"...Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity."
Sleep is hard to come by these days, when poet William Butler Yeats still whispers these prescient words in the dark. In the dark, inside my head. A poem I fell in love with decades ago, for its spare elegance, for the evocative, terrible beauty of such words crafted to mystify and caution the reader. Something lethal and infectious comes again. Something unthinkable.
Only the rare, gifted poet could deliver lines come to life nearly a century later in the shape of a devolving political campaign. Led by a self-proclaimed patriot, the honorable hero and his wind-up Kewpie Doll, this is a deliberate, orchestrated campaign crafted around rhetoric which by-passes the rational-thought-and-judgment neo-cortex that separates the mind of man from the mind of the beast. Don't think! Don't parse or analyze or concern yourself with issues! We are, instead, given the rhetoric of derision, of fear and hatred for The Other. It is a language that speaks directly to the primitive lizard brain in all of us -- a reversion to that atavistic response mechanism, that barely conscious-level reverting to bestial type which howls, "Attack! Attack! Devour! Run!"
John McCain and Sarah Palin have shamelessly delivered us the literal incarnation of Yeats' poetic vision. In the flesh, it is not art. It is no accident. This is the rage of the mean lost cause come to life. If team McCain falls, we're going down into the dark with them. They whip crowds come to hear them promise a new nation, a changed America, into a murderous frenzy: Who is That One? Traitor! Bomb Obama! Terrorist! Kill him! And they do this in the name of a purer patriotism. They do this in defense of their patriotic vision of a nation in which everyone must look the same, think the same thoughts, speak the same words, worship the same God.
They do it for their God, their country and the life everlasting.
Conservative columnist Kathleen Parker, in The National Review, dares to criticize Sarah Palin. She gets 12,000 hate-filled emails. These come from those same shrieking Palin-lovers, those wholly committed Christians who fully embrace the pro-life doctrine -- pro-life no matter whether by rape or incest. Life. Life that begins at the split second the sperm penetrates the ovum. Life is that precious to these believers.
Except for Parker's life.
Her mother, one of them writes, "...should have aborted [her] and tossed the fetus into a Dumpster..."
Beneath the neo-cortex, in the primal brain, we are capable of betraying even that avowed reverence we say we have for all living things; only some of us are worthy of living. We betray our own cognitive better selves. Surely, we betray our faith. God loves only some of us; we are not all created in His image or precious in His sight. The lines are drawn: there is salvation on the Right or there is ruin on the Left; there are angels and there are demons. There is no middle ground. The enemy is The Other.
Yeats would tell us our vigil for The Other, for the viral right-wing hate-mail antichrist, begins and ends with us. The antichrist is the beast within us.
At the end of the campaign day -- win or lose -- the responsibility for loosing the mob mentality beast, calling it from the depths of the sub-cranial cavern, is wholly that of John McCain. He is the commander-in-chief of his own political army. He is the one who could have, should have, led his campaign to higher ground. He chose, instead, the destructive path of inciting a war of rage and fear.
No Johnny-come-lately, lukewarm "Oops...I take it back...Barack Obama is a decent man...he is not an Arab...he's a citizen...he's a family man...there's nothing to fear from an Obama presidency..." is enough. No "Palin is the one who said it first!" or "I can't control the crowd!" or "You can't blame us for the nuts who come to our rallies!" can possibly redeem the act, the baring of an ugly American psyche. No excuses can redeem the reputation of John McCain.
"Things fall apart...the worst are full of passionate intensity."
The political campaign is nothing if not a perfected mirror reflecting the character of the man who leads it. Clearly, we have seen John McCain. We know what he calls forth from us. We know where it is he would lead us.