Cheap Thrills of a Cheap Age

So you kick out 3 million.

Does the factory reopen? Do the shops come back to the decimated main street you walked as a kid? Do the Cadillacs roll by blasting something by Brenda Lee? Is everyone smiling and happy? Are things the way they ought to be?

Maybe you hear less Spanish at the grocery store, and maybe that makes you happy. Puts you less on edge. Lets you unclench for a moment as a wave passes over – we got ’em. We are boss here.

Cheap thrills of a cheap age, fake gold everywhere.

Interwar Berlin was a pinnacle of human endeavors- art, science, music, fashion. Folks there didn’t roll out of bed one day and decide to hate Socialists and exterminate the Jews. It came from the fringes, seeped in like an inkblot, and boiled underneath the surface. But when things got tough the brownshirts’ hate-talk found its opening and erupted through volcanos of angry workers until something very dangerous happened- it all began to feel good.

“Fuck ’em all” is the rallying cry of a broken and dispirited people. It’s a fuse that once sparked cannot be unlit. Deport 3 million, then 5, then 7, then- fuck it- all 11. The factory remains closed, the Cadillacs do not return, the smiles are still phantoms and, damn it all to hell, you still hear Spanish and Cambodian at the grocery store. How are they still here? They’re laughing, aren’t they? They’re laughing at us. Let’s take a look at them. Papers, please.

Legal, illegal, documented, undocumented- when the blood starts pumping none of that matters. We are past reason. What this is about is the cheap thrill of a boot to the face. Like junkies, once the taste is acquired there is no remedy but for more, more, more. It begins with immigrants, but it certainly won’t end there.

“Tear down this wall!” was the ultimate expression of American excellence, delivered with perfect timing and moral authority by one of our finest actors, who also did a stint as president. Now the inheritors of his legacy don red hats and fill stadiums demanding the opposite. From wall destroyers to wall erectors in a generation.

Walls might keep out the brown people blamed for society’s ills but cannot withstand the judgment of history. Each brick stacked robs us of something that will never be returned.

But it’s too late for any of that now. Morality, sentimentality – out the window. A new situation is underway. Cheap thrills rule the day, and the only hope is the future. Meet you there.

Posted in History, In the News, Writing