Wednesday, August 16, 2017

It May Happen Here

Here's how it could go down.

We had a few dozen of them back at the beginning of the year, making noise and causing consternation, right here in Our Nation's Capital. They raised a ruckus, got themselves a lot of publicity, caused a little sinking feeling in those who paid attention. There was a lot going on, or so we thought then, so we didn't think that much more about it all.

Then this past weekend, a few hundred. They added some of the old accoutrements, torches and random violence. They garnered headlines around the world and in the process apparently picked up no less than our president as something of a crypto-fan.

Next up?

I'm guessing a rally here and there. This time there may be a thousand, maybe more. There will be more clashes, but some of them will come off quietly enough, enough to make a few more people willing to come out the next time. The round after that will grow even more. Perhaps they'll get more headlines trying to rent some well-known venue - Madison Square Garden, Constitution Hall, something like that. They've done it before.  There will be reams of columns written about it all, hand-wringing, angry, helpless.

If we're lucky, it will sputter and fail, somehow or another, from there. It has before. Remember Posse Comitatus? No particular reason you should, but they had their little moment, once. But that was when the world around them was, to be charitable, rather more sane.

If we're not lucky, it will likely be because there's some great galvanizing event. We've all been waiting, haven't we, for the new Reichstag fire, since January?

But perhaps we'll just continue to stagger along. Sooner or later (the former, I fear), one or two might actually win a local election or two. Or a dozen. Suitably packaged, perhaps even a state assembly. Then a congressman or two. Normalization; they can, after all, if called upon (at least for a little while) camouflage themselves almost convincingly. It takes work to make them bare their teeth, and by then the rest of us, I fear, will be growing weary. And wary. You'll never know who's listening.

The little changes will continue, the things one might not say, for instance, on the bus or train; the incident at the supermarket. A word not said; a hand not held. The swift, irrecoverable decision to keep moving when you see something horrid on the street. The neighbors who've decided to chance it back in the teetering homeland they came here from. The empty apartment suddenly filled with newer, louder, angrier neighbors. You bite your tongue, smile grimly, lock the door.

And so it might continue to escalate, slowly and steadily; or, here again, sputter out, some kind of normal returning, the sane accepting the lost ground, still hoping for the best.

Or perhaps there will be a war. There usually is, after all, isn't there?

Well. Then all bets are off.

What gives me pause is how many people there seem to have been and to be, waiting, out there in the shadows, for just the moment they feel bold enough to step forward. We saw the thin edge of that wedge this past weekend, those fair-haired boys shouting in their torchlight. One way or another, we'll be seeing more of them. After all, some of them are perfectly nice people.

Isn't this where the mirror drops, showing us ourselves? Nightmare over, time to wake up, no?

But this is no dream. This is our life today, and every day we drift a little further from the world we knew, out into this new uncharted sea. What would have been unthinkable three months ago is comedy-fodder now; who knows what we'll be laughing at, bitterly, come Christmas time?


  1. Yes, it will be insidious, won't it? I keep thinking that part of the problem is that a whole lot of people don't have enough to do. I have a vision of a federally-funded 'Grand Project' in communities across the country. You know, build something, sweat equity, something local to be proud of. It would be expensive, but re-directing all the wasted energy would be worth it.
    but perhaps I'm naive about the value of community-focused enterprises and shared responsibilities.

    Thanks writing such a thoughtful post.


    1. Indeed - for all this vague talk of an infrastructure project, there's nothing about how most effectively to put people to work on it - the ways (in a very different time, I realize) that all sort of people got deeply involved in the many projects of the New Deal. We've got somehow to give people a stake in their own communities, and communicate a sense of how all of our communities are intertwined.

      If it's not too late.