Sunday, June 05, 2005
GUNS AND JESUS II
Oh, Say, Can You See. . . ?
Did I mention flags? Good Lord, they were everywhere, hanging from every post and two-by-four. Patriotic songs blared from speakers located throughout the hall, everything from God Bless America to The Star Spangled Banner. There were plenty of country patriotic songs, as well, which are currently coming off the assembly line at about the same rate as car flags. Songs like Peace On Earth At Mama's House, and, G.W.'s personal favorite, We Are The U.S.A., which was written for the Rally For America. Readers may recall the RFA was a series of Nuremburg style rallies put on around the country by right-wing radio D.J. Glenn Beck. The rallies drew thousands of flag-wavers, just as they drew them in Hitler's day. Nowadays, it's a real testament to the power of advertising and the NRA that they’ve managed to make owning every kind of gun known to man synonymous with patriotism. I saw several vendors where all they had for sale was flags. Besides Old Glory, one booth had a substantial collection of Nazi memorabilia on hand. The guy running the booth, whose name was Derrick, sported a Nazi officer’s coat over a bright red T-shirt and faded Levis. I asked him what was printed on his T-shirt. With a toothy grin, he opened his coat and flashed the sign: “I (Heart) Halliburton.” A German infantry helmet crowned his head. He carried dozens of helmets, uniforms and medals and he had a glass case full of shoulder patches with storm-trooper insignia—the ones with little zigzag lightning bolts on them. I asked Derrick if he sold very many of those. He laughed and said, “Like hot cakes.” Apparently, it’s a favorite symbol of militia groups. He also had about a hundred Nazi flags lined up for sale right alongside the American ones. I think the irony of it was lost on him, though. Ahhh. . .who knows how far Hitler could have gone if he'd only had the NRA!
Stranger In A Strange Land
Wow, what a place. Just looking at everything and listening to all these people talk was wildly fascinating. In a way, it was as if I’d blundered into a Star Wars convention or a massed gathering of Trekkies. I felt like I’d crashed the gates of some outlandish club, where the members have all agreed to certain rules, done the secret handshake, and signed oaths in blood. They all know each other and speak their own language. For instance, most of them seem to know the language of guns and gun law. But they also have their own political language, in which truth and untruth have somehow become inextricably bound together. One strand is Bush’s lies about WMD’s and another is the tangling up of Al Qaeda and bin Laden with Iraq and Saddam Hussein. There are scores of other strands, such as Medicare reform, Social Security reform, Creationism, and “Let’s get government off our backs.” It’s a peculiar blend of reality and fantasy, of religion combined with the ravings of Fox News and right-wing radio jocks. The net result: legions of people whose heads are literally awash with a kind of latter-day folklore: a veritable stew of lies, superstition, paranoia, and wild imaginings having to do with the “end times,” the “Last Judgment,” and the “raptures.” Wherever I happened on any small group of people bunched together, all I had to do was pause and listen awhile. It was like entering another street in one of those strange lost towns in the Twilight Zone.