Thursday, October 02, 2008
Sarah and the Apocalypse: Tonight’s the Night
By Bernie Quigley
- for The Hill on 10/2/08
There comes a moment, said Edward Edinger, New York’s pioneering psychoanalyst, when something comes unfettered and free as if from nowhere and brings an end to all the systems and their agents and arts that we take for granted as part of who we are and what we always expect to be. The end of the generation’s saints and god kings; Mick Jagger and Hillary and Bill. The end of history; the end of Marx and Hamilton, the end of Congess, Wall Street, the Yankees and the New York Times. The end of that and that and all of that, as Robert Graves phrased Europe’s death in 1917, the end of everything. This, said Edinger, is the apocalypse and it could just as easily be bloodless as not.
It was the feeling they had when the Beatles tumbled altogether down the stairs of the airplane dressed in black as one, prompting visions in the elders of The Four Horsemen and leaving poet Allen Ginsberg to proclaim, “Liverpool is at the present moment the center of the consciousness of the human universe.” It would all be different now, they said, and briefly, between 1964 and 1968 it was.
Everything you planned for; everything you thought would naturally happen next and onward, just suddenly stops. That moment was most poignantly expressed recently by Wes Welker, a football player with the agility of a ferret, when his astonishing quarterback, Tom Brady, tore his ACL within minutes of the season’s opening. “We all had a little Come-to-Jesus moment,” he said, speaking for his teammates and about everyone else in New England.
We are at such a destabilizing moment today, brought to a change of season almost overnight and got there by two events which appeared only since the leaves started to change. The one is the sudden surge of identity and character shown by Congress in turning back a bailout of Wall Street being brought to us by the same team of managers who brought us Iraq and Katrina. The other is Sarah Palin.
The Palin terror strikes deepest in the heart. Just in my morning paper this morning a commentator called her “ . . . an insult and disgrace to womankind.” And even our usually excellent political affairs columnist in reporting that she is “ . . . hugely popular” here in the North Country, to which I can attest, sardonically suggests “ . . . New Hampshire voters, God Love Them, might want to ask Palin which C.S. Lewis novels she considers ‘very, very deep,’ and why.” (For answers to that, see Edinger, above, and his colleague, Marie Louise von Franz.)
The ever popular Ruth Marcus, Washington Post commentator and TV political analyst, offers a host of anecdotes of why Palin should be dismissed by our kind, the most damning: She got a Garfield desk calendar for Christmas which she liked. Hopefully her new Bush handlers will trick her out with the more courant Dancing Shiva as a desk prop and maybe a PBS penguin calendar and the always fashionable tote bag.
The clan which basks at Starbucks is really feeling it. How’d a barracuda get into these waters? Global warming?
It is not like we haven’t seen it coming. Our most honored scholars have long declared the end of things. Jacques Barzun, the very dean of ideas and culture, declared the Death of the Renaissance (meaning us) in 2000. Garry Wills, the venerable liberal journalist, announced early in the Bush administration that the Enlightenment was over.
But that is about half our history; the history of the blue states as they rose to power here since 1865. The Renaissance ended with Jefferson in rural parts, and the Enlightenment ended with Jackson. West of the New River in Virginia it never got a purchase. Those parts have grown in power and political influence through economy and population shifts since the 1950s. They demand now to be included.
And for once, my respectable representatives up here in my predominantly Buddhist and Unitarian corner of northern New England, Carol Shea-Porter and Paul Hodes in New Hampshire and Peter Welsh in Vermont, were in full and righteous agreement with our Christian friends in the Deep South for whom Mike Huckabee spoke eloquently when he said the Wall Street bailout is like buying a Mercedes for a teenager who just wrecked the family’s old Chevy truck.
“The people who burned the Thanksgiving turkey are asking us to let them prepare the Christmas dinner,” says Huckabee. “No thanks!”
Having lived in both parts, this seems a marriage of the best of both. Perhaps we in the coldest north are finding our Jeffersonian roots again.
It is said that all cultural divides are about who will defend the old temple on the one side, and who will build a new temple on the other? Tonight’s debate, between the unlikely contestants, Joe Biden, speaking on behalf of the Eastern Establishment and its oldest orthodoxies and conventions, and Sarah Palin, Woman from the Forest, could well bring a critical turning point between old temple and new.
Tonight’s the night. The end of things is only the beginning.