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.