During his recent campaign speech calling for renewal of the Patriot Act, Bush mentioned “souls” five times, leading up to this final, extremely curious (from a theological standpoint) mention:
And there’s only one path to safety and that’s the path of action. Congress must act with the Patriot Act. We must continue to stay on the offense when it comes to chasing these killers down and bringing them to justice — and we will. We’ve got to be strong and resolute and determined. We will never show weakness in the face of these people who have no soul, who have no conscience, who care less about the life of a man or a woman or a child. We’ve got to do everything we can here at home. And there’s no doubt in my mind that, with the Almighty’s blessings and hard work, that we will succeed in our mission.
The discussion of this at Corrente is pretty interesting (see this item: How can Bush say that his enemies have no souls?, as well as the item’s comments). It includes a link to an earlier Corrente posting (POTL — short for “People of the Lie”) that I also really liked.
The asssertion by Bush that our enemies have no souls raises some questions. Obviously, it doesn’t comport with the teachings of any mainstream Chrisitian religion. So, given Bush’s frequent allusion to his being, in fact, a born-again Christian, what does it reveal about him?
To me, it reveals that his religious faith is, to him, very much like every other aspect of his character. Fundamental questions (like whether evildoers have souls, or whether a unilateral pre-emptive invasion of Iraq will help or hurt US interests) hold essentially zero interest for him. He’s not an analyzer. He’s a gut-checker. He knows the truth, knows what’s right, and feels no particular need to examine the world to see if it matches up with his a priori beliefs.
I don’t think anyone’s going to bother correcting Bush on this theological point; people realize that the distinction really just isn’t important to him. Souls, shmouls, who cares? The important thing is that they’re our enemies, they’re sub-human, and we needn’t be concerned about moral complexities if we decide to hunt them down and exterminate them like vermin. Oh, and likewise submerged in the clutter of unimportant details: what one has to do to qualify for such morally-neutral extermination. Commit acts of terror? Sure. Be a Muslim living in a Middle Eastern country that lacks a pro-US foreign policy? Okay, you’re in, too. Oppose the president’s policies at home? Yup, you’re also soulless. Line ‘em up for the gas chamber, boys. We’re making a better world.
What’s that? You think I’m being unfair? I don’t think so. It’s completely consistent with how Bush operates. I honestly believe that the only thing holding him back at this point is his desire to win the upcoming election. If Bush wins a second term, such that that last restraint on his behavior is removed, I can’t imagine how far he’d go in pursuing his personal version of reality, both at home and abroad. I really don’t want to find out.
When you get right down to it, it’s just awfully convenient to grant onesself the power to imagine a world that matches all one’s preconceptions, and then to ignore the world’s real nature in one’s interactions with it. It’s what very young children do, as a rule. Among grownups, though, it’s considerably more rare. In a person who wields the power of the US presidency, it’s downright scary.