Friday, November 05, 2004

Fear Factor

Moaning doesn’t help. Groaning doesn’t help. Standing naked in the middle of Yonge Street and beseeching God to explain “Why? Why! WHYYYYYYYY?!” achieves little more than cold feet and curious stares. (And the deep and abiding embarrassment associated with not achieving more…)
Anxious as I’ve been that the worst could happen (oh those halcyon days when hope lived and Ohio had yet to betray the rest of the world…!) I never really thought this would be the outcome. I was worrying as a sort of sop to the gods who plan payback for the tempters of fate – fools! – but deep down inside, my little candy covered coating was protecting a soft, sweet innocent faith that all would be well and all manner of things would be well and not-Bush would prevail.
Thanks a lot Dame Julian of Norwich. (The 14th century ‘Contemplative’ who rather sunnily opined on the healing power of love and the unwavering belief that ‘all would be well’ and so on. Hah.) All is demonstrably not well; and all manner of things? As far as I can see, they’re all on the path to being extremely not very well indeed.
In these brief moments as the rest of the world pauses to catch its collective breath and absorb what the people of the United States (or just over half of those of voting age anyway) have done to us, there is an experience of stillness – of anticipation – of sitting poised on the brink of the abyss; not moving, not participating…just waiting.
Eye of the storm stuff. The strange calmness after the death of a loved one, just before the terrible reality becomes unbearably real. Or perhaps it’s like that part in ‘Titanic’ when after sinking, sinking, sinking (interminably, boringly, will Leonardo be released of his bonds by plucky Kate-ingly blah, blah, blah-ingly) the ship suddenly, dramatically, upends and hovers there (as little, tiny, expendable computer-generated folks going flying off in all directions) then just as suddenly plunges straight down to the bottom of the sea… glub, glub, glub…
That’s us. Steerage passengers (at best) on the Titanic, watching helplessly as the ship hurtles down beneath the waves taking all of us with it, sucked down by the mighty vortex created by its gargantuan size and the unholy speed of its descent.
Of course there’ll be a bunch of first class passengers, millionaires and society types and important folk, just like there were back then, who managed to get a berth in a lifeboat and row speedily away before the final dreadful sinking. Back then it was women and children first; but even then there were some sly, craven creatures ready to throw a shawl over their heads and squeak in a falsetto if it would get them a spot in the boat.
(Interestingly, this is actually how I have always seen Dick Cheney: orchestrating his own exit strategy, all tricked out in a billowing lavender-sprigged housedress, complete with beribboned and be-flowered bonnet perched jauntily atop his wicked cranium – knocking aside women and children and cripples as he leaps aboard, then paddles his Halliburton canoe all the way to a secret Caribbean location, where sacks of money and android babes await his cruel and kinky ministrations. Close your eyes – trust me – you’ll see this image too.)
So when the eye of the storm passes, and the last bubble has popped and the mourners lift their heads, weary but ready to face the horrors ahead – that, fellow fearful world citizens – is when the full, unmitigated weight of what has happened… the truth of what has happened… will hit us like a large wet sack of sand. WHOMP! And the tearful disbelieving days of wide-eyed shock and slack-jawed incomprehension will seem like so many days in Paradise.
All this to say – I can’t bear it.
I can’t bear that when America finally got off its saggy collective butt to take part in democracy, by far the more fervent patriots were the fundamentalist Christian cabal. This election wasn’t fought and won on the war in Iraq, or health care, or jobs, or the economy or any of those things government was supposedly designed for; it was – at the very end – fought and won on ‘family values’; a phrase that might once had denoted fealty and love and support, but now describes judgment and conditions and hatred of the unconventional, the different or the opposite.
There were the adorable liberals (dirty slang for ‘democrats’) beavering away raising consciousness about the economy and tax cuts and the cost of medication for senior citizens and the dangers of launching a dangerous, possibly unwinnable war, and all sorts of things that truly, madly, deeply affect each and every person, whilst the President and his henchpersons were raising suspicions, doubts and fears. Implication. Innuendo. Obfuscation, and – from time to time – outright lies about the intentions of their opponents.
Viewing the scene of the crime now from the advantage of perspective and exit polling, it’s clear not-Bush was never really in the running. Close as the final number of Electoral College votes might have been, the popular vote told a tale of a voting bloc energized, pumped and loaded for bear.
Fear of liberal madness rallied the fervent; stopping same sex marriage (honouring the bond between a man and a woman) limiting stem cell research (honouring the relationship between a cluster of cells and the refrigerator they’ll most likely spend their entire cellular life within) and rolling back the clock on abortion (honouring the right for Americans to wait until a potential human is fully formed before discarding it.) The politics of hate and fear couched in the language of love.
It seems you can attract more wasps with the honeyed words of ‘family values’ and ‘traditional morals’ than you can with sour facts and figures on the economy and health, and the unpalatable truth about the war.
And you know what? It really works; Bush finally succeeded with me. Now I’m scared.

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