Dichotomous thinking is categorizing observations in one of two diametrically opposed groups. Everything is white or black, good or evil, virtue or sin, heaven or hell, spirit or body, day or night, liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican, in light or darkness. G.B. Shaw said there are two kinds of people in the world, those who lend money and those who borrow money. This kind of reasoning is intrinsic to an authoritarian personality (not that Shaw was) and makes thinking easy, because all the nuances or shades of gray that are part of nature can be ignored and disregarded.
The very first line of the Bible sets up a dichotomy: “In the beginning when God created the heavens and the Earth…”
It goes on,
Gen 1:3-4 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. God then separated the light from the darkness.
So when W. Bush soon after 9/11 declared, “You’re either with us or with the terrorists,” I knew we were in for trouble. He never asked himself, what is it about our behavior that might have caused these to people to sacrifice their own lives just to get revenge (and do so in such a painful and horrific way)? How can hatred run so deep? Instead, he told the American people the Twin Towers were destroyed because the terrorists were “jealous of our freedom.” I’m afraid there’s more to it than that. It would be laughable if it weren't so serious. If you were jealous of the wealth or lifestyle of somebody on the other side of the world, would it make sense to travel across the globe to blow them up and yourself along with them?
Consider the nightmare this man’s Sunday School training has wrought on America and the world. The horror of 9/11 ruined this country. It changed everything. Trillions of dollars wasted so we can’t repair our schools, bridges and roads. Ubiquitous paranoia—just think of all the time wasted at the airport and elsewhere on stupid, unnecessary security checks—like making a 90-year-old great grandmother pass through an infra-red, curtain-closed, all-body scan. Thousands of GIs killed in ghastly explosions, thousands more limbless or mentally traumatized to the point they’ll never be the same. W.’s immediate response was to launch “Operation Shock and Awe” which murdered thousands of citizens of Baghdad who had absolutely nothing to do with 9/11. To my mind, “Shock and Awe” will go down in history as a national disgrace.
History is replete with examples of dichotomous reasoning causing horror. Here’s a similar event in history:
Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria (1830-1916) goes down in history as one of the most conservative rulers since Caesar Augustus. One of his many titles was Apostolic King of Hungry and he probably thought the Divine Right of Kings was legitimate and a great idea. Like W. Bush, he was a conservative who allowed or permitted almost no social changes or reform during his 68-year, iron-fist rule over much of central Europe. He was from a military family, brought up to be a firm ruler with strict devotion to God and the Bible, (just like Bush Jr. Bush Sr. was the youngest American pilot to serve in WWII and destined by God to rule.) The emperor is noted to have said there are two kinds of people in his kingdom: teutons, who were meant to rule, and slavs, who were born to obey.
So when his nephew Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in June, 1914, the emperor was morally outraged at such a stark, arrogant, and in-your-face act of war. His nephew was shot by a teen-age Bosnian nationalist in Sarajevo who was tired of living under the oppression of holier-than-thou foreigners (much like dead Iraqis.) The event was a conspicuous example of chaos theory in that the archduke’s driver finally found the right road after getting lost, completely by luck.
What did the emperor do to show his outrage? Within weeks he ordered his army to teach the upstart subservient Serbia a lesson. You know, give 'em a wake-up call. The assassin’s group, who called themselves the Black Hand, numbered no more than 19 to 20, about the number in the gang that brought down the Twin Towers. The Austrian army invaded northern Serbia with five divisions and proceeded to shoot, bayonet, or burn to death 39,000 villagers, mostly farmers and their families, who had nothing to do with the assassination. The Emperor’s Biblical training and dichotomous thinking led to the onset of WWI, hence the annihilation of much of Europe with over 50,000,000 causalities!
So, by comparison, America was lucky get off cheap for eight years of having a fundamentalist Christian president who talks to God. Compared to WWI, what’s a few thousand sacrificed soldiers, a few million Iraqi and Afghanistan non-Christians, an economy in shambles with rampant unemployment and an infrastructure falling apart? At least we learned the difference between good and evil.