The Clash of Know-Nothings
a election rant on 2004/11/3 by Wayan
2004/11/2 ELECTION DAY
I plow through the voters' handbook and ads and endorsements. Takes forever, this year: California has a lot of complex propositions.
Walk down the block to vote. The pollworkers say "the turnout's been huge!" Encouraging!
My friend Cory comes over in evening. Alder, Cory and I watch as the Huns sack Rome and the media just dismisses the huge discrepancies between exit polls and raw vote counts as errors... Cory, who's an investigative reporter, strongly suspects it was rigged. Again. Has anything changed from 2000? Other than the smoldering wreckage in New York and rotting ruins of New Orleans, of course.
As details come in, what I feel's not post-election depression, the feeling of a loss, but rage. The rage of a voter cheated.
I work all day on my own art projects, trying to ignore the darkness outside. What a contemptible society--credulous media and cowardly Democrats and fraudulent voting systems and fundamentalist bigots and worst of all, of course, the Republicans who've decided to take a leaf from Hilter and cheat every way they can. Electoral fraud in Florida in 2000, judged by Supreme Court justices with blatant conflicts of interest, well, that was once. A fluke. But the fraud in Ohio isn't a fluke. Not twice. It's war now. Civil war.
My friend Xanthe calls. She's grieving, paralyzed. "American democracy's committing suicide." To my surprise I find myself arguing that America's troubles AREN'T unique to this continent, but fundamentally (to use a loaded word) identical to the political troubles of China, Europe, India and Australia. Coastal cities, multicultural and prosperous and humane, places where different cultures have learned to get along, are being attacked--not just neglected or held back, but attacked, by fundamentalist bigots from the hinterlands who hate everyone unlike them. And national governments cater to them! Western European countries look relatively advanced only because they're small; if Europe were one great nation like the US, that Eastern European hinterland would be driving their progressive coasts crazy too. Northern California, where I live, is as large, progressive, ecological, and energy-efficient as Sweden; but we're trapped in a union with places as backward as Belarus. And nearly as crooked. (Not that it's new, or always right-wing; most historians now admit Mayor Daley of Chicago probably handed JFK the Presidency via ballot-stuffing.)
China? Their unelected junta fans the fires of imperialism and war, playing on the ignorant patriotism of farmers who think they're civilizing the Tibetans and own the Taiwanese. Is Chinese consumer-hunger so different from America's? Both consumer dreams burn forests, and they pipe that CO2 right into the future. Drown your fields, drown your grandkids in that future inland sea, who cares? Grab the toys NOW! And the feds in both nations cater to the know-nothings, rather than tell them the hard facts! Play the game of business as usual, as the game-board melts under us all. Democracy? The million marchers in Hong Kong get no more respect from their federal government than we in San Francisco get from King George Bush.
And when my friend Alder visited Australia, she went inland beyond those coastal cities so famed for their livability indexes, and found small towns full of booze, racism and sexism.
South Asia? The only variation on the corrupt cliche is that the cities of the Deccan are inland yet progressive. Well, at least Clintonian. But then the dry Deccan does have a shore: on the Web Sea (let's call those export cities parallel ports.) But the rest of South Asia? Good old-fashioned riots and civil wars. The Buddhists? Sri Lanka, that paradise of compassion and peace! Elsewhere? Muslim and Hindu fundamentalists, resentful tribals. Let's burn down a shop! Let's censor a film! Let's build a nuke!
Let's not even talk about the Muslim world. To have a clash of civilizations requires civilizations. Pretty thin on both sides of the wall, people. Pretty thin.
South America's a partial exception: My friends Cory and Lance both lived there, and found a progressive, humane spirit in the villages as well as the cities. Indian culture's survived somewhat intact, and the continent as a whole is struggling but progressive; religion, if not consistently helpful, at least isn't always reactionary.
But elsewhere, the fundamentalist tail is wagging civilization's dog.
Not that this is unique to our time. The people of the 1920s and 30s had to deal with Nazis and Stalinists in the family--literally. We forget how common and acceptable such apologists (and worse) were, pre-war. Civilization tried for a decade to be civil and tolerant to these traitors: people who openly proposed genocide and tyranny, who used freedom to end freedom, and boasted of it. Details differed by culture, but fascism and communism's evils weren't rooted in a single society or religion. They were worldwide. That suggests these barbarisms weren't a holdover but a response to a stage in technological growth--mass production. Instead of mass-producing and mass-distributing interchangeable widgets, why not mass-produce lies and treat people like widgets? It worked, too--short term. At a slight cost.
And now we face fundamentalism. It too is a phase of WORLD civilization--a reaction to global trade--not just the competition of goods and newly-migratory jobs, but of ideas. A hatred of foreign values, of pluralism, of anything new. It's xenophobic, nostalgic, repressive, racist, sexist, warlike, and most importantly, not amenable to reason, because its followers are precisely those who don't want to think any more. Because they're tired of culture shock.
Welcome to Cold War Two--in which neither great power is a nation, and both are loathsome, murderous, reckless fools. I hate corporate rule, but the fundies are just as bad. Twins under the skin, really. Consider: only two national leaders I know of claim God speaks personally to them: George Dubya Bush, and Omar of the Taliban. Rig the courts, burn the faggots, blow up the Buddhas, and ALWAYS be sure to gag women. Not so different from Cold War One.
My sister Miriel calls in the evening. She's not depressed like Xanthe. She's savagely bitter, hoping for consolation from her supposedly calmer big brother. Uh huh. I find myself saying "The religious right will someday be seen as the fascists of the 21st century that they are. Their policies are treason. Not to a foreign power; to the basic principle of religious freedom." I hope that's the sort of moderation she was hoping for. I didn't, after all, say that I hope they all die. Just because they wish that for us is no reason to reciprocate.
Oh, you doubt that American fundamentalists are out to kill the rest of us? Oh really? Just exactly how is the Rapture different from the Final Solution? The American religious right works for world war, hoping to kill off all us sinners--their cult alone will be Saved. So if they vote for nut cases here, and fund nut cases in Israel, hoping to create so much injustice in Palestine that a world war will start there and kill us all... how's that NOT genocidal?
After reading Molly Ivins' Who Let the Dogs In? on Bush's corrupt roots, I'm even more depressed. They're not just robber barons. They're millenarians who want to destroy the world to bring Jesus back. A death cult. Their ideology is quite open about that. They work for the Apocalypse. Now, at the risk of sinking to Newt Gingrich's level...
So why is it that the government attacked and burned the compound of David Koresh's followers but isn't arresting cultists who openly work for the deaths of everyone but themselves?
Well, they dominate the Republican Party. They have the votes to block any reforms.
I feel trapped in the world of my childhood, the racist 1950s, only this time, we're ALL black. And the Klan runs the country. No. The KKK was a consequence of local politics: slavery and racism. Fundamentalism, like fascism, is worldwide.
Talking to my sister, I bring up a nightmare I'm cartooning that I'm calling The Hedgehog Dispensary. In it, a shaman, a giant horny rabbit called a jackalope, cruelly punishes his bunny apprentice. He makes her wear dead hedgehogs on her shoulders so their spines pierce her neck. Ow, ow, ow! The dream was warning that the only way to end the suffering is to... stop hedging! Speak up, and not in a spirit of compromise. Not with nut jobs.
Miriel has a question. "Your dream coulda used thorns from a literal hedge, if that was all it meant. Why hedgeHOGS?" I find myself saying "tear off the hogs"... and realize it sounds like a sixties slogan. "Tear down the wall!" "Off the Pigs!"
You know, they didn't just mean cops. They meant the capitalist pigs who built this system.
Suddenly the fact that the dream also mentioned the presidential campaign makes more sense. The brutal alpha-male jackalope... is George Bush. And there's no dialogue possible. He's a fundie at heart: we're wrong and he's right. God has spoken! All we can do is fight.
Tear off the hogs. Before they bleed the world to death.
I felt so despairing I never posted this rant, even though a dream a week later insisted I had to: Rejected! So? Both of them sat on my hard drive nagging me for for eight years, until the Tea Party started losing at last.
So now it's OK. Obama's fixed it all. Hasn't he?
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