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.
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