Slouching Toward Bethlehem

William Butler Yeats’ poem The Second Coming has been on my mind these last few days. It feels as representative of our current state as any news update.

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
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;

Currently we are dealing with:  an ongoing pandemic, with new variants of concern recently identified, a shortage of booster shots because the Republican Party wants more of us to die from Covid, and no funding to get an Omicron-specific vaccine out to the country in the fall; a terrible war in Ukraine with no hope for an end in sight; an economy that is on the brink of a disaster; never-ending mass killings; and a general public greeting any kind of sincere effort to fix things with cynicism and open derision.

The Supreme Court has abandoned any sense of impartiality as the wife of one of the justices assisted in the 1/6 insurrection. The court itself is about to overturn a major decision with zero basis in precedent, history, law, or reality. And to ensure that result, the radicals on the court publicly strong armed the new wavering justices who were put on the court to do exactly that, consequences be damned.

The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

Violence has been an integral part of this country since its founding. From the colonists to the expansion westward, the dominant trope has been a story of conquering and vanquishing. Replace Yeats’ “twenty centuries” with “two centuries” and you once again find yourself in the poem’s landscape because that “rough beast” is already here.

America’s love of violence and commitment to maintaining a racial hierarchy have always steered its overall conversation. In the middle of the 20th century, they combined with radical right religious fundamentalism to justify and maintain a Bible-based racial segregation system, just as the same themes and justifications were used to justify slavery.

Surveys and polling keep telling us that the secularization is ascendant in the US, but that leaves out the pockets where right wing Christianists hold sway. One example is in Idaho where radical right wing candidates have intimidated and harassed their opponents to increasingly consolidate power at the local and state levels.

A lot has been written about both the radicalization of the Republican Party and the decline of democracy in the U.S. — about the country being at a precipice. It’s maybe easy for those warnings to become background noise, or to dismiss them as doom-mongering pieces of clickbait. But in Idaho, the nightmare scenario is crossing into reality, as an authoritarian GOP sets about to create a whiter, Christian nation.

These MAGA radicals have gestured at the future they want: no rape and incest exceptions to Idaho’s abortion ban; no emergency contraception; no gender-affirming health care for minors; the banning of books; the jailing of librarians; and maybe no public education altogether.

I recently spent a week traveling across the state, from Sandpoint in the northern panhandle down through the green slopes and whitewater of Hell’s Canyon to the plains of Ada County, and then across lava rock and sagebrush to Blackfoot. In all these places, Democrats and more moderate Republicans view Tuesday’s primaries as an existential affair. Some are considering leaving the state if MAGA extremists consolidate more power. Others are digging in their heels.

The people I talked to were not all that accustomed to alarmism, which made it striking to hear some of their voices tremble when they talked about what’s happening to their home. Their message for the rest of the country? It’s gonna get bad. The GOP really will go that far.

And they’re not afraid to say it out loud:

Christian nationalists across the country were thrilled last week after news that Roe v. Wade is likely to be overturned by the Supreme Court, setting the stage for banning abortion in places like Idaho.

[White nationalist Vincent James] Foxx was especially worked up, posting a livestream in which he listed off his hopes for the wave of policies the decision could unleash. “They’re gonna ban sodomy!” he said. “They’re gonna ban gay marriage! They’re gonna throw gays off roofs! Women lose, God wins. Christ wins,” he said, smiling, before adding: “We shall have our theocracy soon.”

Earlier this month, in an interview with Stew Peters — a conspiracist who has called for Dr. Fauci to be executed — [Idaho’s lieutenant governor, Janice] McGeachin shared a similar sentiment. “God calls us to pick up the sword and fight,” she said, “and Christ will reign in the state of Idaho.”

This stuff used to be kept hidden, but now it’s all out in the open, including the violence they intend to commit. Ben Collins had a striking comment along the lines of you can’t take the murder out of their ideas:

Oh, and remember the DC trucker convoy? Well, as of Tuesday night, a smaller contingent of them is back at the speedway in Hagerstown, MD. And this is not good:

Things are going to get pretty bad for a while. Stay safe everyone.