It’s Friday, and that means it’s time once again for us to rouse ourselves from our intellectual slumber—from the chattering distractions of what the Buddhists call the Ten Thousand Things—and stand outside ourselves to consider the products of the week that is about to have been. You just want to get through Friday as quickly as possible so that you can rush home and watch the Winter Olympics on DVR until the Winter Olympics on NBC comes on, don’t you? Perhaps somewhere, in the shrivel portion of your hypothalamus that used to feel, you dimly recognize the unsettling irony that this celebration of athletic endeavor and bold living should inspire millions of people to stay home and watch TV. Fortunately, you’re an American, and we’ve just won a gold medal in not giving a crap about irony—or any type of connection between concepts, for that matter. The United States has been a country for a long time now, and after two hundred some years we don’t really need to think about operating it anymore. We go with our gut, and if some pointy-headed nerd wants to complain about the details—”those two statements directly contradict each other,” or “you have not actually read the Constitution,” or “your child needs medicine to live”—we can tell in a glance whether he’s a Real American or not. To paraphrase my junior high school wrestling coach, there’s not much difference between a reason and an excuse; it follows therefore that the only people who need to resort to reason are those who need excuses. This is America, and we don’t make excuses here, as the news of the last week will indicate. Won’t you join me in the complete abdication of sense?
First of all, if you’re irritated by the small minority of Americans who still insist on making you justify your assertions with logic and evidence, don’t worry: the next generation is going to knock that shit off entirely. Avid readers will remember Don McLeroy, the religious fundamentalist and member of the Texas State Board of Education who has made it his mission to ensure that history textbooks reflect an America organized around three principles: Christian values, the struggle against communism, and Ronald Reagan. Never mind that two of those three things didn’t exist for the majority of American history; as this long article about the struggle to Christianize American history indicates, he’s getting his way. At last week’s BofE meeting, McLeroy proposed “amendment after amendment on social issues to the document that teams of professional educators had drawn up over 12 months.” He demanded that Margaret Sanger, a pioneer in legalizing birth control, be included as a promoter of eugenics. He insisted that lessons on Ronald Regan teach children about his important work in restoring American confidence after the Carter administration, whatever that could mean. And he stipulated that students be required to “describe the causes and key organizations and individuals of the conservative resurgence of the 1980s and 1990s, including Phyllis Schlafly, the Contract With America, the Heritage Foundation, the Moral Majority and the National Rifle Association.” I think we can all agree that Phyllis Schlafly is a figure of historical importance, that the political wrangling of the late 80s constitute a significant chapter in the story of America, and that it doesn’t matter what the hell kids learn in school because Jesus is going to end the universe in six years anyway. Y0u don’t think so? Okay, let’s vote.
If you somehow have the time to read two monster articles in the New York Times today, check out this fascinating report about the connections between the Tea Party, the Patriot movement, militias and all other manner of ultra-right wing revolution groups. David Barstow describes a network of semi-professional journalists, conspiracy theorists, websites and survivalist groups that runs from Glenn Beck to ResistNet to weird compounds in Idaho, and resembles nothing so much as Middle Eastern radicalism. “Many describe emerging from their research as if reborn to a new reality, Barstow writes. “Some have gone so far as to stock up on ammunition, gold and survival food in anticipation of the worst.” As in evangelical Christianity, the ethos of personal transformation runs deep in the reactionary populist movement. Consider Pam Stout, who once worked for a federal housing program and helped recent immigrants get into college, but now talks openly about the President being a tyrant and the likelihood of martial law. “I can’t go on being the shy, quiet me,” Stout said. “I need to stand up.” For what remains unclear, but if advocating the overthrow of the Constitutionally elected government of the United States is what it takes for Pam Stout to feel like she’s fully developing her personality, then, um, welcome to the inevitable consequence of late sixties personal liberation politics.
None of this stocking up on guns and making plans to stop the President’s quote-unquote tyranny is terrorism, of course. Neither is flying a plane into a federal building, apparently, as Fox News’s report of a Texas man who flew his small craft into an Austin IRS office takes pains to remind us. The headline calls it a suicide, not a suicide attack, despite Joseph Stack’s long manifesto decrying pretty much every aspect of the federal government. For the first time in thirteen months, Fox News is in agreement with the Department of Homeland Security, which also declined to classify Stack’s decision to fly a plane into a government building to express his political views as an act of terrorism. Sorry, Joeseph—you got the plane, the building and the extremist manifesto, but you forgot to be an Arab.
It’s possible that the past year’s startling upswing in anti-government rhetoric has started to worry a few people, though. Like Dr. Victor Frankenstein urging his creation to maybe just spend a night in for once, the Republican Party has stepped up its efforts to bring Tea Partiers back into the fold. Sarah Palin, who just two weeks ago appeared as the keynote speaker at the national Tea Party convention, told an audience of Republican activists in Arkansas that it was time for angry retirees wearing tri-cornered hats to pick a party. If you’re still holding out for conclusive evidence that Say-Pay will, in exchange for money, tell pretty much any audience pretty much whatever she thinks they want to hear, today’s your day. Quote: “Now the smart thing will be for independents who are such a part of this Tea Party movement to, I guess, kind of start picking a party. Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken? Which party will best fit you? And then because the Tea Party movement is not a party, and we have a two-party system, they’re going to have to pick a party and run one or the other: ‘R’ or ‘D’.” I think we can all agree that the central question of contemporary American politics is, “Which party reflects how that smaller, smarter government steps to be taken?” Next week, Sarah Palin will warn an audience of cats about the terrible threat to democracy posed by the vacuum cleaner.
Don’t worry, though. An organized cadre of fundamentalist Christians and mentally unbalanced airplane owners are conspiring to overthrow the federal government and turn the operation of our legislative and judicial systems over to General Electric, but we’ll always have Brooklyn. Alert reader/problem drinker Mike Sebba sends us this short piece about the Double Windsor, a bar in Windsor Terrace that has banned babies after 5pm. I think I speak for all of us who have been anywhere near Windsor Terrace, Park Slope or Carroll Gardens when I say, about fucking time. Local parents, of course, disagree. “Seven or 8 pm is more fair,” said Jake Rockowitz. “That’s when kids should go to sleep.” The longer I think about jokes to put here, the meaner they get.