I used to be able to pooh-pooh myself out of the idea -- just the usual, residual Former Doper Paranoia -- but I admit that occasionally the whole Global Warming/Fundy Nutjob/Peak Oil/Protofascist Right Wing/Loony Jihadist/Incredibly Stupid President ball of wax just jumbles all together in my poor little head and I just can't avoid the fear that we're headed pell-mell for a long, slow-rolling Katrina that leaves us all foundering in shit.
Saturday's balmy 75-degree weather played on the evening news like it was the greatest midwinter gift anybody's ever had. People out biking and sunbathing and marveling at the budding blossoms fooled into emerging. Me, I was quaking in fear all day. Absolutely immobilized, horrified. Yeah, yeah, I know, El Niño, not Global Warming, blah blah. Didn't stop me from fantasizing the complete and utter destruction of the hardwood forest on Short Hill. Didn't stop me from picturing palm trees in Purcellville. Polar bears dying on melting ice blocks in the ocean. Maniac religious cults, maddened from hunger and boredom, roaming my road looking for people to either convert or kill-- doesn't make much difference to them.
It says something about the times we live in when an unusually warm day in January can trigger that kind of panic.
Then I go and read this interview with Chris Hedges, author of the newly published American Fascists. Hedges, the former NYT bureau chief in the Middle East and the Balkans, knows as well as anybody the warning signs of Bad Shit. And he's not afraid, not too polite, to call a Fascist a Fascist. He describes the interior emptiness that drives people to its dubious comforts:
For me, the engine of the [Christian Fascist] movement is deep economic and personal despair. A terrible distortion and deformation of American society, where tens of millions of people in this country feel completely disenfranchised, where their physical communities have been obliterated, whether that's in the Rust Belt in Ohio or these monstrous exurbs like Orange County, where there is no community. There are no community rituals, no community centers, often there are no sidewalks. People live in empty soulless houses and drive big empty cars on freeways to Los Angeles and sit in vast offices and then come home again.Jesus. There it is. Ashburn, Virginia. Mile after mile after mile of enormous, piss-elegant houses on a nightmare labyrinth of endlessly recursive streets, each one of them with three or four gargantuan flat-panel TVs spewing endless crap at the inhabitants.
I know that emptiness, dig? I fear that emptiness. I work hard to fill that emptiness with music and books and writing and loving and working. I understand how that yawning, unfilled nothing might lead you conclude that Jesus talks though your TV set, telling you to kill atheists, Muslims and fags. I've felt it. Driving through Ashburn, it shrieks at you from every phony brick facade, from every molecule of oil-depleting vinyl that wraps these thousands of hideous fuckboxes.
Just one economic bad patch, one big layoff at AOL or Verizon, one upward tweak of the interest rate on their jive-ass "creative" mortgages, one year of $10/gallon gas, one son or daughter killed in Iraq, one terrorist attack on the scale of 9/11, one natural disaster -- and that's all she wrote. It's off to the MegaChurch, the only thing that provides any explanation that doesn't consist of "You bought that fuckin' huge house and those three SUVs and the jetski and the eight cellphones and the Sybian, asshole. Live with the consequences."
Hedges explains the appeal of Christofascism:
This is a world of magic and signs and miracles and wonders, and [on the other side] is the world you hate, the liberal society that has shunted you aside and thrust you into despair. The rage that is directed at those who go after the movement is the rage of those who fear deeply being pushed back into this despair, from which many of the people I interviewed feel they barely escaped. A lot of people talked about suicide attempts or thoughts of suicide -- these people really reached horrific levels of desperation. And now they believe that Jesus has a plan for them and intervenes in their life every day to protect them, and they can't give that up.I'm getting that book.
Oh, and Jim Kunstler is a real cheerer-upper today, too.