Sunday, August 29, 2010

Wrapped in the Flag and Carrying a Cross

Sinclair Lewis is supposed to have said that:

When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.

He left out the parts about racism/sexism/homophobia and an incredibly odd corporatism that has, through advertising, merged, in the minds of lots of Americans, with national identity. (Extra weird in these days of trans-national corporations.) But he got it basically right.

Yesterday, I had to work downtown in my shining city in a swamp, the one full of marble monuments to great ideals that inspire me every day and full of words carved over doors that still reduce me to proud, hopeful, valiant, humble tears and remind me just how very much I adore the Goddess Columbia's sacred lands. I made the mistake of leaving the office to drive home just as the crowd from the Glenn Beck rally was heading back to D.C.'s West End. Granted, these were likely some of the more affluent members of the crowd; the hotels in West End are pricey. I'm not sure that made a difference.

I've come to realize that, Pisces that I am, I have pretty porous borders and tend to pick up people's emotions and motivations when others might not. A big crowd feels to me as if it creates its own fog in the air, a fog that I can't help but know and feel, as it carries the emotions of the crowd deep into my own awareness. And I have never, ever, in my life, been as terrified by what I felt as I was by what I felt from that crowd. I've been in demonstrations where the police hated us, where the right-wing showed up to counter protest, where a phalanx of priests showed up to project what I can only call hatred at the marchers in the Million Woman March. I get into conflicts for a living. I've been in rooms full of angry witches, pissed-off lawyers, furious teen-agers. And those were nothing compared to what I felt yesterday. I rolled up my windows, turned on Handel (never failed me, yet) full-blast, and drove (fast) the entire way home, yelling, over and over, the Litany Against Fear. Literally lying on the ground in my own garden and grounding finally returned me to "mere" shakiness and fear.

There's been a lot of derision from Left Blogistan directed at Beck and his minions. Quite a bit of it has been tinged with size-ism, ageism, and class warfare. Fair enough, sometimes, pace audre, the master's tools can be quite effective against the master. Ridicule can be as effective a weapon as exists. And, Goddess knows, much of what went on there was, in fact, ridiculous (1540s, from L. ridiculosus "laughable," from ridiculus "that which excites laughter," from ridere "to laugh.") in the one-may-as-well-ridere-as-cry sense. I imagine (and since Beck has broken Godwin's law, I feel little constraint in this invocation) that many educated Germans ridiculed that moron Hitler and his followers, as well. I have a vision of educated, ancient Priestesses assuring each other that dirty horsemen from Kurga would never overtake their lovely villages and temples. Some Fist Peoples assumed that the funny people trading beads and other trinkets would get on their ships and go home after a Winter or two.

I don't think ridicule and ignoring the stupidity is going to work, this time.

Along these lines, I had an interesting discussion this morning over at Eschaton about the fact that the Right has people who are good at engaging the angels of people's darker natures. The Left (and yes, it's handicapped by not getting the corporate sponsorship that the right gets, but that's ultimately irrelevant to the outcome) does a piss-poor job of engaging the angels of people's better natures. Sadly, Obama, who appeared to have an amazing gift for energizing people to work for good changes in society, got elected and decided to play it safe, always capitulate to Wall Street, and seek "cred" by "punching hippies." Many of the young people (and others ) who, immediately following his election, were thirsty for the chance to work for "Hope" and "Change" have concluded, perhaps, sadly, for the rest of their lives, that politics is just a game for suckers. Too many on "our" side are not good at, in W's words, "catapulting the propaganda," are terrified of being seen as "too radical," and begin by conceding that the other side has most of the good points going for it. Paul Krugman's brilliant, but he's never going to rouse crowds the way the Martin Luther King did, the way that Joan Baez could do singing "We Shall Overcome," the way that any half-decent union leader could do talking workers into going on strike.

People are, perhaps sadly, complicated. I've never known anyone who wasn't a walking contradiction of both good and evil, generosity and venality, prejudice and great openness. And many of the same people energized by Beck could be energized by a liberal leader who inspired them to greater things, instead of appealing to their natural prejudice against "the other." I've known people who would enjoy lynching an uppity [insert name of "the other" here], but who would also show up when their neighbor "other's" home burned down or spouse was lost or child was sick and pretty much give the shirt off their back. Odd, how personalizing emergencies can bring out the angels of everyone's better nature.

The planet's dying. No one can find a job. The planet's dying. We're firing teachers and firemen so fast we can't comprehend it, while we pour more and more money into the failed wars of a failed empire. The planet's dying. And we're ignoring those who, wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross, are going to completely ruin us.

More here.

I'm an old woman. I've lived a privileged, amazing life. I like to pretend that I'm pretty brave, but yesterday scared me to my core. But even shaking, shitting, and puking in fear, I can go to the pyre that crowd would howlingly enjoy building for witches and uppity women and it will all still be ok.

But I have a Son, a DiL, and, I have a G/Son.

Picture found here


VforVirginia said...

You speak for me.

Also, thanks for addressing the criticisms based on the appearance of the attendees. That has been on my nerves.

But, yeah; this dude scares me. These people scare me. I had to stop watching a video at watertiger's joint because it makes me soooooo uncomfortable.

Diane said...

Bravo, dear Goddess!

You've nailed all sorts of issues, and you've nailed them well.

The only thing I would add is that the Republican party is obviously not taking this merry bunch lightly, and it is entirely possible that we will be subjected to at least two more absolutely horrific years, and those two years may very well be enough to doom not only this nation but the planet itself.

Anonymous said...

You bear amazing witness to the fact it CAN happen here (more Sinclair Lewis).

As to the weight comments that went on at atrios' place yesterday, it's not entirely mean-spirited, as these folks are the first to deny/restrict others the access to healthcare and yet expect groundbreaking treatments for their mostly self-inflicted type 2 diabetes. It also may not be fair, but excessive girth is often tied to general laziness, which in the case of many attending extends to their anti-intellectualism and lack of critical thinking skills. Not excusing, just wondering if that wasn't really what was under discussion.

If you tried to listen to Beck, and I actually did try, he was utterly incoherent. There was no sense to be made of it except as a stew of hot button words, the ones that summon the dark angels.

chicago dyke said...

columbia, eh? interesting choice.

anyhoo: i'll say what i said at Hoss' place and elsewhere. meh. 87K for the amount of money that has been thrown at the project of creating a teabagger "movement?" color me unimpressed. give me that many hundreds of millions in air time, column space, talking bobblehead slobbering, etc., and i guarantee you i'll have 100X the number in my preferred radical flavor.

yes, that vibe is Evil. that's why you avoid it. in groups, it's impossible to miss. but don't let it scare you, that is the whole point. drive the weak and passive into their homes, silence them. brownshirts are bullies, like the old Klan were bullies.

lest you think i'm speaking out of my ass, let me state for the record: been there, done that, when it comes to domestic terrorism. daughter of a judge married to a black woman in the county where David Duke announced his first major national political thingee. bombs. marches. burning shit. my front yard.

so trust me when i tell you that the ONLY answer to this sort of thing is a combination. it's a hard, fine line to walk and it doesn't surprise me that not everyone can do it. mock them. deride them in polite company. confront them, in places that are the places they go before they go to your home. did you see the (Canadian, even!) group of churchies outside that gay couple's house, recently? religious mobs, thirsting to burn a witch/homo/brown person. that shit is a cancer, and the only chance we have to survive is to cut it out, where ever it shows up. i know DC is frelled b/c not enough locals turned out to tell the baggers "go home. we don't want you here." they really should've. make those country niggahs tuck tail an ne'er come back, meh.

Double Jointed Fingers said...

Thank you so much for sharing your experience and insights. This sentence summed it up for me: "And many of the same people energized by Beck could be energized by a liberal leader who inspired them to greater things, instead of appealing to their natural prejudice against "the other."

We are a nation divided by fear and greed and I don't see this ending anytime soon. It's what keeps the money flowing.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Hecate. I too, have a fear of this whipped up crowd. From Beck they are learning to be selfish that social justice is disgusting and that you need not take care of your fellow man, only yourself.

There are lots of players here but mostly the moneyed elite who have a vested interest in turning us on each other so we don't notice that they are the ones screwing us and wanting to do away with the little protections that we have. They pay Beck, Hannity, Palin and more handsomely to spew this crap and then the puppets start believing their own press and think that they are mightily important.

We as a country have devolved and it is unsettling and very scary. However you said "I've never known anyone who wasn't a walking contradiction of both good and evil, generosity and venality, prejudice and great openness" Then you have not met my 85 year old father. He volunteered during WW2 even though he was the youngest of 4 brothers, 3 already serving which meant he did not have to go. He returned home and went to college on the GI bill, becoming a teacher because he wanted to coach sports. He taught US History for 37 years while coaching football and never showed any prejudice or favoritism. We Irish Catholics always had blacks, Filipinos, Native Americans, gays and more in our house during the 50's - 80's. Just recently one of his African-American star players called up and asked to visit with his own 15 yr old son. They spent hours together viewing old films and video of their football games. He taught us to support and search out fairness. He taught us to be selfless and even as we are all barely scraping middle class our first thought is for others, to help others and not for ourselves. Does this and did this hinder our own economic lives? Yes, it did. We could never take advantage of another, we do not accept things for free just because they are available - there is always someone who needs it more. We will not overcharge or look the other way to profit.
We can live with ourselves. We are not rich, we are the ones who are considered the "suckers". But we will still be the first ones there when you need help and I can live with that.

David Duff said...

It sounds terrifying, all those mostly elderly, overweight, middle-class people many of them with their children and grandchildren and hardly a placard to be seen. Er, how many arrests were there? And did the riots (that surely must have broken out with such a dangerous mob on the streets) against the Reverend Al Sharpton's crowd last all night?

Alas, judged by that quote Sinclair Lewis was not only a drunk but an ignoramus. When the European fascists were not actively hostile to the churches they merely put up with them - provided they didn't make waves, hence the quiescent attitude of the Catholics.

But perhaps Lewis had the likes of the Reverend Al Sharpton in mind when he wrote it!

sott'Eos said...

If you want to read a research-based book on the kind of demagoguery and right-wing extremism that Beck represents, read this serious but approachable book on authoritarianism:

Written by a Canadian professor, it is available as a free download (I think a printed edition can be purchased if you don't like reading long works on the computer).

The whole thing is "important", but the running-the-world simulations performed by students were amazing (and, of course, frightening).

Teacats said...

The whole thing scares me out of my mind ... and yet -- no "presidential" type candidate has been "chosen" by that side ... I truly wonder who is being groomed for that spot. Has that person already been chosen? Are they being hidden so that We the Peasants may not know who it is -- until it is too late?? Sound like a SciFy movie -- but this is what that side counts on -- our laughter and derision from this side. Not taking the threat seriously -- and not knowing where the true power lies ... thats the scary part.

Jan at Rosemary Cottage

Anne Johnson said...

They will not prevail.

Steelydenn said...

Different subject, and first-time reader of your blog, but in reviewing your Wish List, I wondered if you have ever read or perused "The Secret Gardens of the Vieux Carre: The Historic French Quarter of New Orleans" [Hardcover]
by Roy F. Guste (Author)

I sense that you would enjoy it. Carry on, Mate!