Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Winning The Hearts and the Pineal Glands of Americans

George Bush tells us how he is winning the minds and hearts of Iraqis. We might not want to go there, but winning some minds and hearts of Americans would be a good thing for the liberals and for this planet, too. I see a need for a three-pronged attack and so far all we are doing at all is the mind attack: we are trying to get the facts out, to get them noticed and to get them discussed. We produce statistics, we point out errors, we explain, over and over again, what is wrong with the policies of the current administration.

All this is useful. It's important to understand what is happening, to engage the minds of the citizens. But it's not enough. We also need to engage the hearts of the citizens, by making them care about our message, and we need to engage the spiritual parts of their bodies, what I call the pineal glands for lack of a better word. And no, the better word is not religion, because then we get into the field of organized religion and there we crash straight into the stone wall that is fundamentalism, the Only Real Religion in the media these days.

In short, we need to bring up emotions and spiritual context. We need to remind Americans that we have great ethics, strong consciences, courage and love for this country. We need to tell them that we care about our neighbors, that we care about this wonderful world and the plants and animals in it, that we care about the future, that we care about peace and prosperity and that we are strong in the defense of all good things.

We need to steal a leaf from Ronald Reagan's guidebook, and we can do this stealing with good consciences because we actually do stand for a new dawn in America, honesty, optimism and real faith: faith in the ability of this country to do the right thing. And we need to be proud of our message while doing all this. Liberals are liberal: open and expansive, warm and embracing, strong and upright. Liberals are also adults: good guardians of the wealth of this country, including its natural abundance, and liberals are protectors and defenders of its citizens, all of them. Liberals believe in the spirit of the American people, believe that Americans can do better, rise higher, be fairer.

Now, this makes my heart beat faster and my pineal gland open up towards the skies. It makes me feel good, and it's even true, at least as a goal and an ideal. We could go there, you know. But instead we get the emotional appeal of fear, fear and more fear from the Republicans, we get more and more restrictions on what and how we are allowed to be, and we get instructions on how to store cans of tuna under our beds instead of the protection we deserve. Why don't we offer a real alternative to all that fearmongering and futile attempts to stop pandemics or hurricanes with duct tape and cans of tuna under the bed?

As Digby points out in an excellent post, this is how we should criticize the administration:

This is an election about throwing the bums out and Democrats need to make a clear statement of fundamental values, not policy differences. Some strategists insist that Democrats must adopt the religious code words that Republicans use to signal character and values to evangelical voters. I would suggest that all Americans, religious and secular alike, share a language that is full of words that describe character and values. How about we start using some plain English words like unethical, dishonest, unfair, untrustworthy, dishonorable and lies. I think everybody can understand what those mean.

So true. And it is not just a question of using a different framing from the one the wingnuts use, because if we talk about the framing we are still in the domain of the mind, not talking to the hearts or the pineal glands (and yes, that was a poor choice for a term). Anybody can tell when words are inserted for purely framing reasons. If the emotions and the spirit are not there, the message falls flat. We need to be real liberals, brave enough to open our minds so that the hearts and the pineal glands can also be heard, brave enough to talk will the totality of our beings. Nothing less will turn the political tide.