I ran into a former neighbor this afternoon, a fellow refuge from New York, who's in the stock market -- poor thing. He looks like hell -- disheveled as if he hasn't showered, shaved, or had more than four hours of sleep in weeks.
Last time I saw Chris, it was summer, and hot. I asked him then what he thought of the candidacies of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He smirked. A conservative Republican, no doubt, I thought. He's strictly a McCain man, he said; no surprise.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not suggesting, for a minute, that he's one of those weird dudes, you know, the David Duke types, who manage to pass themselves off as card carrying normal, but who burn crosses on people's lawns as a hobby. Still, I couldn't help but think what it must be like to be a Klansman now, to have your whole world turned upside down. After all, these guys in the white hoods manage to hide neatly within shooting distance of some of our major cities outside Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco.
We're about to watch folks like my former neighbor undergo a kind of cultural insomnia, the kind of ontological restlessness one typically expects only in Fortune 500 nightmares. Inexplicably, and suddenly, I pictured my neighbor meeting some Klan buddies for an Anheuser Busch, or a Heineken, behind Safeway where, when nobody's looking, they plan their next lynching. (I realize I'm in danger of stereotyping here. Were Rush Limbaugh, and the wannabe chief of the GOP also in danger of stereotyping with their "magic Negro" song, and what does it say about the vestiges of racial corruption that remain in post-bellum America?)
Comparisons between the Lincoln days and the emergence of Barack Obama are valid. But, if you happened to find yourself in Huntington, New York on the morning of April 12, 1861, you would not have heard an announcement over a megaphone out your window saying "good morning, and welcome to the Civil War," it kind of crept up on us back then, just like it has now.
And, when we look at what's going on in Gaza, one can't help but think it's scary how fast hate spreads in the name of freedom.
Follow Jayne Lyn Stahl on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jaynelynstahl