Sunday, November 28, 2004

hot air?

My Internet-savvy nephew, a Freshman at American University, has popped the balloon on this if-it's-too-good-to-be-true-it-probably-isn't story I was emailed by an irate and witty Democratic friend -- under the Subject line, "If only we could get them all to do this":

http://web2.iadfw.net/~elo/news/rapture.html

Alas, just another Internet hoax -- though one so funny I almost lost a lung. Pious, donut-thumping women with big hair are not leaping out of SUV's at the sight of floating sex-dolls, mistaking their helium-induced ascent for the Rapture. The Bible belt is not so conveniently gullible, at least not to fibs at their own expense rather than against godless liberals -- the joke's on us godless liberals (as is true of the election). I admit I got suspicious of this story after a few days, and the absence of confirming postings from other friends, on blogs, or in the Olympian musings of Op-ed-dom, who must have legions of Internet fact-checkers tracking down every rumor these days (after Rather-gate). Perhaps Frank Rich's and Maureen Dowd's jaded radar would've seen through this immediately.

The real lesson of this compelling bit of fantasy concerns not what triggers fatal leaps of faith in religious nuts but why nuts of all stripes (and let's face it, my Blue state friends, we too are feeling a bit over the edge after November 2) find it so easy to believe anything that plays to their deepest fears and fondest hopes. If that sounds a bit sanctimonious, let's consider the more immediate and painful truth that it's the loony Republicans not the rational Democrats who best understand this fact, and made the best use of political fantasy to win votes in the election. No wonder several floundering Democrats I've spoken too in the last few weeks seem to have lost what lingering faith they had in the wisdom of the masses, and fantasize about a candidate who can craft a 'big lie' just good enough to beat the Republicans next time around. But let's not give into that temptation, girls and boys. For one thing, the party of George Bush, Tom DeLay, and Bill Frist has just too much talent and experience in that area. For another, remember the history of second-term presidents, Republican and Democrat. This almost guarantees that over the next four years the White House's lack of competence in real governance will reveal itself all too patently, like a cresting hump-backed whale, over the waves of deceit and spin -- even if it is at the expense of thousands more Americans and tens of thousands more Sunnis, Shi'ites, Kurds and Christians dead in Iraq, a gutted social security system, and decades of Clarence Thomas at the head of one of history's greatest judicial institutions. Now there's a 'banner with a strange device' we can follow to victory in 2008!

Footnote: thanks to http://www.truthorfiction.com/, the origins of this story can be traced to a site called "Religion in the News" (http://web2.airmail.net/~elo/news/), whose author, Elroy Willis, likes to float non-denominationally absurd religious stories, some of which are true and some of which he invents himself. Who said the great tradition of American literature is dead? The Mark Twain of Innocents Abroad and the Melville of The Confidence Man would find a fellow spirit here. As would that unprickable avatar of American blarney P.T. Barnum, who was mayor of East Bridgeport, Connecticut before becoming a co-owner of 'The Greatest Show on Earth'.

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