by Mark Morford, SFGate, Wednesday, September 8, 2010
Way out there on the wicked, broken fringes of society, those ugly and savage edges that always seem to be moving ever closer to the mainstream and appear more dangerous to the collective soul than ever, there live some masterful miscreants of the human drama, bizarre creatures so moldy and low they can't but help you see the world anew.
You can, for example, happily read about the latest wanderings of Fred Phelps' adorable "God Hates Fags" cluster of manure clumps from the Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, Kan., right now picketing everything from military funerals to high school musicals, Laramie Project lectures to various modest Christian churches that dare to promote tolerance and love. Phelps and his little bucket 'o bile are widely considered the finest freakshow in all of Nutball Godsville.
Then again, competition abounds. Perhaps you've read about that other amoral chunk of anti-spiritual razor wire named Terry Jones, a leathery little Florida pastor with his tiny flock of 50 whack-nut imbeciles who've decided to go forth with their T-shirt-ready "Burn a Quran" day on September 11th? Talk about your genius marketing. I predict a new reality show.
Jones' charmingly repulsive event has not only outraged the easily outraged fundamentalist fringes of Afghanistan (really, it doesn't take much) but also a very unhappy American general who thinks Jones' flagrant idiocy could endanger the lives of American soldiers. Not bad for a shriveled, pea-sized soul from Florida, eh Terry? Jesus would be so proud.
Don't stop just yet. What about that (now-ex) Tea Party slug named Tim Ravndal, suddenly infamous for posting a sweet little joke on Facebook about lynching gay people to death -- a thoughtful reference to Matthew Shepard -- because apparently Ravndal's God-given right to be a tiny-brained macho cockroach from Montana are threatened by the fact that some people are far more secure in their sexuality than he will ever be? Oh, Tea Party, will your nefarious gifts never cease?
On it devolves. How low do you want to go? Nazi skinheads? Black Tea Party inverto-racists? The 57 percent of Republicans who think Obama is a Muslim? Feverish Glenn Beck sycophants loading up the pickup truck with shotguns and Coors Light, on their way to take out an abortion clinic or maybe a Gay Pride parade, but who take the wrong exit and/or drive into a wall because they can't read the GPS?
Comedic horrors thrive, moronism seems to inbreed and fester, and most of it manifests under the banner of a mutant Christian God, or extreme conservatism, or some form of fundamentalist moral outrage that can't exactly be explained but which often makes its most devout adherents appear to be nothing more than frenetic fleas sucking blood from the Great Hound of life. The beast merely scratches and sighs, and keeps right on gnawing the bone of eternity.
Perhaps you stop to ponder, as I occasionally do, the curious fact that you never read about, say, a die-hard Richard Dawkins fanatic going off hinge and orchestrating a marvelous "Burn A Bible, Save A Kitten" protest event. Or perhaps a Unitarian Church minister commanding her flock to load up their Priuses with Ecstasy and rum to go spike the punch at the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing-along. Wouldn't that be fun? Wouldn't that make a powerful counter-statement? Damn right it would.
Where is the liberal outrage? Where are the extreme acts of radical love? Where is the crazed "Daily Show" fan secretly planning to dump 10,000 gallons of Astroglide on Fox News HQ because Jon Stewart appeared in a pot-induced fever dream and ordered them to?
I still await the hippie liberal apocalypse. I still await my fellow progressives gathering at the Lincoln Memorial in calmly organized outrage, armed with Sigg bottles full of Cabernet and copies of the New Yorker, demanding free iPads for the poor and more compound sentences on CNN. Hell, I just came back from that infamous neo-pagan antichrist orgy known as Burning Man, and all I got was this lousy glow stick.
Oh, the hardcore lefty fringe has its violent cretins, to be sure, natty Earth Firsters to slavering PETA blood hurlers, eco-terrorists and freako off-grid cults, but those groups never claim to be a vital part of the Democratic Party. Liberalism does not depend on terrible education rates to survive.
The GOP, on the other hand, sucks hard from the teat of ignorant extremism, splashes gleefully in the shallow mud puddles of Sarah Palin's battered grammar, draws much of its power from the worst the human spectacle has to offer. Simply put, the modern Republican Party would not exist without its army of high school dropouts drunk on Rush Limbaugh and sexual dread. It's not difficult to imagine "Burn a Quran Day" becoming a new Texas state holiday.
What to make of it? After all, the world has always been speckled with rabid clowns, an endless parade of spittle-flecked sociopaths that make us shudder and sigh, many with "Reverend" before their names or "Show" just after it. American culture is rife with worldviews so narrow and poorly educated, you can be quickly convinced we are but an inch from permanent insanity.
Or maybe not. I prefer to think of these fine denizens of dumb as the darker, skankier parts of our individual consciousness, the red flags of the soul. Should we not be grateful they exist? That they are here to remind us to be ever vigilant and wary? Hell yes we should.
After all, the Fred Phelps, the Glenn Becks, the Terry Jones of the world are but our basest natures made manifest, the bleakest, most paranoid, lazily ignorant parts of each and every one of us. Deny it at your peril. As Joseph Conrad once wrote, "the bitterest contradictions and the deadliest conflicts of the world are carried on in every individual breast capable of feeling and passion." He should know.
These wretched little demons, they are eternal. They have always been here. And they exist to deliver but one message: If you're not conscious, if you don't pay attention, if you don't fill your cup to brimming every single day with laughter and paradox, love and possibility, if you don't deeply appreciate the madhouse irony of this completely gorgeous, impossibly ruthless human experiment, well, they will but fester like a sore on your big toe, and you'll no longer be able to dance.