Both our salvation and our damnation are grounded in our preference for myth over history. The glow of a halcyon past that never was shields and protects us from the harsh realities of the present.
It was the evocation of this make-believe past that swept Ronnie into office. The rage of the right-wing-nuts is fanned by memories of a land of the free that was never free. They see the black and white world of “Father Knows Best” under siege and their anger boils over. This is Sarah’s appeal. She is a woman of the 50s, which is why many refer to her as “Mama Conservative.” She is invokes the pioneer mother who could wipe the snot from a child’s nose with one hand while shooting a moose with the other.
One of the icons of the fifties was a grinning Alfred E. Neuman with his, “What me worry?” who made an age of potential nuclear holocaust a little easier to bear. Some has suggested that his appeal was so great that we elected him in 2000. Why worry when we have a past ordained by Providence that is moving us towards a future of salvation and godhood.
It was your administration that completed what Ronnie began, the reduction of the world to a Hollywood B Western. Under your stewardship, we embraced a simpleton’s world of white hats/black hats that marginalized nuance and critical thinking. The Cold War mentality had survived the ravages of the sixties.
Ours is now a macho world that worships a macho past in which square-jawed men fought for justice and morality with guns blazing and iron fists flailing. A revival of our fundamentalist Christian faith enables us to bomb and destroy with impunity, knowing that we are fulfilling God’s mission on earth.
We are so blessed that nothing bad ever happens to us. Thus, we are offended when confronted with little setbacks such as an economic meltdown. Because we are blessed, we are firm in our belief that misfortune is not real, but is an illusion, or the product of a conspiracy by illegal immigrants, Muslims and gays to fray our moral fiber. Wall Street isn’t shoring the market, Latinos and gays are, while Muslims are busily packing nuclear devices into their suitcases.
The nicest thing about a present bathed in the glow of a mythic past is that we don’t have to face reality. As one writer put it, “We are a nation of fantasists, and things have to get really bad before a politician has the right to trade in hard truth.”
Our strength and our salvation is that we never acknowledge that things have gotten that bad.