Nightmare on Main Street

October 23, 2010

This year more than in previous ones the thought of Halloween ushering–in election day is a perfect macabre scheduling coincidence. I’ve felt the hair prickling at the back of my neck for weeks. We’ve had witch references (Christine O’Donnell: “I’m not a witch, I’m you —uh, unless you’re a witch”); candidates who spend leisure moments wearing Nazi uniforms (Rich Lott, R-Ohio); average Americans dressed as teabags poised to throw themselves into vats of hot water for the sake of their frustration and anger; right angles costumed as straight lines (Sharron Angle, R-Nevada: “. . .the nation is arming. … If we don’t win at the ballot box, what will be the next step?”  What, indeed?); ex-money-grubbing,  job-quitting, me-first governors done-up as mama grizzlies; the ever-tanned David Boehner pretending to be Barack Obama in skin-tone only; plutocrats masquerading as small-d democrats; and closet fascists clothed as patriots inventing an alternate reality to stoke a middle-class massacre.  It’s a very scary scene this Halloween —makes The Night of the Living Dead seem like The Sound of Music.

How scary is it?  It’s so scary that Sara Robinson’s predictions for America sound more frightening than those of Biblical-John’s weird book, Revelation —not all apocalypses are far-fetched.  Robinson, in an article at (the third of three dealing with the subject) recalls her prediction in an earlier article that, “… according to the best scholarship on how fascist regimes emerge — America was on a path that was running much too close to the fail-safe point beyond which no previous democracy has ever been able to turn back from a full-on fascist state.” Such predictions will be called baloney by those who couldn’t believe that eight years of conservative government could possibly see the US go from the lone global superpower to one shattered by its own vengeful, myopic complacency and suppressed internal factionalism. What’s so scary this Halloween is that we all look like monsters to each other.

In her current article Robinson quotes author Robert Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism in which he defines fascism as a “. . .a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion.”  The spooky familiarity of that reminds me of the jolt I felt in the awful moment I realized torture was now OK in the USA. Those worried about the excesses of liberal government might want to refocus their attention while trembling in their shoes for what might be.  With main-stream-Republican-supported Sharron Angle suggesting “2nd amendment remedies” (translation: violent overthrow) in face of possible tea-party losses in the upcoming election, we’re talking something more serious than war reenactments and  rag tag parades splashed with fake blood, especially when Angle finds “… the inability of sporting goods stores to keep ammunition in stock a little disconcerting and concerning.”  There’s apparently a lot of ammo being purchased in the Fatherland; much more than is needed to harvest deer.

Personally, I’m feeling like Main Street USA is turning into Elm Street and that Glenn Beck (dressed as Freddie Kruger with rapier fingers of sharpened chalk clutching a blackboard eraser) is chasing us through middle America at the head of a posse lead by Sarah Palin, Rand Paul, and Sean Hannity backed by a host of gibberish-spouting main-stream media anchors followed by a 3-million-strong mob of Fox News aficionados and related zombies. Despite its claims of equality, openness and happiness our whole system is becoming more trick than treat; way more scary than your average jack-o-lantern, not to mention a land of abundance mostly for those who own the reapers at money-harvest time.

Not frightened yet? 

Paxton’s stages of fascism: 1. A mature industrial state facing crisis breeds a movement based on nationalist renewal which rejects reason and glorifies raw emotion and promises to restore lost national pride.  It co-opts the nation’s traditional myths for its own purposes and insists the country purge the toxic influence of outsiders and intellectuals who they blame for their misery.


2. The movement turns into a real political party and seizes a seat at the table.  Its success depends upon a weakened liberal state causing disorder, decline, or humiliation and political deadlock because the Right refuses to accept the Left as a governing partner.  

Boo and, uh, No!

3. In the face of deadlock the corporate elite allies with rural nationalists.  In our case, Robinson notes, we have the alliance of the Koch Bothers, the oil companies, Americans for Prosperity, and the Tea Party. An unholy mob if ever there was one.

Boo! And, we’re toast.

Paxton says that most fascist movements never make it past this stage because of the ineptitude of its leaders so I don’t know if I should be hoping for the victories of obvious flubs like Sharron Angle and Christine O’Donnell and the continued ascension of knowledge-and-truth-challenged, (but good-looking) Sarah Palin, or not.  But one virtue of nightmares, scary movies and Halloween is that they’re all, eventually, over.

Our only hope is that election campaign 2010 is like one of those. If not we may have to hunker down or dress up like WWII reenactor Rich Lott in order to feel at home.  It’s a horrifying possibility.

 Anyway, happy Halloween!

by Jim Culleny, 10/23/10


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