Saturday, April 09, 2005

Fear Is The Key

Back in a more innocent era -- 1992, to be specific -- Iron Maiden, of all bands, did a great song called Fear Is The Key. One lyric from that song has stuck with me for years, and seems more and more true as our culture gets more and more cynical and caught up in itself, in all sorts of creepy and self-referential sorts of ways. It's a very simple line, but there's a lot of truth to it:

The kids have lost their freedom, and nobody cares till somebody famous dies.

Hmmm. Sounds like a pretty good snapshot of our starfucking celebrity cult-ure. Either Bruce Dickinson has the gift of foresight, or history repeats itself like a stuttering mime.

Then the chorus:

Now we live in a world of uncertainty.
Fear is the key to what you want to be.
You don't get a say, the majority gets its way
And you're outnumbered by the bastards till the day you die....

Yes, yes, it's trite and clichéd, right? But it's also sadly, painfully true, in this brave new era of the (pffft) "culture of life", as invoked by a little punk of a man who mocks the people he executes right before he throws the switch, and puffs his chest at the enemy in time of war, from the bravery of being out of range (cf. Roger Waters).

Frank Rich has more on this hypocritical nonsense-babble phrase which is sure to catch on in deep-fried Twinkie country.

What's disturbing about this spectacle is not so much its tastelessness; America will always have a fatal attraction to sideshows. What's unsettling is the nastier agenda that lies far less than six feet under the surface. Once the culture of death at its most virulent intersects with politicians in power, it starts to inflict damage on the living.

When those leaders, led by the Bush brothers, wallow in this culture, they do a bait-and-switch and claim to be upholding John Paul's vision of a "culture of life." This has to be one of the biggest shams of all time. Yes, these politicians oppose abortion, but the number of abortions has in fact been going down steadily in America under both Republican and Democratic presidents since 1990 - some 40 percent in all. The same cannot be said of American infant fatalities, AIDS cases and war casualties - all up in the George W. Bush years. Meanwhile, potentially lifesaving phenomena like condom-conscious sex education and federally run stem-cell research are in shackles.

This agenda is synergistic with the entertainment culture of Mr. Bush's base: No one does the culture of death with more of a vengeance - literally so - than the doomsday right. The "Left Behind" novels by Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins all but pant for the bloody demise of nonbelievers at Armageddon. And now, as Eric J. Greenberg has reported in The Forward, there's even a children's auxiliary: a 40-title series, "Left Behind: The Kids," that warns Jewish children of the hell that awaits them if they don't convert before it's too late. Eleven million copies have been sold on top of the original series' 60 million.

These fables are of a piece with the violent take on Christianity popularized by "The Passion of the Christ." Though Mel Gibson brought a less gory version, with the unfortunate title "The Passion Recut," to some 1,000 theaters for Easter in response to supposed popular demand, there was no demand. (Back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that at many screens the film sold fewer than 50 tickets the entire opening weekend.) "Passion" fans want the full scourging, and at the height of the protests outside the Schiavo hospice, a TV was hooked up so the assembled could get revved up by watching the grisly original on DVD.

As they did so, Mr. Gibson interjected himself into the case by giving an interview to Sean Hannity asserting that "big guys" could "whip a judge" if they really wanted to stop the "state-sanctioned murder" of Ms. Schiavo. He was evoking his punishment of choice in "The Passion," figuratively, no doubt. It was only a day later that one such big guy, Tom DeLay, gave Mr. Gibson's notion his official imprimatur by vowing retribution against any judges who don't practice the faith-based jurisprudence of which he approves.

As James Carville, he of the Deliverance six-toe banjo-playin' countenance, once said, "This is woah". Indeed it is, and the Democrats had best decide once and for all if they'd rather die on their feet than live on their knees. Time is running out like Rosie O'Donnell's supply of Devil Dogs.

1 comment:

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