Right Wing Nut House



Filed under: Decision '08, OBAMANIA! — Rick Moran @ 4:19 pm

It must have been one helluva speech.

In November of 1095, Pope Urban II stood up to speak at a gathering of church leaders who were meeting at the Council of Clermont to discuss the latest entreaty from the Eastern Holy Roman Emperor Alexios I Komnenos, who was begging for help to drive the Muslims out of his kingdom.

It seems that the Byzantine King had been at war with just about everybody in order to restore some of the luster to the empire lost by incursions by both Europeans like the Normans and especially the Seljuk Turks who had been carving up his diminishing kingdom like a beef roast for two hundred years. City after city, province after province in Asia Minor fell to Muslims. This included the Holy Land - a former jewel in the Byzantine Crown due to the enormously profitable tourist/pilgrimage trade. The Muslims, however, had internal problems of their own and in 1095, the Pope decided the time was ripe to strike.

The Pope’s speech at Clermont was apparently a doozy. There are at least 5 versions of it extant. This excerpt is from a recollection from a charmer by the name of Robert the Monk:

Let the deeds of your ancestors move you and incite your minds to manly achievements; the glory and greatness of king Charles the Great, and of his son Louis, and of your other kings, who have destroyed the kingdoms of the pagans, and have extended in these lands the territory of the holy church. Let the holy sepulchre of the Lord our Saviour, which is possessed by unclean nations, especially incite you, and the holy places which are now treated with ignominy and irreverently polluted with their filthiness. Oh, most valiant soldiers and descendants of invincible ancestors, be not degenerate, but recall the valor of your progenitors.

Aided by the skillful propaganda put out by such colorful luminaries as Peter the Hermit, who fostered the notion that Christian pilgrims were badly mistreated by the Muslims, Europeans, both noble and peasant alike, responded enthusiastically. (Peter the Hermit led 100,000 poorly trained and loosely organized “crusaders” in what became known as “The People’s Crusade. Unfortunately, they seemed more adept at murdering Jews in Eastern Europe and sacking towns that refused to give them food than in fighting Muslims. The Turks massacred them.)

The Pope’s speech was read in every pulpit in Christendom. And along with his bloodcurdling threats against the Muslims, Urban promised anyone who died trying to take the Holy Land back would pass Go and take a shortcut to heaven.

Given the miserable conditions of the European peasantry, heaven sounded like a good deal in comparison - as did the chance to rob, pillage, rape, and generally raise a rumpus as armies of the time were wont to do. So an enormous army was raised comprising several segments and sent off to conquer the Holy Land. This task they accomplished with the taking of Jerusalem in 1099 - an event marked by a horrific slaughter of most of the residents including Jews, Muslims and eastern Christians.

But what possessed so many to drop everything they were doing and run off to fight strangers in a faraway land?

Apparently, Pope Urban’s clarion call to serve touched something deep within his flock. Some historians point to a new European consciousness that spread the notion of western superiority and that Muslim domination of the Holy Land was intolerable in that regard. Other historians note that Muslims had been encroaching on European lands for 300 years, taking parts of Italy, Spain, and Eastern Europe which threatened the kingdoms of northern Europe.

Whatever the reason, Urban’s call for a Crusade to take back the Holy Land was really a charge to revive a glorious past and change the balance of power in favor of Europeans. Those who participated really, really believed in the rightness of their cause, that taking the Holy Land for Christians was “God’s will” (Deus lo volt!). In the name of the Pope and his holy decree, they felt justified in committing all sorts of heinous acts of slaughter and mayhem. Caught up in a religious fervor, those few knights who tried to act in a Christian manner and restrain their followers were ignored in favor of a mentality that gave everyone’s actions a patina of legitimacy regardless of the brutality and hardship that resulted.

This is the essence of a crusade; where emotion trumps reason and belief or faith is substituted for rational thought.

There are many of Senator Barack Obama’s opponents who refer to the “cult-like” atmosphere of his campaign or worse, describe his followers as cultists. Others see a kind of religious fervor at work in the Obama camp.

Neither analysis should be taken seriously as Sara at Orcinus points out:

A lot of people may be surrendering their will temporarily. Quite a few are expressing as much anger as hope — perhaps because expressing this much emotion is new for them, perhaps because they were raised in an era of Rush Limbaugh, perhaps because they’re new to politics and wrongly think this is how it’s done. (Their candidate is in a fine position to deliver some etiquette lessons. I hope he does — and soon — because the backlash is forming.) And, no doubt, there will come a time when Obama’s True Believers are crushed to realize that he appeared to promise one thing, and then did another. But, again, these are normal parts of any large-scale social change movement: FDR, for example, inspired at least this much devotion among the desperate and Depression-scarred citizenry of his early years in office; and it was that implacable trust and support that enabled him to lead the country through a time of radical change.

It’s notable to me that I’m hearing these concerns mainly from aging Boomers who are still nursing the deep wounds inflicted by the savaging of their own dreams, and fear that their children’s naive enthusiasm for Obama will lead them into similar disillusionment. And if that’s you, well, then, you’re right: it probably will. But another word for that is “growing up.” If we love our children, the best thing we can do for them on that inevitable day that they see their hero’s clay feet for the first time is not contaminate them with our own bitter cynicism. Somehow, we need to teach them — which means, even if we don’t feel it, modeling for them — that the only right response to disappointment is to step back, think it through, and find another, better way to re-engage the fight. Quitting is not an option. Given the current state of the country and the planet, neither is failure.

This is an amazing passage when you think about it. Basically, the author is saying that young Obama supporters have suspended their rational thought processes - if they ever had any - in favor of placing unquestioning faith in a politician and that to avoid becoming “disillusioned,” they must develop critical thinking skills in order to deal with their inevitable disappointment.

A more damning statement on this current generation’s capacity to think rationally I have never read. Raised and educated as this generation has been in a liberal bubble of multi-culturalism and political correctness while neglecting the development of independent and critical thinking, it may have been inevitable that they would fall head over heels for the kind of candidacy represented by Obama. He’s different. He’s popular. He makes us feel good for supporting him. And most importantly, he is so vague and nebulous in his politics that, like an empty vessel, you can fill him up with just about anything your heart desires.

Ask one of these rabid Obama supporters why they want him to be president and you’d probably get a similar answer if you asked peasant from Pope Urban’s army why he’s walking from France all the way to Jerusalem to fight a war. Neither will be particularly specific and are likely to mumble something about “believing” in the cause.

The author goes on to show the true nature of these “Obamamaniacs” and the hope placed in Obama to fulfill the “unfinished” hard left agenda from the 60’s:

This misguided “cult” talk not only misunderstands how social change occurs; it’s also giving the GOP a weapon it will use to the hilt if Obama is the candidate in the general election. They’re going to demonize those energetic kids as the re-animated zombie ghosts of the dirty f**king hippies of the 60s. And, in a historic sense, they are. They’re our own children, emerging to finish the work that their parents got too tired and too disillusioned to finish. For us old Boomers, they’re our very last shot at the dream.

We have a choice here. We can either bless them for their energy and commitment, hand them our tattered old ball, and see just how far they’ll be able to move it down the field — even as we stand by with the Bandaids and Bactine, shouting encouragement and coaching tips from the bench, just as many of us have done at a thousand soccer games through the years.

Or we can doom their fresh efforts with our own cynicism, withdraw our approval, make fun of them, and tell them they’re going off the deep end by joining up with some crazy mass movement that will never deliver on its promises of change.

Remarkable. In other words, we should encourage them in their irrational exuberance because if we try and inject a little reality, a little rational thought into their “belief” in Obama, we will make them less willing to unquestioningly follow the candidate toward whatever “change” he eventually settles on.

The Obama Crusade is far from being a Children’s Crusade. It is made up of people of all colors, ages, ethnicities, and religions. But what unites most of them is an inability to disassociate the “promise” of what Obama represents with the reality of what he may actually do as president. A fervent belief in this promise without a concomitant skepticism at what can actually be accomplished will doom this Crusade to eventually suffering the disappointment that simply announcing you are for “change” means little when you don’t get specific about what you are going to change as well as tell people how you are going to accomplish your objectives.

No, not a Cult of Obama but clearly, a movement born of hope, faith, and childlike acceptance of the candidate’s “promise” of greatness.

Is this the stuff of revolution? I don’t see it. More likely, this fervor will drift into the background as the interminably long general election campaign gets underway. At that point, I will guarantee you that if Obama fails to define himself, others will do it for him. And as Obama gets more specific and people realize exactly what his idea of “change” actually is, I suspect that the candidate will appear a little less like a man on a white horse and more like a normal Democratic party politician.


  1. Ever considered the fact that maybe your last column tells you why so many people are so passionate about Obama? That maybe people are tired about the shenanigans of the Clintons? That people are sick of Bill’s “Jessie Jackson won South Carolina twice” and Hillary’s slimy attempts to get the Florida/Michigan delegates seated at the convention? Maybe the fact that the Clintons wreak of Rovian divide and conquer politics has something to do with it?

    But no, Rick, according to you if we support Obama we’re “irrationally” following our “messianic leader,” yet if we vote for Hillary we’re supporting a “take no prisoners” political machine. Give us some credit, maybe some of us young people are sick to death of the Clinton/Rove style. Maybe some of us want more out of our political discourse, not swift-boating and race-baiting.

    You’re right, I don’t know everything about Obama’s policies. I’m not much of a policy wonk, I’m not sure I care. He and Hillary are so close to each other that any substantive differences they have (mandates anyone?) will be ironed out by the legislative process.

    When there’s no difference on substance the question becomes one of style. And in my humble “irrational” opinion, Obama’s congenial style - his willingness to listen to his ideological opponents (instead of HRCs abhorrent attempt to attack Obama for saying some nice things about Regan - Heaven forbid a democrat think, much less SAY that Regan did some good things as president!!!).

    I’ve never come right out and said it before, because yes, I am too cynical for my own good, and I’m not yet entirely convinced that Hope (there I go with that ephemeral word again? where’s the policy? you ask!!!) can beat the vaunted Clinton machine. But you calling my generation “irrational” and implying that my support for Obama was as empty as my wallet is insulting. Some of us may see what we like in Obama, or support him uncritically. But others of us actually thought (Imagine that! Young people thinking!!) and decided that we’d rather take a chance and be disappointed than reinforce a status quo that we are deeply disaffected with.

    But what would I know? I’m just an “irrational” young voter who fails to “think critically.” You may be a cynical old man Rick, but not all of us are blessed with your “rational” view of reality, and quite frankly, I’m not sure many of us would like to be.

    Comment by Jake — 2/14/2008 @ 5:59 pm

  2. “And most importantly, he is so vague and nebulous in his politics that, like an empty vessel, you can fill him up with just about anything your heart desires.”

    Because of the above, I took a trip to his website. I read through his 64 page “Blueprint for Change.” Turns out he’s not so vague and nebulous in his politics after all. The approach is increasingly granular as you get further in. I particularly liked his stances on tech related issues. Though I don’t agree with some of his ideas, I’d hardly call him an empty vessel.

    Comment by tHePeOPle — 2/14/2008 @ 6:07 pm

  3. Excellent essay containing many truths. Thanks.

    Comment by JK French — 2/14/2008 @ 8:14 pm

  4. “Emotion trumps reason”

    Thanks for proving my point, Jake.

    And most of that pabulum on “change” is cut and pasted from a variety of sources as TNR showed a couple of months ago.

    There’s hardly an original thought in the entire piece.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 2/14/2008 @ 8:27 pm

  5. These Obama folks will have to learn for themselves just how shallow he really is. All of us old timers have been through this at once time in our life. Some of us have learned and grown up a little. WE now look at things with our rose colored glasses in our pockets.
    Obama is an empty vessel lacking any real life learned lessons or maturity and honesty to cause him to recognize his own complete lack of true political worth.
    He is a recorded slogan posing as a leader.

    Comment by edward cropper — 2/14/2008 @ 9:34 pm

  6. Edward Cropper,

    Our founding fathers only saw fit for three requirements to become president…

    (Section 1 of Article 2 of the U.S. Constitution)
    * be a natural born citizen of the united States
    * be at least 35 years old
    * have lived in the U.S. for at least 14 years

    I don’t see anything in there about being a full vessel, or real life learned lessons. Maturity is apparently covered by the 35yr age requirement. Honesty is supposedly ensured by the check and balances of the other two ‘coequal’ branches. None of those requirements says anything about “political worth” either.

    Why do you suppose the founders left out such important things as you described? Only three requirements are needed to hold the highest office in the land. How exactly do you quantify real life lessons learned in a person?

    Comment by tHePeOPle — 2/15/2008 @ 2:30 am

  7. This isn’t a bad analogy, but the first Crusade was not an army of peasants. It was made up of knights, with their retainers and men-at-arms. It was a professional army, which is why it was successful in wresting the Holy Land away from the Muslims. The kingdoms that the first Crusade carved out remained in European hands for 200 years, until internecine squabbling and complacency, coupled with a united Muslim enemy, made them ripe for reconquest.

    I think you may be a little hard on the Obamaniacs. Young people aren’t too keen on critical thinking in any generation, and becoming invested in the political process for the first time is often a largely emotional reaction for most. I voted for Jimmy Carter in 1980, for God’s sake, because I was 19 and thought that people should share what they had. I didn’t have anything, so what did I know about earning a livelihood, or providing for a family? Like edward cropper said, they will learn for themselves that politicians can’t change the world and usher in the age of Aquarius.

    Comment by Chris — 2/15/2008 @ 7:20 am

  8. It’s entertaining to hear Bill Clinton worshippers lecture Barack Obama worshippers about irrational exuberance for believing in the utopia of LSD-induced new-agey hippies ‘last shot at the dream’.

    Mugged by reality on 9/11/2001 is what brought ‘change’ to my former utopian hippy self; the change was so revolutionary I am never getting on the flower-powered magic bus of ‘peace, love and understanding’ again.

    Comment by syn — 2/15/2008 @ 7:26 am

  9. Obama has gone into specific policy details; as Jake mentioned, the policies are outlined in great depth on his website. The meme that “Obama never says anything specific” is just a made-up media creation, the modern successor to “Gore said he invented the Internet,” spread by people who choose to repeat what they’re told rather than looking into the matter for themselves.

    Hillary Clinton, as well as all of the Republican candidates, were pretty “specific” when they supported the Iraq War. Nobody who supported the Iraq War is fit for public office. Obama’s better judgment is one of the best reasons he deserves our trust, and why he will get my vote.

    Comment by TTT — 2/15/2008 @ 11:56 am

  10. On the contrary, I have read and studied his positions and “philosphy” on his website.

    It is a cut and paste job that lacks both specificity and realism. Precious little on how to fund his programs save “raise taxes on the rich.” Considering the cost of his plans will top $875 billion over 5 years, he will need considerably more revenue than that to make his proposals “revenue neutral.”

    He talks change but his health care plan has been around DC for a decade or more. His energy plan is laughable - again with absolutely no specificity regarding how we get there from here not to mention how much “encouraging” alternative energy sources will cost.

    I could go on and on. And before you criticize someone as you did me, perhaps you should remember the fact that just because someone throws a bunch of crap on a website doesn’t mean he is being specific. Easily impressionable people like you ought to do a little more thinking and less emoting when it comes to Obama.

    Comment by Rick Moran — 2/15/2008 @ 12:05 pm

  11. Your backdrop commentary on the Crusades was amusing as it followed into an analysis of looking for a messiah in Obama.I don’t look for any kind of deliverance or salvation from politicians (or any human for that matter). What do I want from a politician? That he/she is reasonably honest, intelligent, and wants to steer public policy in a conservative libertarian direction. I don’t expect the politician to be 100% in the same ball park as myself, but we’d have to be in agreement more than half way. Obama seems to have tthe honesty and intelligence bases covered, but as far as his policy stances (which are garnered from his background rather than what he is saying on the campaign trail)I could never vote for the man unless I desired more of a socialist nanny state than we already have. He talks about change–but what kind of change? Change from the Clintonistas? Changes from the Bushies? Spare change that you may give to a homeless person? Brutha Barack what do you exactly mean? I personally believe we are going to hell in a handbasket which no president can totally turn around, only perhaps slow down.
    (that’s my cynicism). I don’t need an Obama to lead a chorus of Kumbaya and promise me a cotton candy future. Brutha Barack, just come out of the socialist closet. Yup, your young, black, smart, and have a good line of sh*t (not as good as BJ Clinton) and maybe that’s all a lot of folks are looking for. But as far as what you have to offer me as a citizen of these United States, I am not up for the taking.

    Comment by Brooklyn Dave — 2/15/2008 @ 2:58 pm

  12. Osama is the king of platitudes but how does McCain stack up against him? McCain’s manner does not attract followers or suspension of belief, perhaps because McCain glories in his enemies. Osama hasn’t been around long enough but has managed to attain some impressive achievements in this class. The problem here is that no one can ignore McCain’s record while Osama followers don’t care what his record is.

    Comment by Thomas Jackson — 2/16/2008 @ 11:39 pm

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