One Debate Moment

Responding to a question about the use of pre-emptive force against Iraq Bush said, “the enemy attacked us,” conflating Osama, Saddam, and, presumably, all who oppose America into one big evil clump.

Even more remarkably, Kerry picked up on it, and called the statement “extraordinarily revealing.” He then made the distinction that close to half of America still doesn’t know: “Saddam Hussein didn’t attack us, Osama bin Laden attacked us.”

“Of course I know Osama bin Laden attacked us,” Bush answered.

We can’t attack Bush’s point of view as stupidity or ignorance, because there is a logic behind it. It’s a logic I’ve seen used to defend many propositions, from the defense of one’s family to the defense of God and holy nation.

In the absolutist, polar world view, evil quite clearly exists. All enemies are a single thing. Now, the enemy is flying planes into us, so we’ve got to go there and get them. Think of it more like a father protecting his house. One day, a robber breaks in and hurts one of the kids. Dad buys a shotgun, and you better not be caught riding your bike across his lawn.

If the enemy is understood as Satan, himself, then it doesn’t matter which arm of Satan is after you – you respond the same way. See, to Bush it doesn’t matter whether there’s a causal or conspiratorial connection between America’s various enemies. Whether or not our enemies know it, they are heads on the same demon.

One of the reasons why the upcoming elections are so frightening to so many of us is that we’re learning that this is how much of America feels, too. It may even be a majority of Americans who feel safer being able to think of their nation’s struggle as a simple, broad-stroked Holy War against the devil, himself, than a complex and mundane one involving real people. Because in the former, God is on our side.