Sunday, October 31, 2004

Bah, Humbug!

I don’t like Halloween. I haven’t cared for Halloween since I was old enough to know better. If you’re a kid, well, I guess its fun to dress up and go beg for candy from house to house. But if you’re a grown adult who doesn’t have kids yourself, then why the hell should it be anything but another day?

In the past, we’ve done one of two things. Either we’ve bought a lot of candy that we’ve had to eat ourselves because we didn’t get any trick or treaters, or we hidden in a dark house hoping that no-one would bother us. Additionally, there is nothing that gets the dogs riled up more than strangers coming to the door and ringing the bell, so that’s even more impetus to ignore the “holiday”.

Basically, it boils down to the multinationals having established another seasonal cash cow, more reasons for kids to whine at their parents to spend more money they don’t have on shoddily-produced crap they don’t need. Count me out, thanks.

Tom Spurgeon take a minute to speak on the subject of scary comic books here. I have to say that for the most part I agree with him. Its hard to have the same kind of thrills and chills on the comics page as on a movie or TV screen, for the simple reason that a reader can control the pace that he chooses to absorb the story.

Usually the only comic stories that have been able to scare me are ones that contain frightening ideas or create an oppressively frightening mood. I can still remember where I was when I first read The Dolls House arc in The Sandman, in particular the chapter at the “cereal” killer convention. Amazingly, I think the horror sequences of the early parts of Sandman still hold up rather well, which is something I don’t think I can say about a great deal of the dark fantasy sections which followed.

I wrote recently about the occasionally good but mostly mediocre horror books produced by Marvel/Epic to tie in to Clive Barker’s Hellraiser mythos. Looking back over that series, there are some supremely effective stories here and there. The fourth volume of their Books of the Damned companion anthology, as I wrote here, is still probably the most evil piece of fiction I’ve ever read.

But the real scary part is that we’re only 48 hours away from the most divisive election in at least the last 140 years of our country’s history. I never post political, and I don’t want to distract you if you have no interest whatsoever in whatever I have to say, so I’ll give you the chance to ignore it if you wish – there’s no shame, I often ignore political posts myself. If you disagree with me I don't want to hear any shit, because if you run your cursor over the white text you really have only yourself to blame.

I’m scared because I know there is a strong chance the “right” candidate will not win. Sure enough, the “right” candidate is a matter of opinion, but I am not joking or exaggerating in the slightest when I say that my wife and I have been seriously weighing the pros and cons of a possible move to Canada should the opportunity present itself. We are well and truly scared of what could be down the road for our country.

The worst part is that in the past few weeks I have heard a number of otherwise intelligent people – far-left liberals with whom I would normally have no serious disagreements with – tell me with a straight face that they are voting for the incumbent because they feel that the Democratic party has given them no choice. I’m a little bit afraid of this, because it says to me that certain Democrats are more afraid of the lunatic fringe of their own party than the lunatic fringe of the opposing party. It says that some otherwise intelligent people have bought the RNC’s propaganda hook, like and sinker, and that they truly believe that Kerry has inextricably wedded himself to a bunch of hippie peaceniks who would roll over on their bellies rather than fight a just war.

This is the problem with being a liberal in today’s America, and this is why I can see nothing but dark days ahead for the party, regardless of who wins on Tuesday. I ultimately do not believe that Kerry is any sort of leftist activist. I believe that despite the Republican distortions of his voting record, he is a centrist very much in the mold of every popular democrat to come on the national scene since the disastrous 80s. I believe very strongly that anyone who understands anything about how the Senate works could never seriously entertain evidence of his voting record as any sort of trail of “flip-flopping”. In any sort of deliberative body where debate is constant and bills are perpetually altered, it makes perfect sense that people would have plenty of occasions to vote for and against substantially similar bills, or even to vote or not vote for purely strategic reasons. Only Goldwater-esque ideologues (such as our Vice-President) could even hope to avoid a voting record rife with seeming contradiction. Its simply the way business is conducted in any legislative body, and God bless George W. Bush for the moral clarity that requires never having to change your mind for any reason whatsoever.

The number one issue which seems to be dividing liberals is the perception of the war. There seems to be the perception in certain quarters that simply because Howard Dean was able to exploit a vein of strong anti-war sentiment, the Democratic party as whole is nothing but a bunch of appeasement-happy hippie fools. I concede the fact that, in the Platonic ideal, the war in Iraq was a “good thing”, in that a notorious murdering dictator is no longer in power. I’m an Old-School liberal in that I believe very strongly that our foreign policy should go arm in arm with a robust humanitarian agenda. For the record, I believe that the greatest tragedy of the Clinton Administration was not the fact that Bubba got a hummer, but the fact that humanitarian intervention was discredited with such a crushing finality. If Haiti and Somalia had been successful, then perhaps we wouldn’t have waited another decade before going into Iraq, and perhaps we wouldn’t have done it so badly that the idea of humanitarian intervention has been permanently sullied by the incompetence, malevolence and malfeasance of our current “Powers That Be”.

Is it OK to do the right thing in the wrong way and for the wrong reasons? Do the ends justify the means if the whole project is executed with the kind of incompetence that actually threatens the success of the ends? I know full well that less people are still dying in Iraq now than when Hussein was in power, but the chaos and disorder that has been loosed as a direct result of our cowboy foreign policy could very well end much, much worse. (You can read all about the actual numbers at Amnesty International.)

The fact is, you can’t seriously argue with the fact that Saddam being gone is a Good Thing. But you can argue that doing a Good Thing for the Wrong Reasons (and let there be no doubt: the humanitarian excuses are just excuses thought up after the fact in this instance), in the wrong way and in such an egregiously wrong way that the security of our country is actually more imperiled now than before is a bad thing.

I don’t believe that being a liberal means that we have to apologize for the actions of our allies who opposed war in Iraq not out of any deep conviction but because they were profiting from Saddam’s regime (I’m looking at you, France and Russia). I don’t believe that being a liberal means that you can’t persecute the terrorists who present a clear and present danger to our country. Quite frankly, you’d have to get up pretty damn early in the morning to do a worse job at defending our national interests than Bush has.

But what it boils down to is that George W. Bush represents a worldview that is totally alien to mine, and totally alien to that of everyone I know. I grew up and went to school with Fundamentalist Christians. I was friends with them when I was growing up. I know at least a little bit about how they think. Compromise is not in their vocabulary. Anything less than an absolute capitulation towards their belief system is seen by them as a failure in the eyes of their God. They don’t see a divided nation as an invitation to moderation. If they screwed things up, they would fight tooth and nail to keep things screwed up if their Bible told them so. I have heard rational people argue that these same Fundamentalists do not exercise that much influence over this Administration, but they are this Administration. Re-election would be taken as carte blanche to persecute their twisted values on anyone and everyone who disagrees with them. They would not, as some people have argued, change course if an abortion ban resulted in dead women in the streets: they would take that as further evidence that their perceived righteousness is indeed the correct course of action. They are ultimately irrational, and our President reflects the kind of anti-Clerical, Manichean Medieval mindset that our country, founded in the flush of the Enlightenment, should be diametrically opposed to. In this worldview the Bible is the ultimate authority, and not the Constitution. I don’t live my life according to a fundamentalist interpretation of The Lord of The Rings, and I really can’t relate to people who live according to a Fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible.

So I cannot in good conscience say that I share any values with anyone who casts a ballot for George W. Bush. We are separated by an abyss that cannot be bridged so long as you continue to support a political establishment which actively and publicly refutes the last 500 years of Western thought in exchange for a political orthodoxy that embraces – nay, rewards – the superstitious ignorance of our distant forefathers.

Rejected Breakfast Cereal Mascots
(Number 7 in an ongoing Series)

Eno eht er’uoy, eikcud rebbur.

Dave the Satanic Rubber Duckie

“Do What Thou Wilt Shall Be The Whole Of The Law – Provided You Enjoy A Big Bowl Of Sugar Crunchy Poofter Pops!”

This product push was effectively abandoned after General Mills failed to receive the all-important endorsement of the Church of Satan.

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