Sleeper agents do exist in the US but to preserve the system, not overthrow it.
In the remake of the sci-fi television series Battlestar Galactica, Sharon Valerri’s fears are confirmed that she is an enemy cyborg when her hidden protocols kick in and she shoots her beloved friend Commander Adama twice in the chest. Sharon, who sincerely believes she is human, performs a number of acts of sabotage without having any conscious memory of them. She is a product of her programming. Sharon walks among us, holding “No Socialism” signs in the crowds gathered in and around healthcare town halls taking place across the nation.
Although the concept of the “sleeper agent” has historically been used to invoke fears about people of color and those who are different, such as the case of Japanese Americans during World War II or South Asians and Arab Americans after 9-11, the real unconscious programming has long existed amongst the majority in the US. In his bestseller, Blink, Malcolm Gladwell noted that people make powerful associations with appearances and make “snap decisions” based on “thin slices” of experience. One of the many studies he cited required the subjects to assign positive or negative words to images of white or black people. To their surprise, the subjects, including himself, associated positive words with pictures of white people and negative words with photos of black people.
Thus after a history of repeated othering of African Americans in the US, it is not unusual for the picture of the black thief climbing through the windows of our homes to evolve into the imaginings of a black man in the White House stealing our healthcare and hard fought freedoms. As educator and writer Tim Wise, shrewdly observed “the longstanding association in white minds between social program spending and racial redistribution has been long established, by scholars such as Martin Gilens, Kenneth Neubeck, Noel Cazenave, and Jill Quadagno, among others.” What is reparations in the mind of the Right?—another form of stealing. Tim further notes, bestselling writer and conservative commentator Glen Beck, as well as shock talk-show hosts Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh, have linked health care reform and every piece of Obama’s legislative program with reparations. “His (Obama’s) goal is to create a new America. A new model. A model to settle old racial scores..,” decries Glen Beck.
Leaders from the healthcare corporate industry and the Right have been tapping into this programming. Observing the town hall rage and media coverage, historian and journalist Rick Perlstein reminds us that throughout history “the crazy tree blooms in every moment of liberal ascendancy, and where elites exploit the crazy for their own narrow interests.” Rick goes on to cite various examples such as Vice President Nixon claiming he found hidden in the White House “a blueprint for socializing America” or the various absurdities from the Right that the 1964 Civil Rights Act would “enslave” whites and that the Soviet Union served as an incubator for the “civil rights movement.” He concludes, “Good thing our leaders weren’t so cowardly in 1964, or we would never have passed a civil rights bill—because of complaints over the provisions in it that would enslave whites.”
However, the escapees of the Goldwater asylum are not the only ones prone to their programming being activated. Each one of us has it in them. Remember, during the struggle for desegregation of the lunch counters and outlawing racial housing covenants, a number of opponents used free market arguments of the “right to refuse service.” As Ronald Reagan once said as he successfully campaigned to be governor of California, “If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his house, he has the right to do so.” Reagan, who publicly opposed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act, still overwhelmingly won as president despite launching his campaign with a speech on state rights at the site of three slain civil rights activists. I am not saying all those who disdain any governmental involvement in healthcare want to push people of color to the back of the bus, but in the current healthcare debate, they have de facto shoved those without healthcare to the side to fend for themselves.
One of the greatest victories of the Civil Rights Movement is the triumph of the idea that we as a community of dignity, not the marketplace, must secure and safeguard our liberties. By showing that we are responsible for one another, we overcome our “hidden protocols.”
In Battlestar Galactica, the sleeper cyborg Sharon comes in multiple copies but two main aspects of her persona largely figure in the unfolding drama—Sharon “Boomer” and Sharon “Athena.” During the final season, Sharon “Boomer,” always in denial, attempted to kill the baby born of cyborg and human because she couldn’t see a different future. Sharon “Athena” chose to kill “Boomer” and raise the child who comes to represent a new dawn.
“Boomer” and “Athena.” The choices stand starkly before our nation.