Macho Sue and reconstructing the hero
It is simply not possible that these people are sincere
I must respectfully disagree, Fred.
IMHO they *are* sincere. It's not so much that they are ignorant of history, etc., as that they are filtering everything through a narrative. They are telling themselves anot story, and I think our own Praline has most accurately nailed it: Macho Sue:
The essential story structure of a Macho Sue tends to revolve around untouchable pride. If love means never having to say you're sorry, being Macho Sue means the whole of reality loves you. Typically, Macho Sue's storyline follows a certain trajectory: he begins by acting egregiously, picking or provoking fights and causing problems. However much the ensuing difficulties can be laid at his door, Macho Sue is not about to apologise, in any way. So the problems continue - only to be salvaged by some immense reversals that give the impression that he was right all along. The man he insulted turns out, suddenly, to be a bad guy. The woman who dislikes him falls into his strong arms when he solves a problem that is not the same problem he caused for her. People change their personalities, storylines shift and flip like a mechanical maze popping up new paths and lowering old gates in order to keep Macho Sue from ever, ever having to backtrack. As John Wayne says, 'Never say sorry - it's a sign of weakness.'
Your crazy uncle/co-worker/President is telling himself a Macho Sue story, he's invoking Munich because he's re-imagined Winston Churchill as the Macho Sue star of WWII, the unshakable fighter who was right all along.
IMHO the parallels to "Left Behind" are exact. It doesn't matter to their fans that LaHaye & Jenkins have re-written or tossed out great swaths of the Bible -- "Left Behind" is a more satisfying, simple narrative for them, so when they do go to the Bible they will read it through the filter of "Left Behind".
I'm starting to think that what we need isn't logic, history, thought, or knowledge; what we need is better *stories*.
Fred picked that up and asked, Is there a third possibility, a way to get through to people using Macho Sue narratives? A great discussion is taking place, with some wonderful writing from Praline (Kit Whitfield) and others. My comment so far:
unless you can somehow create epiphanies on demand
We call that "story-telling". As Praline said, If people want heroes, give them better ones.
We need *better stories* -- not just in blogs, but books and movies and TV shows. And I think there's a specific need for better stories about men:
In the same way that Bush challenges people's manhood, B Clinton and Obama challenge people's principles - and men are supposed to be principled, so it can form an alternative template of manhood.
I've seen some tentative speculation that "Iron Man" could be the start of such a template, and that may have something to do with the film's huge and immediate popularity. I'm not sure yet, myself.
Over at her own blog, Praline writes about separating manhood from violence. I commented:
I think the problem is subtractive masculinity. If manhood is defined as "being a good person and male" it's easy to have role models like Atticus Finch. But if manhood is a virtue that women do not display, then only strength and violence will do. At the extreme, every other virtue becomes effete, unmanly, because it does not show you are a *man*.
I think the idea that men and women are complementary, "made to match" and balance each other, very easily slides over into subtractive masculinity.