My dad is a good guy. He really is. He's just politically confused at times, in reaction to the past few years. He's getting older, and older southerners tend to get pretty entrenched into Evangelical Republicanism, that form of Republican that has nothing to do with politics and everything to do with Fear: fear of God's wrath, fear of commies, fear of liberals, fear of Hillary shock troops and Barak Obama Osama Bin Hussein. Fear is what drives them, and that fear makes them angry. Irrational. And utterly incapable of hearing the facts, because when you're running for your life there is no time for fact. You need a hard line on a quick exit, and some place to bunker down and fight.
That's an understandable position, given the climate of sheer terror pumped out by the media on any given Sunday for the past fifty years. The very best of us can hardly stand to see the headlines, and the worst of us fall prey to the mass hysteria that dominates a fear-based consumer culture. We turn to God or Guns or Republicans, or all three.
The biggest cultural icons of my fear growing up were The Soviet Union and Reagan. Both passed without the mushroom clouds and fallout laced rain of hellfire that more than a few of us lost sleep over during the 80s. In England, the sharp loss of life in the Falklands, a useless little sheep-infested outpost not worth the lives of an Englishman or an outraged Argentinian, burned out more than a few non-National Front righties and left a bad taste in the mouths of most mechanized modern nations. The US invaded Grenada the next year to sort of prove that small islands could still be beaten into submission by artillery. Still, the mood was off: Big Glowing War loomed and these tiny little island wars were no good, no good at all.
That age finally passed. With the birth of grunge, we passed from Fear as Divine Nuclear Wind to Fear as Fashion, needing to get our angst and our cynical fuel from music and the creative culture instead of the military and government "official" sources. News became nice. The culture turned an eye to recycling and a renewed sense of responsibility. We had a hope, however manufactured, that the world could change.
There's one of those periods for each generation, I'm pretty sure. And I'm pretty sure we're about to enter than now for my nephew's generation.
Castro steps aside, and you and I know that this makes no real difference in the lives of that island nation. Those who worship him will continue to do so despite reason, and those who do not, haven't for quite some time. There may be a bit of an exhale when he dies, but for now the real change is in our perception, and not in the actual governance of a pointless piece of real estate.
So I'd want to ask my father at least: does this mean the world is saved? The last of your Devils have been exorcised: we trade with the Red Chinese, the Russians are mob controlled, the commies have been relegated to Berkeley and library books that no-one reads. The last figurehead in the old bad world is gone! Does this mean anything? Is Cuba free? Can the world turn again?
And you and I know the answer. It wakes up every morning with explosive vests filled with scrap metal and marbles going off in headline grabbing mediapathic blurs of gore and politically-charged religious violence. It moves through the shouts of corruption and vote fraud that stole the last two elections here. The New Fear has long since replaced the Old Fear, the dying embers of red communism. The New Fear is as pervasive, as tentacle-laden, as ideological as the Old Fear. The followers of fear have their new Castro in Bin Laden, in Bush, in the ravaged Earth.
Cuba bows. Welcome, again, to the old new world order.
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