Sigmund Freud was the first to describe the mentality of casting my failures onto somebody else. The crushing thought that I ruined my marriage is too much for me to face, so I blame my ex-spouse. Although exes have long been targets for this kind of treatment, public figures are even better. The further removed from my immediate relations, the safer they become. Something deep inside tells me I’ve failed to live up to my own standards. But it’s dangerous to be bitter towards my spouse. Instead, my anger rises towards President Obama. That way it’s not my fault and I can still live with the people around me.
Psychologists call this projection. It’s usually accompanied by some type of legitimacy to make it believable. I can’t blame Gov. Butch Otter for my own kid’s behavior. That wouldn’t make sense. Instead, I’m angry about the Idaho school propositions that I’m sure as sure will ruin my kid’s education. I’ll research all the data that reinforces my position; I’ll spread my views all over Facebook. It’s a subtle shift, but it takes the culpability off of me and places it squarely on Gov. Otter. Radio programs and talk show hosts are there to help. Fox News will give me plenty of reasons why Obama has ruined my life while MSNBC will tell me why everything is the fault of the House Speaker Boehner.
For Christians, the Bible can be a great source of legitimacy. A selectively literal reading can reinforce my bitterness towards just about any issue or public figure. Even some churches become resources. Liberal churches show me how my problems have been caused by the Republicans; conservative ones likewise with the Democrats. If not officially endorsed by their pastors, these views are often freely available from congregants.
I see the reason for the increasing political divide between the right and the left as partly due to our modern rational society. The idea that we are failures (or sinners) is not appropriate for public discussion. While this is certainly good for religious freedom, it has the side effect of causing this chasm in public life as we search for somebody to blame. If foibles can’t be expressed and forgiven, they get pushed into the subconscious where they emerge as bitterness and anger. The biblical authors were very clear on their assertion: We all fall short in many ways and we desperately crave the forgiveness of Christ.
But since we live in a scientific society, this is just silly religion. Instead, I’ll switch on Sean Hannity and find how Obama’s going to make my life miserable over the next four years. As my anger burns towards Obama, I’ll feel good because it’s not my fault.