Cults

There seems to be a rise in cults lately. Let me reword that. There seems to be a very large cult insidiously taking foot today.

My introduction to the concept of cults was the Manson Family, in 1969. I was living outside Los Angeles, and the murder of Sharon Tate was in the news, then it became the “Tate/LaBianca Murders” and eventually we all got to know Charles Manson. Before that, the only time I’d heard the word “cult” was in reference to the Catholic Church (more on that another day).

It was a time of young people looking for guidance, and charismatic opportunists began having a field day. Weak minds and popular drugs made recruitment relatively easy, and soon every parent of a  young person who had run away to find themselves was able to blame the problem on cults. Sometimes that was accurate, more often it was just that running away was much more fun than mowing the lawn.

The next big cult story was the Children of God. As young people literally disappeared from the face of the Earth into this cult, families fought back with “Deprogramming“, in which the loved one was kidnapped from the cult, and subjected to treatment not too dissimilar from the techniques used in “A Clockwork Orange“. Deprogramming became troublesome, in that the cure was more than likely worse than the “affliction” in most cases. Bringing someone back into the fold by force is an ethical challenge, and some people thought it might be a cure for what they felt was “deviant” behavior of any sort. Deprogramming was attempted on homosexuals and others who were considered “abnormal”.

In the seventies, other cults began forming and/or growing. Marshall Applewhite started “Heaven’s Gate“, ending with the suicides of the remaining thirty seven members in 1997. The Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s “Unification Church” which is still going strong. Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh brought his ninety three Rolls Royces to Oregon and began a commune, culminating with the first bio-terrorist attack in the United States (not counting blankets given to native Americans). My worst memory  is of “The People’s Temple“, as I happened to be working as a security guard, by myself, with only a radio and a gas heater as I listened to the reports unfold from Guyana.

Cults are not always religious in nature, but there are of course core beliefs, and because they are believed fanatically, the concept of cults in general being religious groups became common. This is in some ways unfortunate. The word “cult” has become pejorative, so there is a negative association with religion in general whenever a cult hits the news. Additionally, whenever a new cult is noticed, it takes on religious terms.

Coronations are rarely as majestic, and he’s just being nominated. Today we have the Cult of Obama. I have no idea how this happened, except that, as in the seventies, there were a large number of people who were unhappy with their lives in 2008. Hitler blamed the Jews, Obama blamed the Republicans. Do not believe that I “Hate” Obama. I am not an extremist, and actually, I admire his brilliance as a politician. I also admire Timothy McVeigh, and no, I make no parallel.

I was pro Obama in the early months of 2008. I believed that a black man could lead this country away from racial stereotypes. I knew that there would be people forced to face their own prejudices, and I saw this as a good thing. I bought his line about transparency. By late Spring I could sense that something was wrong. His supporters were fanatical, which always sets off alarms for me. As questions arose about his background, rather than address the questions honestly and openly he would act as if he was above being questioned. His supporters ridiculed rather than responded. The level of hatred expressed by his supporters was genuinely frightening. More than a few friendships ended, open discussion was not to be. Cracks could be seen, but even suggesting the possibility of Obama being less than perfect resulted in being shouted down, and slandered with accusations of being part of any number of extremist groups. Any detraction of Obama is responded to with “Racist”, “You must have heard that on Faux News”, or anything other than a thoughtful response to the issue.

By 2010, I thought we were on the road to recovery. Some of Obama’s most vocal supporters were recognizing that he had not measured up to his promises. The radical left began to turn against him, as his actions showed a man who was just a little to the right of the opponent he had beaten in the election. Some of my friends came back, and we laughed about it. As we approached 2012, it seemed that the “line” had moved, but was deeper than ever. The new mindset was variations on “What does it matter?”. In many ways, they were right. He had been elected and filled the position of President of the United States for four years, his lack of actual credentials was no longer important. It seemed altogether possible that he would not be reelected. But, as I mentioned, he is a brilliant politician. That is to say, by targeting specific precincts he was able to turn a popular vote margin of three percent into a much larger electoral victory. The result, as seen in the Bush v. Gore election, was a polarizing effect, laid upon an already polarized nation.

Carrying forward his “What does it matter” rhetoric isn’t working quite as well, but as there is little rational discussion, it doesn’t matter. The scandals grow, the cracks spread, and the cult grows more defensive. One of the many recent scandals involved the Internal Revenue Service, which, although a part of the government and thus his responsibility, he could easily distance himself from. Instead, after the IRS publicly apologizes for misconduct, Obama says in a press conference “If this happened”. Yes Mr. President, it happened, the IRS has already apologized, too late to deny.

Four years ago, Barack Obama could read the telephone book from a teleprompter, and thirty million American voters would hear whatever panacea they sought. That is changing. But there is nothing more dangerous than a wounded animal, even when that animal is already a lame duck. Cult members don’t usually just wake up one day and say “Oops! I was wrong, sorry”, and I don’t expect to see it now. It is a time for grace. The words “I told you so” can be sympathetic and consoling if the phrase begins with “I’m sorry”.

I am hopeful, that since only fifty seven percent of eligible voters make it to the polls, and only fifty one percent of those people voted for Obama, we will not see a huge swing to the right in the next election. In many ways we can thank Barack Obama for breaking the left/right barrier down. I would like to see, but am not holding my breath, a reasonable, honest discussion. I would like to see, not the programs, but the government Obama promised. Regardless of who implements it.

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9 comments on “Cults

  1. Would you believe I had a life-long Democrat screaming at me that Bush and Cheney would be sent to jail and our service people would be home in 30 days. I had made the heretical statement that nothing would change, Bush and Obama would shake hands over the changing of the guards, the money men would continue to make money and the wars would go on. I finally told her If she didn’t stop, I’d lock the place up and go home (we were docents at a museum).

    As for cults, it seems everyone has their own definition. I’m baffled by the cult of worshiping celebrities.

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    • kblakecash says:

      Yes, I do believe that. On 5 November 2008 an elderly black woman who I had ridden the bus with for years pushed her way to the front of the line saying “I don’t have listen to no crackers no more”. Last week in a discussion on NPR I made a reference to God, and a Democrat responded, quite seriously, “Well, you brought up Obama, not me”.

      I can only thank Obama for making your point. Unfortunately, they hear “Here comes the new boss, same as the old boss” and reelect him anyway. The excuse I heard this morning was “We have to stick together, or Bush/Cheney will take over again”.

      We live in a society of victims. Life is easier when you can blame some evil conspiracy. That thinking also allows for the exaltation of celebrities, as the line between reality and fantasy blurs out of existence.

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  2. It is so sad. My life span is now short, but my grandchildren will bear the brunt of all of this.

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  3. You know what I like about you KB? You have the guts to write about the ‘tough’ subjects. I am a fiscal conservative with an empathetic social point of view. What the hell does that mean? I’m not sure. I vote Republican but take care of my neighbors. I STRONGLY believe the best government is a small government and this administration doesn’t know the meaning of that. Has he been a disappointment? Not to me. I had little belief in any of his platform to begin with. I find him to be polarizing, as his supporters are. There is no talking with them. They would rather be led into a fire then to admit he is unqualified. I understand he has very few personal friends and takes even less advise. Time will tell- but I don’t think he will go down as a great President even though we may go down because of his policies. I could respond with more…more…more.. but I’ve just developed a headache.

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  4. Carrie says:

    I’m a liberal, but not a cultust. I experienced the same thing with Bush. I would make comment and soon found that I was being yelled at and called names, the least of which was “unamerican”. I could not have a calm, let alone rational, discussion with people about opposing views. I think the cult you speak of started a long time ago. It’s the cult of politics. And people have become irrational about it, on both sides. Fortunately not all. There are people who will follow “cultish” ways, and people who won’t. Those that do are grasping at anything to make their lives better, or to blame someone for everything that is wrong. And yes I’ve still been called nasty names, etc for voicing an opinion about my political views. I’ve mostly just learned who I need to keep my mouth shut around or simply walk away one the yelling starts. Nothing has changed.

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    • kblakecash says:

      Carrie, I am so happy to hear from someone on the liberal side about this article. I agree that rational conversation is largely a thing of the past, and that “the cult of politics” has been growing as people find it easier to react than to think. I tend more towards the conservative side (even though one person who read this article called me a liberal), and am genuinely embarrassed when I read some of the things other conservatives say. Particularly when they misspell words and use horrible grammar.

      There are a lot of angry people out there on both sides, and immature nastiness has been around since Nixon’s “enemies list” and most likely before. I feel the reactionaries are growing in number, there’s something “empowering” about being part of a herd, whether that herd is the Obama cult or the TEA party. The scary thing about this cult is that they are in power, and rather than acting like liberals, they’re acting like NAZIs. Following Newtown, I heard more than one “anti-gun” liberal suggest shooting members of the NRA. That kind of cognitive dissonance brings to mind images of Zombies.

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      • carrie says:

        Thanks, I figured that you wouldn’t mind a liberal jumping in. As long as I didn’t start acting crazy. 😀 I apologize for my misspelled words, it’s not my strong suit and it was early for me. I think my grammar is fine.
        That was how I felt during the Bush W years. These people are in power! Now what do I do. I’m not sure what labels I would put on them (I tend to shy away from labeling people, individually or in groups – Yes, how very liberal of me). But it was frustrating, over the edge and down right scary. I was called some of the nastiest names I’ve ever heard and felt threatened more than once.
        Well, hopefully the pendulum will swing back to sanity sometime soon.

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