Allow me to begin by setting up this analogy.
For the past three years, I have had a colleague who has openly expressed her absolute and ongoing disdain for me. At first this hurt me; I had no idea what I had done to incur or to incite this level of hatred in someone who I barely knew and who barely knew me, but soon I came to recognize her reaction as simple and pure jealousy. And soon thereafter, I began to recognize it as so much more.
Other colleagues began to question me as to what I had done to her. Evidently I, or her loathing of me, was her main topic of conversation. Colleagues reported to me that it had gotten so bad that they had to insist that she quit speaking of me altogether.
Then, several times I noticed her standing in my doorway, desperately straining to see what I was writing, what was on my computer screen. And several times as I stood in front of my class, out of the corner of my eye I could see a figure standing just within the shadows peering in. I have been told that it was her.
But most recently, a manuscript I placed in another colleague’s box mysteriously disappeared then, just as mysteriously, suddenly re-appeared a couple of days later. We both shrugged it off, but later as we sat listening to the lady in question give an address, we both recognized the argument she was making. It was my argument as contained in the purloined manuscript.
I was told that I should be angry, and perhaps I should or will be later, but instead I was amused a great deal and even a little bit flattered. What I had perceived as jealousy, what I had perceived as hatred, revealed itself in that instance as a certain admiration, a certain longing, a certain yearning. It is a need to possess me, to control me, to have me need her. It is, in a word, desire.
And in contemplating this moment, I somehow drew a parallel in my mind between this situation and the right’s treatment of President Obama. Perhaps I may be mistaken, but I don’t remember seeing such a virulent outpouring of hatred toward any sitting president in my lifetime. Perhaps I am mistaken, but I don’t ever recall there being this many thinly veiled open threats against a sitting president ever.
The right is beside itself with anger, and this anger has enabled the oft fractured and factioned right, even in the absence of a rational, coherent platform or message, to finally coalesce, come together, around something—their supposed abhorrence of all things Obama.
But you know what? I don’t believe we are witnessing the expressions of a long pent up hatred at all; what we are witnessing is a long pent up desire.
Perhaps I could better express my point in this manner: Love and hate are flip sides of the same coin; each supposes an infatuation with or a tenaciously vigorous inclination toward another, an “other.” This infatuation with, this inclination toward, expresses a certain desire, a certain emptiness that can only be filled by possessing the “other,” by controlling the “other,” by being needed by the “other.” It is only through the “other” that we define ourselves, and that we achieve subjecthood.
And this is, in essence, the basis of the right’s relationship with the president. Theoretically, this is, in essence, the root of racism.
So when you see the throngs of people, their face twisted in rage as they scrutinize and protest every action of the president, when you see and hear them enunciate vague but open threats against the president, when you find that they have twisted the truth into half-truths and outright lies, don’t think of it as hatred. Think of it, instead, as a myriad of expressions of passion.
Think of it as them attempting to fill a sordid emptiness. Think of it as a certain admiration, a certain longing, a certain yearning. Think of it as a need to possess him, to control him, to have him need them. Think of it as desire.