Pretend I’m reading this right now in my very best Boris Karloff voice, because I have to play the Grinch for a bit. Yes, I know, everyone is still justifiably thrilled after all the hard work that brought about the Doug Jones victory in Alabama, and I am no exception; my first act on Tuesday was to wager any takers I could find that Roy Moore would win by eight points, but tellingly, no one wanted the bet.
I think I’ve never been so happy to be wrong in my life, and not just because I would have gotten cleaned out like the lint screen on the dryer. But why? Why was I and so many others so thoroughly convinced that a decent man like Doug Jones was doomed to defeat at the hands of an Old Testament carny huckster pedophile like Roy Moore? Lack of knowledge regarding Alabama politics doesn’t explain it, not even by half.
With only a precious few notable exceptions, this past year has been seamless in its belligerent horror.
Why? Because scars are instructive. With only a precious few notable exceptions, this past year has been seamless in its belligerent horror, so of course Moore was going to win. Par for the course, right? This is what we’ve come to expect since that undercrowded DC day last January, so being wrong about losing in defiance of all well-earned expectations is the psychological version of having Handel’s Messiah suddenly come blaring out of your fillings. Hallelujah.
The only way Roy Moore could have been a worse candidate was if he had actually been on fire during the entire campaign. Doing his stump speeches, having a quick burger, riding that silly horse, all of it while swaddled in flames with little charred bits of himself falling off every time he shook someone’s hand.
Even so, even with his barge of inexcusable baggage in tow, Moore only lost by two points. Had the sexual misconduct charges not been aired before the election, and had Black organizers not exerted a massive effort to turn out the vote, like as not he would have won in a walk, and Mitch McConnell would be presently seeking the largest Ten Commandments monument on Earth so he can throw himself off it.
It was a huge win that went a long way toward saving Social Security and Medicare from the Paul Ryans of the world. However, it does not signal any significant sea change in US politics or government. Everything is not going to be OK now because Doug Jones won Jeff Sessions’ old seat. Everything, in fact, is incredibly terrible and getting worse. In the short span of days since Jones was declared the winner, the blustering orange fascism currently tinting the national windshield got a whole hell of a lot darker.
I am afraid of spiders, sharks, cancer and clowns. Nothing terrifies me more, however, than the sneaking suspicion I have that all this is getting normalized.
Benito Mussolini invented fascism in a barn about 100 years ago, defining it as the union of state and corporate power. On Thursday, three people on the Federal Communications Commission went a long way toward cementing that union when they voted to strip the internet — a public utility created with taxpayer money and available to all — of all regulations designed to protect the very taxpayers who paid for it.
In short, they corporatized the sum of human knowledge, making it a great deal easier for corporations to block the flow of information, disrupt political discourse and make more money. The most extraordinary expression of free speech ever seen on the planet is now a wholly owned subsidiary of massive multinationals like Comcast and Verizon.
The last time an attack of this size against free speech and the flow of information took place was when the Fairness Doctrine — which limited the number of media outlets a single entity could own in order to guarantee a diversity of perspectives — was disposed of by the FCC in 1987. Soon after, the content available on virtually every TV channel, specifically the news content, was controlled by a small handful of corporate owners. How’s that been working out for democracy so far? Oh, P.S., the FCC also just made it easier for those corporations to own even more TV stations and print publications.
Speaking of state and corporate power, the US Congress is about to deliver a trillion dollars of your money to a cadre of corporations and wealthy benefactors, a move that is guaranteed to shatter the federal government’s ability to help tens of millions of people because … well, because screw you, that’s why. The delivery of this vast fortune to its paymasters has been the core mission of the Republican Party since long before Reagan and his minions coughed up those first rhetorical hairballs about “trickle-down economics.” With this tax bill, their mission is all but accomplished.
They laughed at Mussolini, too, until it became a crime to do so.
Public hesitation from Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Corker made the math on the bill’s passage theoretically interesting until just before sundown Friday evening, when both of them fell in line. No surprise there; Mitch McConnell didn’t drag this stinking boar’s carcass of a tax bill so far to see it fall to offal at the finish line. Rubio and Corker will wake up Christmas morning with a new Xbox under the tree and all the secret donor dark money they can count. With their votes secured and no other defections on the horizon, the bill will sail to final passage very soon. Thank you, Supply-Side Jesus. God bless us every one.
I am afraid of spiders, sharks, cancer and clowns, not necessarily in that order. Nothing terrifies me more, however, than the sneaking suspicion I have that all this is getting normalized. It is an unavoidable fact of human nature: the urge to cope. Wretched leaders for millennia have taken great advantage of the fact that many people will put up with an incredible amount of terrible crap for way longer than they should. They do this because they have to. Gotta work, gotta eat, gotta feed the family if you can, and if the roof caves in, at least the view will be different.
That’s when the dangerous music starts. We are well beyond “It can’t happen here.” It has happened here, is happening, and will happen even more tomorrow. The militarization of police forces, the resurgence of white nationalism and the racist right, the hoarding of control over information, the labeling and culling of “undesirables,” a state-inflicted climate of fear and, of course, the looting of the Treasury … take a high school world history textbook and throw it against the wall. When it lands, odds are it will open on a page describing a regime that did these very things on its journey down a highway littered with corpses.
This is what fascism looks, smells and sounds like before it breaks out of its egg and spreads its wings. This, right down to the clownish strongman screaming from the podium. They laughed at Mussolini, too, until it became a crime to do so. After that, the joke was on the world.
This must be the winter of our discontent.
I know you are dispirited, spent, offended, exasperated and mortally tired. This is the point when normalization of the intolerable takes root, the moment when the coping skills come out just to get through the day, and you find yourself doing the trigonometry of the damned just to make sense of it: A is worse than B but not as bad as C. Trump just ordered the deportation of millions of innocent people? Oh well, at least we didn’t die in a pillar of nuclear fire today.
This, right here, is where we have to dig in. It is so bad and promises to get worse and we have to dig in. We cannot allow any of this to become even the tiniest bit normal, no matter how much it may cost us in body, mind and spirit. This must be the winter of our discontent. So much good work is being done to resist, so much more can be done and must be done, but it will all come to nothing if any of this mayhem is allowed to seem routine.
Stout hearts. Dig in. Embrace the winter. The alternative can be found in that history book you threw. It does not have a happy ending.
Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring — What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here — that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
— Walt Whitman
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