“O all ye exorcizers come and exorcize now, and ye clergymen draw nigh and clerge,
For I wish to be purged of an urge.”
– Ogden Nash, from “So Does Everybody Else, Only Not So Much”
Sweet, sweet surrender to a rising, raging reflex against the inanity of these pretentious, portentous times, these zany first days of our newest new year.
It is time again to purge, to gnaw the bitter root of the plentiful American ipecacuanha, that unending parade of peculiarities, that unbroken procession of all that is outrageous and odd.
But take heed, friends, for there is an urgency to this purgency! The world will end on May 21 for all but the unrighteous, unless the latest cosmological recalibrations of Harold Egbert Camping are as askew now as they were back in 1994…
If ye seeketh after signs, look no further than right here in Arkansas, where there have been strange, word-addled stories about dead birds flying suddenly and violently into the small-but-unforgiving burg of Beebe. (Quoi? Peut des oiseaux mort voler?!) And not too far away, something is mysteriously killing drum fish, by the thousands, along a 20-mile stretch of the Arkansas River. Coincidence? Death ray from outer-space jihadists?
Maybe, and maybe not. There are other oddities even closer to home. For example, Comrade Clark, ringmaster of Garland County’s grandiose old party, wrote a fascinating letter to swell the ranks of his huddled, muddled masses.
…conservatives are always appreciated under our big tent. Whether you be religious zealots, tea partiers, heartless businessmen, pro-life maniacs, tobacco chewin’ gun totin’ NRAers, Bambi killers, war glorifying military servicemen and retirees, money grubbing professionals, Uncle Toms, “ignorant” blue collar workers, Fox News watchers, (gas guzzling) SUV driving soccer moms, selfish retirees, or just plain ol’ dumb hillbilly Southerners, you are welcome in the Republican Party. The line forms on the right.
Jehoshaphat jumps and scores! A mangy, yellow-dog Democrat couldn’t have said it any better. Maybe that hoary maxim about honesty being best policy really is true, because even in the murky circus shadows, by the light of November’s lingering afterglow, oh say can you see Clark’s motley mob of gaggled Republicans? Bound together not by common purpose, but by a shared horror of all that is outside their tent, bright and beautiful in the clear sunshine of reason.
Then there’s the world-famous Garland County TEA Party. Sigh. They are graciously offering free, twice-a-week Constitution classes, using “The 5000 Year Leap” as their textbook. Isn’t that precious? The book is a Glenn Beck fave (anyone surprised?) that was written 30 years ago by the late, great Willard Cleon Skousen, a frequent lecturer for the John Birch Society who was convinced President Eisenhower was a communist agent. Should be an interesting class, n’est pas?
Meanwhile, back in Washington, Das Kapitol, the first few days of government business were as weird as our local political pageantry. Representatives lined up like schoolchildren to take turns reading sanitized fragments of the Constitution in a first-ever rite that will surely evolve into high-church ritual replete with mumbled secret incantations and genuflection before Boehner’s mighty compensatory gavel.
Excusez-moi, but when did our Constitution become sacred writ? Have two centuries of willful, accreted amnesia transfigured our founding documents into religious relics that rival the very stone tablets Moses brought down from Sinai? We seem to have forgotten the Constitution was crafted, not by the hand of God, but by bickering and compromising politicians who fought to keep their favorite naughty bits. Such as the lofty notion that a slave was to be counted as only three-fifths of a lily-white “We the People.”
We seem to forget, perhaps because it doesn’t fit well with our fair-and-balanced, spoon-fed concepts of history, that the Constitution has been changing ever since it was established. As has America and the world it is part of…
Shift happens. Get over it. And please stop pretending our founding documents magically exude the sweet fragrance of America’s “Judaeo-Christian” heritage. The superstars of your imaginary “Judaeo-Christianity” – Abraham, Moses, and Jesus Christ – don’t even make a cameo appearance in the Constitution. And the other gods in your pantheon of nationalism? Palin, Beck, Limbaugh, and a host of Fox News darlings like David Barton? Well, they aren’t mentioned either. Sorry.
Facts are awkward little things, n’est pas? When the term “Judaeo-Christian” was first used, it was not to rally angry teabaggers or conflate church-state separation issues, but to write about Jewish converts to Christianity during the first centuries of the so-called Christian Era. Your beloved, hyphenated hybrid was not used in its current sense until 1939, more than 150 years after the Constitution was ratified. Jewish theologians rightly criticize it as an invention of right-wing politics.
But in this silly season, facts are airy, unimportant things. “We the People” have anchored all manner of cherished beliefs on flimsy whimsies masqueraded as absolute truths. If “We the People” desperately want to believe in Barton’s footnoted fabrication about our now-sacrosanct founders, why should facts matter? So what if that treasured belief hangs on an improbable blending of two very exclusive religions, and endless cherry-picking from obscure historical documents? Why let a few inconvenient facts get in the way?
And while we’re at it, why cling to quaint ideals like justice and equality? Like discomforting facts, they are gauzy, obsolete things, easily abandoned for a morsel, for the bedtime stories that we’re still number one, that we’re always right, that we really can be protected from every terror, real or imagined. Ideals are easy to discard, easy to discredit as elitist, impractical fantasies when “We the People” would rather wallow in fear and loathing of every infidel, every bogeyman and buggerer du jour.
The truth is supposed to set us free, but it’s a lot more fun to cower before an unseen horde of swarthy Muslims arrayed just beyond reality’s horizon. It’s a lot more fun believing in the romance of perpetual war when you’re convinced a “Judaeo-Christian” God is on your side. Even while you also believe that equal rights for all will somehow emasculate the world’s biggest, baddest military. How ever will Americans fight forever, in faraway forgotten quagmires, when women-loving men and men-loving women have all fled from the front lines of American Empire?
Maybe truth is expendable, and maybe freedom’s just another word (for nothing left to lose), because outlandish conspiracy theories are always so much more fun, especially when they appeal to racist impulses and celebrate manifest ignorance. Who knew our President was born in an African hut, and was suckled by wild hyenas, and is now a secret Black Muslim hell-bent on unplugging grandma?
Who knew an amateur “Judaeo-Christian” historian like David Barton could single-handedly unravel the original intent of our founding fathers? Clearly, that funky fraternity of rabble-rousing deists wanted nothing less than an unholy return to Old Testament theocracy, a hunkered-down America waiting impatiently for the end of days, for its angry, make-my-day, New Testament Jesus to come back and smite the evil-doers who are left behind.
We may not have long to wait, if that wacky, perennial prognosticator really has cracked the code this time. But just in case, please make a note to check on your Fundamentalist neighbors. May 22 is the day after their scheduled rapture. If they’re still here, be kind, rewind, because they got left behind, too.
– Monsieur d’Nalgar