insecurity and fear
Insecurity is something that can do any creature in. Look at the runt of a dog litter. Beaten out in competition for the teat, they miss out on succoring. They grow up into the ones that bark and bite. They are bruised emotionally by everything around them -- unless they find that doting owner that heals their wounded spirit.
When insecure people get really scary is when their afraid. They're like wounded animals. They're ready to tear someone's head off. They don't like being afraid. So what do they do? They put on a front. They act tough. They swagger. They smirk. And inside, that little mouse is racing on its wheel, trying to get away from it all.
People in domestic abuse counseling will tell you about abusive men. They're typically weak. They are unable to stand up to their peers. Perhaps they are ridiculed. They feel deep down like they can never measure up. They whine, or perhaps brood. They complain out loud, or they keep score quietly. And when they don't get their way, eventually they lose it. They throw fits. They have tantrums. They scream. They break things. They kick the dog. And they beat on "their" women and children -- anyone who can't really fight back.
They're dangerous. In their weakness, they're dangerous, because they're unpredictable. Their rage is all bottled up, ready to explode at the slightest provocation. In their destructive whirlwind, they feel power, if only for a moment. It gives them what they lack in the rest of their lives. For a moment, they feel validated.
And if they don't get the upper hand, they feel their rage vindicated. It's proof that they are helpless. And they rage all the more.
Fear, fearful men and politics
We have seen a lot of this kind of behavior from the conservatives lately. They rage and bellow and complain. Even though they have all the elected power in the federal government, they play the victims. They whine about how they're victims. They never take responsibility for their own actions -- let alone the power they wield.
In the aftermath of Terri Schiavo's passing, I think we've see the abusive sides of these conservatives. They bellow threats, spittle flying from their purple lips as they tremble with rage. They don't control everything, and they can't stand it.
Don't think they're not aware of this. The fragile male ego is the target of their rhetoric. They want all men to be afraid of being emasculated. They appeal to insecurities. How can you trust your woman if she can use birth control?
They don't trust their own masculinity. The mere presence of a gay man will drive them to righteous indignation, if not outright violence. They don't trust their own heterosexuality. How else to explain the fear they have of men marrying men? Are they afraid that if it's not illegal, they might go marrying men, too?
Addiction and succor
There's another kind of insecure male that populates the conservative ranks. This type is epitomized by George W. Bush.
This is another kind of insecurity we see in people, the kind that shows up in addictions. Some ten years ago I remember reading a magazine article on Keith Richards, who (most I think would agree) is something of an expert on addiction, where he said that addiction is like trying to mother yourself. You're wounded. You don't feel up to it. You escape (or seek strength or comfort). "I just like to get high, dude." Yeah.
By many reports a coke fiend, and by his own admission a drunkard and pothead, W. fit the perfect mold of the insecure son of a powerful man (and perhaps a fearsome woman -- Barbara, I understand, is much feared in DC). Finding no succor at home, W. found it in the bottle and the fast life of a rich kind born with a silver spoon in his mouth.
His failures in the Texas Air Force and in business did him no favors. When the love of his life gave him an ultimatum, to his credit he went sober.... And found a new addiction in religion.
There's nothing like a man of faith who's just discovered it. He dove into it and it filled the void that was left when he gave up liquor. Drunk on religion, he continued in a new chapter of his life.
But is that insecurity gone? It couldn't have helped to know that he didn't really win in 2000. Even if all the votes were counted and still added up to an electoral victory, he still would have known that he lost the popular vote. Here Cheney and the neocons were all set to invade Iraq. Maybe that made him feel good. He was going to do his daddy proud. But he seemed pretty absentee those first several months, more eager to cut wood on his estate in Texas than actually address problems in Washington.
But when 9/11 hit, he got scared, real scared.
So did we all. This was when we needed a leader. What we got was a frightened boy acting tough to scare off the real tough guys. He's got a new addiction -- that of the Great White Crusader.
A fearful nation with a fearful leader
I think it's important to remember (and it's easy to forget these days): This was not the first time foreign nationals attacked on foreign soil. The most recent example of that scale was Pearl Harbor. The nation was pretty damned scared then, too.
But there was a different man at the helm. FDR, a man so crippled he could no longer walk, in constant pain, kept his cool. And he encouraged the nation to keep its cool. "We have nothing to fear but fear itself," he said during the Great Depression, and he carried the same message during the war.
Churchill, too, had strong words, but words of calm determination, not of frantic fear-mongering. Imagine Churchill saying, "We're going to be attacked, but we don't know when, we don't know where, but millions could die." You can't. He would never have said that. He had more sense than that. And he had more inner strength, which he lent to the nation (and they lent to him).
The things Bush has said are a far cry from "blood, sweat, toil and tears." He didn't have the strength. So what we got was modern-day tough-guy pollyanna aphorisms like "The best defense is a good offense," and "You're either with us or you're against us," and more rhetoric more akin to that of Goebbels than Churchill.
And so after the war in Afghanistan was scarcely underway, he launched a new war in Iraq. His daddy had beaten up Saddam, so he must've figured he could, too. Not much risk of losing outright. Wolfowitz was offering assurances. (Remember he said the war would cost $1.7 billion.)
On the other hand, for Bush, there was a lot of personal risk to his ego if we did not invade. After all, Osama bin Laden got away. Al-Qaeda got away. W. had to go beat up somebody.
"Saddam Hussein is thumbing his nose at us," he cried in justification for the war. (Note that the conservatives use that same phrase now about the judiciary.)
And now over 1500 of our soldiers are dead, our surplus is long gone, our economy is in ruins, oil prices are skyrocketing -- and our national security, by many expert accounts, is worse than it was before 9/11.
Today we get more fear-mongering from the Bush administration to justify extending the most radical parts of the Patriot Act, which targets American citizens, not foreign nationals.
The fear-filled manner which Bush has carried himself has been quite frightening. It plays along with the conservatives' own fears, and right into the fears they wish to perpetuate in the American public to remain in power.
What they're finding, however, is that the same formula doesn't quite work with domestic policy. With Social Security, they warned of a "crisis," but then when it became clear there was no crisis, they warned of "going broke." But then they offered a plan that made things worse. People weren't so inclined to buy it.
With Terri Schiavo, they cried that the judiciary has gone berserk, and is out to kill everyone in hospitals all over. But most people have faced death in the family first-hand, and know that it's never easy, and the last person you want messing with your healthcare during your final days is an interventionist Congress. "Let the woman die in peace!" was what 3/4 of the public said, according to the polls.
(These people are so afraid, they are fearful of moving to prevent terrorists from buying guns at gun shows lest it lead down some imaginary slippery slope to the repeal of the Second Amendment.)
But they keep pushing.
The golden age of fear and rage
Now the conservatives are saying that these "radical" judges are responsible for violence in courtrooms. My guess is that most people would figure that if a suspect goes batshit in a courtroom, it's probably not the judge's fault. But you won't hear a conservative say that these days. Now we're supposed to be afraid of the courts -- even the Supreme Court (which refused to hear the Schiavo case).
But the conservatives continue and continue. They cannot help themselves. They're small men trying to fill big shoes. They don't know how to wield power responsibly because, deep down, it does not address their own insecurities. They are not up to it.
And so we will continue to see the conservatives aggressively trying to butt their rage-filled faces into people's private affairs while they try to make us all afraid.
They can't help it. They're abusers.