I didn't watch the show last year, but I've tried to catch it when I can this season. The character who interests me most is the widowed housewife, Bree. Is the subplot about her relationship with George the writers' attempt to make a political point?
Bree is a good, likable person and a model of conventional correctness. She is the type of woman on whose head no hair is ever out of place. She is conservative and formal but in an attractive, cheerful, and optimistic way. And while I don't know that I would call her repressed, she is someone for whom external form is primary, and instinct and intuition is secondary, which is another way of saying that she has no common sense. She does things by the book. And when you don't pay attention to what instinct/intuition tells you, you get slammed pretty hard somewhere down the line when things fall apart or get blown apart.
This is particularly evident in her inability to see what everyone around her sees about George, the man she agreed to marry. He's creepy, and now we're finding out he can be out-of-control crazy. He is not what he appears to be, and Bree has worked as hard as she could to avoid dealing with the evidence that contradicted how she wanted to think of him, which correlates with the carefully controlled image George has worked equally hard to project. Bree has no common sense because she refuses to trust the information that her nose has given her, which is the stink of an egregious fraud, and her son, friends, and the rest of us look on in bewilderment and frustration as we witness a good, decent woman act so cluelessly.
I don't know whether the writers consciously chose 'George' as Bree's fiance's name to make the political point, but Bree's mindset is one that GOP political strategists understand and know how to exploit. They understand that for many people form is cognitively primary and substance secondary. They understand that for many, if not most Americans, having "character" means to appear to one's neighbors as one who behaves consistently in a traditionally defined socially acceptable way.
The Republicans understand better than the Democrats that people make political judgments based on symbolism and imagery more than they do based on facts. They understand that people make political judgments based on the officially presented narrative, and that there is a cognitive-dissonance dynamic that makes it very difficult for them to acknowledge the evidence that might lead to an alternative narrative, even if the alternative narrative more coherently explains the facts.
They understand that for many Americans their sense of order, meaning, purpose is so invested in the official presentation of reality, that they create powerful filters that prevent them from seeing what is obvious to others who are not so invested in the official narrative. And they persist in their commitment to the official version of reality until the evidence to the contrary becomes overwhelming. And just as Bree in the show is now realizing that her George is not what he presented himself to be, so now are the many Americans who bought into the official presentation of their president George discovering that he is not what his handlers presented him to be.
Now left-leaning types suffer from this cognitive-dissonance syndrome in another way, but we're talking about Bree here, and she models the GOP version of it. The GOP tacticians understand that most people want to feel good about their country; they want to believe their government; they want to believe that their elected officials (if they're Republicans), while possibly flawed, are basically good people trying to do the best job they can. They want to be positive and forward looking. They want to be optimistic patriots, and they feel nothing but aversion for the kind of cynicism, which, in their view, typifies the mentality of the left. The GOP strategists prey on the natural inclination of most normal people to accept the the official version of reality, and to see anything else as weirdness, cynicism, chaos, depravity.
This is why the Big Lie works so effectively. People want desperately to believe in the official version of reality, and the big liars know this. The big liars know that these desperate Americans need the official version of reality to believe in because the only alternataive to it is disorder and barbarism. And it doesn't matter to them whether the forms are empty or not--the conventional forms are the last bulwark against social chaos. And they don't want to deal with the fact that the forms are being manipulated by cynical politicians to provide a cover for their barbaric purposes. They will do whatever they can to remain in denial about that until the evidence for their barbarism becomes overwhelming and irrefutable.
Powerlust, sex, and greed are three drives in the human soul that have enormous power, and they are in their perverse, unconstrained manifestations the source of most of the barbarism that afflicts the world today. We need each of these pychological drives to live life well. Healthy ambition is what gets things done; healthy sexuality is the song in our hearts, and the need to be self-reliant and to work to provide a decent standard of living for oneself and one's family is at the basis of human dignity and self-respect. But in America we are confused; we seem to have lost our bearings. We don't know where to draw the line between what is healthy and what is excessive. And the party running this country right now is driven by powerlust and greed in a way that in my view is unprecedented in my lifetime. They present a traditional-values facade to hide the perversity of their policies.
I am not a cynic. I'm a Christian, and Christians by definition cannot be cynics. That does not mean they have no common sense. Christians have no monopoly on common sense, but they do have a very realistic understanding of the mixed drives that provide the architecture of the human soul. We know how a good thing can go bad. And we know, along with the prophets of old, that power corrupts, and that people in power are therefore profoundly vulnerable to its corrupting effects.
Anybody who knows this is automatically skeptical about the official version of reality. Skepticism is not cynicism. And a healthy skepticism about the official narratives presented by those in power is just common sense. And anybody who has any common sense wants to support a system that safeguards against those who have power and wealth from getting more and from dominating the system.
Because, you see, power and wealth have this addictive quality; there are many people who cannot have enough of it, and we must always be vigilant about those who have been smitten with these addictions. For such people it doesn't matter how much power and wealth they have; they always need more. And if left unchecked, like the desperate junkie forced into mugging people to get their next fix, they will do whatever it takes to satisfy their addiction. Wherever there is power and money, you will find this kind of person nearby. A place like Washington is a magnet for them. And the problem is that when the power junkies own the court house and the jail house, ain't nobody who can put them in jail.
In Iraq it doesnt matter that most Iraqis are decent human beings who want a normal life, because they don't set the agenda. The same is true in Washington. There are many good, decent people in both parties, but they are not the ones setting the agenda. The power-and-wealth addicts are. They hide their addiction, of course. They are perhaps in denial about it themselves. But the rest of us are co-dependent with them, we enable their compulsive, addictive behavior every time we give them a majority in congress.
And that's why it is so important that the Democrats regain control of Congress in 2006. Not because the Democrats are better human beings than the Republicans, but because the corrupting effect of unchecked power of the Republicans must be stymied. The Republicans have to know that they cannont act without impunity. They cannot control themselves; we shouldn't expect them to.