A conservative reviews the “Jericho March” and finds it disturbing. (Though “credit where it’s due: flogging a MyPillow discount between prayers for God to smite your enemies is the most American thing ever.”) The far right wing of the American political spectrum is littered with Nazis, white supremacists, self-proclaimed Christians who’ve clearly left the message of Jesus behind, grifters, hucksters, authoritarians, and a random assortment of other deplorables. For many of these people even the GOP and Fox News are no longer sufficiently right wing. (I might heretofore have said “conservative,” but none of these people are remotely conservative as it has traditionally been applied to American politics.) They are now fomenting a revolution, and as the fractionalizing of America continues, it’s bad for pluralism, democracy, and humans. I hardly need add that it’s seditious as well. 

As I look out on this age and its people two poems spring to mind. The first speaks to folly of so-called revolutions and the change that they promise to bring. Revolutions are a grab for power unless anchored to timeless values and principles. If revolutions are to succeed—by which I mean be true to their ideals—ultimately they disperse power rather than centralize it. Since most fail to do this, the revolutionaries are typically no better (and frequently are worse) than those they replace. 

We’ll be fighting in the streets
With our children at our feet
And the morals that they worship will be gone
And the men who spurred us on
Sit in judgment of all wrong
They decide and the shotgun sings the song

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again

Change it had to come
We knew it all along
We were liberated from the fold that’s all
And the world looks just the same
And history ain’t changed
Cause the banners, they all flown in the last war

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a vow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
No, no!

I’ll move myself and my family aside
If we happen to be left half alive
I’ll get all my papers and smile at the sky
For I know that the hypnotized never lie
Do ya?

There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
And the parting on the left
Is now the parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight

I’ll tip my hat to the new constitution
Take a bow for the new revolution
Smile and grin at the change all around
Pick up my guitar and play
Just like yesterday
Then I’ll get on my knees and pray
We don’t get fooled again
Don’t get fooled again
No, no

 

Meet the new boss
Same as the old boss

Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who

The reviewer’s take on the Jericho March is not without its shots at the intersectional (or “woke”) left. Whether the woke agenda is the prime mover of the far right I do not know, but it does provide reasonable rationale for claiming to fight for America’s soul. The intersectional left imperils free speech, public education at all levels, higher education, law and order, race relations, women’s rights, equality, language, and science. That it has captured a number institutions and intelligent, educated, kind people in its wake is a tragedy of the highest magnitude. 

All of this traps the “sensible center” which constitutes the majority of Americans. A vote for the GOP is clearly a vote for dangerous irrationality, but a vote for the Democrats may be something just as socially deleterious—and in things that can be seen and felt in the day-to-day. That a majority of Americans voted for a centrist like Joe Biden (or, perhaps more accurately, against Donald Trump) yet ticket split to deny the Democrats down-ticket victories, speaks to how trapped much of the electorate feels. 

In the ashes of World War I, Irish poet W.B. Yeats described the atmosphere of a post-war Europe caught in the ravages of a pandemic. Its apocalyptic tone seems as appropriate today as it did 100 years ago:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

The Second Coming, W.B. Yeats

I do not yet know if all is lost—if “the centre cannot hold.” But if it does not, then what we will have bequeathed our descendants is something other than what we ourselves inherited. The “American Experiment”—that Enlightenment ideal that people can govern themselves through rational debate—will have ended, and nothing so good or noble is likely to follow.