I guess a lot of us hanker to be around to witness a cosmic turning point in history. That would explain why, for a good 2,000 years, Christians have been saying, "Today is the first day of the End of Days." Or why a dozen members of an end-times cult recently went worryingly missing after writing goodbye letters indicating they were off to see the Wonderful Wizard of Heaven…but hey, the believers live in SoCal, and they're no loonier than John Travolta's belief system.
And as a member of the 1960s bunch—the Greatest Degeneration, as t'were—I was kind of persuaded to believe we were on the cusp of something, be it the Age of Aquarius or Socialist Revolution in Our Lifetimes.
Feeling confused, depressed, bored? Fuck it, bring on the apocalypse!
Truth is though, that when the paradigm shift actually hits the fan, one might have been better off staying home. Just ask the survivors of Hiroshima. Or the Holocaust. Or Altamont.
So lately, though I've been having inklings of an impending quantum shift, they've been anything but gleeful. I'm not waiting for Quinn the Eskimo, but for the Grand Inquisitor, only really, really stupid.
On the gold-tiara side of things, His Hoohooness the Pope has recently equated atheism and the Nazis, blaming the Third Reich's attempted "eradication of God from society" for the persecution of the Jews. Coming from the God-soaked godfather of a bunch responsible for 2000 years of anti-Semitism, a church that smiled benignly while fascism was born, it's Orwellian, an utterly unfunny joke. But while Benedict was busy bitching about the secularization of Britain, on this side of the Pond, the Non-reality-based Empire has been busily striking back. Even while support for queer rights is at its highest point ever, there's been an ugly, pus-filled swelling from the reactionary right.
True, right now the ire of the teabaggers is directed toward Muslims, the IRS, and Kenyan anticolonialism. But if Kenya's on the Christians' chopping-block, can cocksuckers be far behind?
One really big problem with the current crop of conservative Christians is that a shitload of them are both cruel and cuckoo, not the most encouraging of combinations. I was no great fan of archly homophobic arch-conservative William F. Buckley, but I bet that the rise of loony Michele Bachman and loonier Christine O'Donnell is making him spin in his well-upholstered grave.
It's all well and good, sure, to believe good will prevail, that a majority of Americans won't buy Glenn Beck's bullshit. But—and hey, if Pope Poopie-pants can play the Nazi card, then so fucking well can I—I bet that back in sophisticated, tolerant Weimar Germany, a lot of Jews and queers thought the same sort of thing. "We are the cultured German volk. No one will vote for a funny man with a moustache who thinks the government is breeding mice with human brains!"
Times of deep-rooted insecurity give rise to demagogues, and right now Americans are, justifiably, scared for their livelihoods, and less justifiably, for their lives. (Terrorism? Tobacco has killed more of us this year than Al Q'aeda ever has.)
Back in the 1930s, in the depths of the Great Depression, a Catholic priest named Father Coughlin denounced President Roosevelt as an agent of international socialism and denounced atheists, commies, and Jews. His radio show was phenomenally popular; on the eve of World War II, thousands of his followers marched in New York, chanting, "Send the Jews back where they came from, in leaky boats!" Oh, and Coughlin also excoriated queers.
Does any of this sound depressingly familiar?
Scary as things in the country might be getting, elsewhere, of course, things are much, much worse. One of Russia's foremost queer activists was recently spirited away from an airport and detained for two homophobia-laden days, allegedly for neglecting to remove his shoes at security check.
Still, the mood of the most homophobic hoi-polloi assholes is getting sourer, more resentful, more, dare one say it, unstable.
And what of our Democratic allies? What of Barry "Hope" Obama? It's not that they're silent, exactly. It's just that they're not…so…loud.
As Yeats wrote in "The Second Coming,"
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
I may be a chickenhawk, but I'd hate to think that I'm Chicken Little. So no, I'm not saying that the Rough Beast's hour has indeed come around at last. Maybe it's all just a matter of the good old dialectic, that the reaction of the reactionaries is just a temporary blip in the march to progress. Likely as not, things will plod along and in a hundred years, folks will wonder what all the queer-baiting was about.
No, I ain't an eschatology queen. But…I'm just sayin'.