Tuesday, February 24, 2004

So far it's been a cranky week for me. But pretty much everyone at work is feeling cranky as well--that’s today’s hot topic: How Cranky Are We And Why Are We So Cranky? I didn't write much yesterday because all I could think was how much everything annoys me. It can be an entertaining topic, if done correctly, but I'm too cranky to execute it properly.

But one little annoying episode bears mentioning because it relates to a recent topic--the whole fascist thing, and I’ve just got to step back up on the soapbox for a moment (I promise I’ll talk about TV, music, dogs, bowling and other pressing issues again very soon). I ride a van pool to work (not every day--some days I need my car for one reason or another), and most of the time I pop on my headphones for the whole ride. I feel a little guilty because I should be more social, but I usually don't feel like talking about city council elections, neighborhood associations and other things these people get into. (Most of them would describe themselves as "progressive," a squishy catch-all term that allows them to hover vaguely on the side of the political spectrum that passes for "left" in this country. The fact that they voted for the black guy in last year’s attorney general race allows them to claim no racist motivations the next time they call the cops to report a “suspicious person” upon seeing an unfamiliar young black man walking down their street.)

Anyway, one guy asked me if I had "gotten out" at all over the beautiful weekend. So I said sure and proceeded to give a little synopsis of the demonstration. Anyway, when I mentioned the part about the huge police presence to protect the fascists, the guy says "Oh no, they weren't protecting the fascists, they were just keeping the peace." I said no, they were definitely there expressly to protect the fascists, and if they had been absent there would have been no fascist rally. He insisted the cops were there to keep the peace and then started blathering about the fascists' right to participate in the "free marketplace of ideas." Every time I tried to explain my disagreement with him, he kept repeating "They were keeping the peace, they were keeping the peace," over and over like a mantra, and then I realized that he had to keep up this mantra to protect his little worldview.

See, in the little utopia in his mind, the fascists, well they're just plain crazy and anyone with any sense knows it. So if you just let them get up and spout their craziness in peace, all the rest of the good people in the world will shake their heads and say "Golly, these people are just nutty," and then go on home and have a nice glass of cabernet. (Actually, I think he feels that people should just stay home and enjoy their cabernet while the fascists rally, because if you show up to try and stop them you’ll just make them feel important, which only encourages crazy people, y’know). To him the Klan and Nazis just like to talk ... why, the goofy things they used to do like lynching black people and running death camps, well that just wouldn’t happen again because everyone is so enlightened now.

But maybe the comfy job that keeps him in cabernet (he’s a lawyer) is making it easy for him to miss the fact that things aren’t so comfy for a lot of people right now, and they really want to be angry at someone. See fascists feed off of economic uncertainty and social turmoil. In other words, when people facing hard times through no fault of their own (i.e., I worked my ass off for 30 years, why am I suddenly unemployed and unable to find a job anywhere but Wal-mart, where they pay you crap, cheat you on overtime and treat you like a potential criminal?), or when crime, terrorists and such make the world seem scarier, people look for something or someone to blame. The fascists give them some convenient scapegoats. They say that those Mexicans stole your job; that black guy walking down the street wants to steal your television; the gays want to make a mockery of marriage and the family and/or recruit your son or daughter (as well as restyle that mullet you’ve been wearing since 1987); etc. ad nauseum. Sure it sounds kooky to you, Mr. NPR-listening Cabernet Lawyer, but right now there are a lot of angry people who hear the fascists and wonder if they really do have the answer. Ignore the 35 fascists who show up at the capitol this year, and next year there will be 40.

So Mr. “Keep-the-Peace,” if “peace” means that fascists are allowed to spew their filth freely and without challenge from the justifiably outraged decent people of the world, then I’ll be the first to say that I’m against peace.

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