The Thing

The First Thing

In a recent post Jamelle Bouie mounted an interesting review of horror films, this being appropriate for the Halloween season and things that scare us. He focuses on the 1982 cult classic movie The Thing. Perhaps oddly, he shows how it is instructive for us right now.

Bouie writes:

For as much as critics dismissed the film as expensive trash, there is an idea here: that fear and paranoia can dissolve the bonds of friendship, camaraderie and citizenship. That they can sap us of our ability to work together and paralyze us in the face of crisis. It is an idea which, in our age of misinformation, public distrust and pandemic disease, lands with heavy force.

Which is what is happening – what we’re doing – every day.

Think about the rabid, vicious attacks on our people and institutions that are trying to keep us from being annihilated by COVID. Why would people threaten our protectors with death? Why would they insist that children go to school without protection from a killer disease and instead become walking, virus-saturated gas clouds to infect their school mates? Why would people dismiss the horrible truth that almost 3/4 of a million Americans are now dead and over 1,600 die every day of COVID?

Why would they go berserk at school board and town hall meetings? Why would they willingly embrace fantastical, impossible conspiracy theories that paint themselves as hapless victims of a powerful, evil cabal?

I submit for your consideration that all of this is yet more manifestation of the rage of powerlessness that drives people to act like ravenous, meat devouring reptiles. All higher brain functions shut down when rage inflames us and we do things like assault the Capitol Building, cops and Congress, plot to kidnap and assassinate a sitting governor and call for a civil war. “When do we get to use our guns?” asked one enraged brain attached to a mouth.

Rage makes licensed lawyers stand in their front yard and threaten peaceful protesters with assault weapons. It makes elected officials lie both actively and passively to overthrow our government and it sends some of them to a series of meetings in the Willard Hotel to plot that overthrow. It’s what makes camo-wearing tough guys show up at public events with AR-15s strapped to themselves. And it’s what tears families apart.

This nation was born in a violent fit of “You can’t tell me what to do!” and people who have felt powerless for generations carry that attitude as a token of the power they crave. Indeed, 30% of Republicans believe that they are not only right, but that violence is appropriate in order for them to get what they want. And oddly, they imagine they’re in a brotherhood with those who are pulling the strings of power against them to gain absolute power for themselves. It’s so easy to fool and manipulate angry people.

The Civil War wasn’t a war of northern aggression and the belief that “The South will rise again” never died. The spirit of renegade, self-labeled good guys and their hatred for victimizing bad guys lives on and gives breath to the rage that is manifest here every day. Now, though, it isn’t just the South. It’s rural versus urban and struggling versus comfortable. It’s hateful versus complacent and have-nots versus haves, or so they believe. And it’s dehumanizing versus human. It’s every guerilla war.*

People have always had their certainties and self-righteousness when they believe they’ve been wronged. When we think we’ve been hit, we want to hit back, even when doing so is self-destructive, like refusing vaccines.

Just because you’re not sure if you feel a little tickle of paranoia both personally and for our democracy doesn’t mean it’s an illusion or that there aren’t people plotting against you. They actually exist and they are enraged and they are armed with weapons they’re itching to use.

I wish you a pleasant Halloween full of lawn ghosts and cardboard goblins, which, even if they were real, wouldn’t be even a tiny fraction as scary as our reality. And that’s The Thing.

Be sure to read this from John Pavlovitz.

And Another Thing

I don’t know if in 2009 – 2010  President Obama wanted our new healthcare system to be universal coverage – Medicare for All. What I do know is that creating M4A simply was not possible with the 111th Congress, propelled as it was by Citizens United-fueled money and having its finger on the No Way button. Trying for M4A would have been an exercise in folly and failure.

He was left with the politics of the possible, a compromise that really didn’t thrill anyone, but which moved the ball downfield and we wound up with the Affordable Care Act – Obamacare. It’s been quite a success even in the face of the dozens of Republican attempts to scuttle it. The American people love it, as long as Obama’s name isn’t mentioned (not that we have race issues). The point is that we enacted the bill that could be enacted.

Everyone likes the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act because we can all see the potholes, crumbling pavement and rickety bridges and we know they have to be fixed or replaced – built back better. Even our distorted reality, galactically dysfunctional Senate managed to see that and pass the bill. That made it a fine hostage for Democrats to use to force the President’s Build Back Better Bill through Congress.

There are only two obstacles to BBB becoming law and you know their names.** They are objecting to various parts of that legislation, some objections being named in squishy sound bites and some going unnamed. That makes negotiating with the extortioners like shaking hands with a ghost.

What’s clear is that not every provision originally proposed in the BBB bill is going to be included. Some people won’t get their favorite piece of that pie because the half-pie won’t include it.

The important thing is to recognize that, like the ACA, this is a step in the right direction and a really good one. Focus on the wins. We’ll come back for more when the time is right. For now, let’s do what’s possible.

And that’s another very important Thing.


Still More Things

* Can you think of a time when people in Congress slung vile epithets at the President of the United States and it was somehow deemed to be okay behavior, even cheered? Read this from Professor Heather Cox Richardson:

The Republican Party has long ceased to offer policy ideas and is focusing on culture wars and obstruction. Their big statement this week has been to throw “Let’s go, Brandon” into speeches and, in the case of Representative Lauren Boebert (R-CO), into a rap video in which she stars. The phrase means “F**k Joe Biden,” for those in the know; they use it because social media moderators do not flag it.

The press secretary for Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) tweeted it out on Thursday morning, just after the president announced a framework for the Build Back Better bill  .  .  .”

This is what people in a rage and people clawing for power do. They become a brat-on-the-playground to egg on the rest. These people are supposed to be leaders of our country, but they’re only leaders to the 38% of Americans who are stuck in their blind anger. But those people show up to vote.

Think about that, because it’s a really big Thing, a monster that has the power to crush us and all we hold dear if we fail to stand against it. Making smug faces and hurling derision won’t help. Supporting those on the front lines, encouraging people to vote and our showing up on all election days will help. As you know, Democracy is a participation sport, just like they said in civics class. You did take a civics class, right?

** From Tressie McMillan Cottom in the New York Times:

Sinema is known for making a visual splash as a method of political storytelling. That story seems to be something like, “I am a maverick. You can’t control me. You are not the boss of me. I’m an independent thinker,” even when thinking independently may run afoul of reason or ideological positions.

Sinema is like many voters in that her identity as an independent has supplanted her actual political ideology.

If you know anyone who values their independent identity over substance, please invite them to reconsider. Sinema is damaging the country and the prospects of her constituents with her independent tantrums. That isn’t a good model to follow in a time when we have to band together to stop the ragers from destroying our country.

“All politics is based on the indifference of the majority.” – James “Scotty” Reston (Thanks, MG!)

This isn’t a good time to be indifferent.

And that’s the biggest Thing.
The days are dwindling for us to take action. Get up! Do something to make things better.

Did someone forward this to you? Welcome! Please subscribe – use the simple form above on the right. And pass this along to three others, encouraging them to subscribe, too. (IT’S A FREEBIE!)

And add your comments below to help us all to be better informed.


The Fine Print:

  1. Writings quoted or linked from my posts reflect a point I want to make, at least in part. That does not mean that I endorse or agree with everything in such writings, so don’t bug me about it.
  2. Errors in fact, grammar, spelling and punctuation are all embarrassingly mine. Glad to have your corrections.
  3. Responsibility for the content of these posts is unequivocally, totally, unavoidably mine.
  4. Book links to Amazon are provided for reference only. Please purchase your books through your local mom & pop bookstore. Keep them and your town vibrant.


Copyright 2024 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What do you think?

Your name and e-mail address are required, but your e-mail will not be disclosed.

Keep the conversation going by both adding your comments and by passing this along to three friends.
That´s how things get better.