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Coincidence and Plausibility

Halloween Actually Is a Scary Day

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, October 31, 2001.

Some days just have a bad reputation. April 15, for example. Lincoln died. The Titanic sank. Taxes due. And today. Martin Luther nailed his theses to a church door and set off the Reformation of Christianity and the beginning, for better and worse, of Protestantism and the religious wars that brought Europe Napoleon, Prussia, and their charmless heirs. And he did it on Halloween, the day of evil's cavort. All of which proves nothing except that coincidence spurs reflection on the plausibility of the existence of coincidence.

The big fear of liberal America, and one can only hope most Americans, is that the current war against Islamic thugs has provided reactionary, right wing elements a godsend. The recent anti-terror law, which was titled by its fans the Patriotism Bill, was described as the enactment of a long-standing right-wing wish list. That is putting it mildly. It is the enactment of a long-standing wet dream of the most reprehensible and fearful zealots of America's right. That the Democratic Party caved in to it may well prove to be its epitaph. But on modest re-flection, it seems predictable, for almost within minutes of the Trade Center collapse, the Republicans and their reliable lickspittles like Tom Brokaw were writing the epitaph on the ways things had been and declaring things were changing forever. The lust in their voices was palpable.

We are told that dwelling on fussy partisan politics like this is horrid in the face of this national crisis, if not actual treason. I object. This fussy, perceptually minor set of domestic concerns is precisely what this war is about: we send our soldiers to fight for the world's right to have such concerns in open argument.

If it were an actual national crisis, we would have declared war. But the Republicans in 2001, like the Democrats from 1950 forward, don't have the courage to declare war when they might lose it. They want the President to take the fall. After all, even if the war is successful, it doesn't mean much in America. Ask the President's father, after all. Actually, ask any democratic country. Churchill was voted out as England won World War II, a position he essentially gave them. That is a big deal, by the way, and describes the differences in civilizations in conflict now. A nation, by free election of men and women, votes out the commander in chief at his moment of victory in a long war and......he accepts it and turns over the government to his bitter rival.

But we have seen very, very disturbing trends in the Republican community of heroes, among them the disinclination to turn over power. When the Democrats were in power, the GOP moaned about the stagnant and corrupt influence of being too long at the table's head. They fought for term limits as they presented themselves as Cincinnati: noble yeoman who yearn to return to the plow. In recent years, they have bitched about the results of their own hypocrisy, and in the case of New York's mayor, essentially threatened a coup. This could be conceived as nothing more than bad judgment brought on by the strain of living with five thousand rotting bodies in lower Manhattan. By itself, yes.

But there is more at work. The Supreme Court, absent its normal building due to the Anthrax scare, took up the timely topic of child pornography which, like all such arguments, is conveniently couched in vague language that would allow local district attorneys to, conceivably, shut down productions of "Romeo and Juliet," never mind movies like Taxi Driver. These are long standing goals of the goober Christian right to use national security as a pretext for censorship, social and political. Realistically, however, this is actually coincidence because of the way the Supreme Court receives cases. Still, it could have been put aside while more timely cases relevant to the nation's security were put to it. Recall, it roused itself from its normal labors to give a national election away from the majority just a year ago.

But no such cover exists in Texas where the even more pathetic nitwit who replaced President Bush as governor chose recent days to ask for the return of school prayer in school. What perceived benefit fuels that particular concern? Note, prayer is always allowed in school, it just cannot be mandated by the school district or its employees. This was just a boneheaded, opportunistic plunge by a suck-up to right wing power and campaign funding, and in aggregate with all the other knee-jerk attempts for social agenda success across the nation scares the hell out of me. It does so because it demonstrates a Republican willingness to use September 11 as a tool to create a right wing Christian form of social Talibanism in this country. One where government dictates, how-ever gently, the religion to follow, the thoughts to have. Then abortion rights, franchise rights, civil rights are back on the table. In moments of paranoia, one wonders if that is the real war Washington is planning right now, and if the one in Afghanistan is just a diversion.

Here, we have national alerts with no specifics, edging towards the complete loss of habeas corpus, already with the loss of security in your own home, and not a temporary loss as the Republicans imply, but one with no sunset even long after Bin Laden is worm food. If you're a woman, pay attention. I'm a white guy; I'm fine whatever happens.

I just want to believe that September 11 remains in memory only for the loss of thousands of Americans, not for the loss of America as we perceive it, and have fought for it, and have lived it. This is Dark Cloud.