- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

OP-ED:

Bush-hating disorder, or BHD, is a condition in which a person feels and expresses a degree of antipathy toward former U.S. President George W. Bush that is grossly out of proportion to any remark, proposal, or action of the former President, or to any combination of such or to the sum of Mr. Bush’s weaknesses as the leader of his country.

BHD may describe the same feeling and expression of antipathy toward other socially and/or politically conservative public figures, such as radio talk-show hosts. The use of the term Bush-hater is therefore analogous to the use of the verb “bork,” which originated in the U.S. Senate’s rejection of the nomination of Robert H. Bork to the Supreme Court in 1987 after a concerted attack on the nominee’s character and judicial philosophy.

Some studies suggest that elements of intermittent explosive disorder and/or obsessive-compulsive disorder may be present in BHD. Bush-hating disorder seems to occur in men and women equally.

The symptoms of BHD will vary with the occasion during which they are manifest or the occupational activity in which the person with the disorder is engaged, and may be either overtly or covertly expressed. All, however, have in common a fixed and extremely critical mindset toward the former president, and a sometimes obsessive focus on the perceived negatives in his behavior or comments. The person with BHD will frequently resort to ridicule in his or her attempt to make a point.

A reporter, editorial writer or newscaster will generally ignore or marginalize those elements of a story or an issue that reflect positively on the former president, and will build the news article, editorial or broadcast on the negative elements.

An elected official will use the circumstance of an action or lack of action by the former president to criticize Mr. Bush in remarks that may be inappropriate and actually contemptuous in tone, before colleagues in a public session or at a press conference or in some other public forum.

A citizen will compulsively initiate a discussion on an event in which he believes the former president performed poorly in order to be able to repeat his arguments for Mr. Bush’s incompetence or maliciousness.

A symptom common to virtually all people with BHD is a gleeful reaction to any event that reflects badly on the former president or on another conservative public figure, when that event would ordinarily evoke compassion, sadness, concern or even anger in others, and when gleefulness is clearly an inappropriate reaction.

BHD normally does not affect relationships with spouses, friends or co-workers, but because the hatred can be consuming, and because of the loss of perspective involved in the rage, the disorder can affect a person’s behavior in many aspects of life, including job performance. BHD generally causes distress and increases tension within the person afflicted, and may lead to physical problems associated with a high level of tension.

BHD is widely believed to originate in a person’s internal recognition of and grief over the decline of liberalism in the Albert A. Gore, Jr. in the 2000 presidential election. Thus, it is believed, Mr. Bush became a symbol of the loss the person with BHD feels, of that person’s fears related to the rise of conservatism, and of much about which liberalism tends to be intolerant.

People with BHD may be frustrated over the failure of liberal policies and programs to have a substantial impact on the social problems the policies and programs addressed. They may also have a deep fear of conservative power, and of the restoration of standards and values in the society that will curb the ability of individuals to do as they choose.

The justification of the anger the person with BHD feels is believed to be the motive for that person’s persistent focus on any perceived negatives in the former president’s comments or actions. Likewise, the ridicule that the person with the disorder frequently employs is meant to build self-esteem.

(Note: While the symptoms of anti-Bush and anti-American feeling and expression in parts of the international community resemble BHD, that condition has a different origin and history and is not addressed in this summary.)

Some think that BHD is untreatable. In addition, treatment is complicated by the fact that a large percentage of helping professionals suffer from the disorder and either do not recognize it, or in effect refuse to diagnose it in those who come to them for help. When BHD is diagnosed, treatment may involve medication (antidepressants and mood stabilizers) or therapy, or a combination of the two. A typical course of therapy will focus either sequentially or simultaneously on the intolerance involved in the person’s anger, and the loss that provokes the grief. An intense course of therapy will also address the insecurity and sense of confinement that the person may fear about living in a conservatively governed society, and the feelings of inferiority that may lead to the person’s frequent use of ridicule.

As for the future of BHD in American society, it is almost certain that the existence of the disorder will be relatively short-lived. This will be either because of a long-term (beyond President Obama’s administration) revival of liberalism in U.S. social and international policy, or because a prolonged period of conservative rule in the United States, one that may last through the end of the 21st century, will create the conditions for widespread acceptance.

Richard Haddad is a writer on social issues.


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