Tuesday, September 21, 2010
So I have to admit, my first thought was, "There's just no way I could do it."
That seemed the most reasonable response -- and that was, after all, what this thing was all about, right? Being reasonable?
But then at some point over the last couple of days it hit me like a morbidly obese guy in a NASCAR t-shirt riding a scooter around the local Wal-Mart: For God's sake, I can't not go.
In the almost two years since Barack Obama was elected president, we've watched political discourse in this country degenerate into a bloodsport, an unprecedented free for all -- fueled largely by a right-wing element that completely lost its mind after losing the White House and exacerbated by the conflict-addicted media -- in which no accusation is too inflammatory or irresponsible to be considered out-of-bounds. Predominantly white, middle-aged Christian folks from far outside the country's urban hubs -- most, inherently decent people -- saw the ascendancy of Obama and were scared shitless, their overwhelming sense of dread a product of something much more profound than simply the color of the new president's skin; in him they found the perfect boogeyman, someone whose assumption of the most powerful position in the world proved that their country had morphed into something they'd never thought possible -- something beyond their control. Obama was a different color, was multi-ethnic, a citizen of the world -- and what's more, he was someone who wore his Ivy League education on his sleeve, an unapologetic intellectual whom they saw as just another coastal elitist who was sure he knew what was best for them. Barack Obama was proof that they were losing the country that almighty God and the constantly invoked Founding Fathers had bequeathed to them and them alone. America was their birthright, after all.
And so they struck back.
Coddled and exploited by shameless hucksters like Glenn Beck (who stokes their most primal terrors while simultaneously assuring them that they're not alone in being terrified) and Sarah Palin (who recklessly plays the role of agitator and kingmaker in a Reality-TV Revolution of which she is always the star), a small but vocal group of self-appointed "real Americans" have risen up to "take our country back." They lash out at targets that are laughably predictable, particularly in a harsh economic climate: Immigrants, blacks, Muslims, urban community groups aimed at keeping "welfare queens" comfortably attached to the teat provided by their tax dollars. But most of all, they lash out at the government which now, as far as they're concerned, not only panders to these outsiders but is actually run by one of them.
They create outlandish conspiracy theories -- the president isn't an American, the president is a Muslim, the president is coming for their guns -- and offer them up as fact, circulating them to each other with the lightning-fast efficiency that the digital age allows for. What's more, their leaders -- scared of their growing potency and realizing that their own political careers depend on the appeasement of this beast -- do nothing to stop the madness. Rather than dispel the ridiculous rumor and the absurd canards, they throw gasoline on the fire -- and often do it via a cable television network that has an awesome amount of sway within their world but virtually no sense of responsibility for the monster it's helped to create.
The end result: It's just fucking crazy out there right now.
It was Edmund Burke who supposedly first uttered a variation on the now abused-to-death maxim that all it takes for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing.
Well maybe all it takes for stupidity and lunacy to triumph is for smart and sane people to do nothing.
And maybe that's what made me realize that I have to go to the Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rally in Washington, DC on October 30th.
True, on the surface it's little more than a giant meta-joke -- a conclave of irony, the goal of which is to poke a little appropriate fun at the unseriousness of the supposed life-or-death seriousness of the tea bagger and Glenn Beck rallies. Those would be the events in which thousands of angry, frightened and often misguided "real Americans" have come together to rage against the dying of the white. But we all know that there's something much more important going on here. We all know that, like any really good joke, there's truth at its core -- a method to the madcap.
So, yeah, I'll be there.
It's as good a time and place as any to make a quiet little stand for that increasingly scarce commodity known as common sense.
Anybody wanna meet up for a beer?