It’s early September, and one of the houses we pass on our neighborhood walk already has a ghost on their front door.
They must like Halloween a lot more than we do. We have two pumpkins already, but only because the vine volunteered from our compost soil, and we let it take over a patch of lawn.
One of the pumpkins was enough for a nice pot of pumpkin-mushroom soup and a future Keto-ish pumpkin pie. The other is sitting in the dining room, awaiting October before it adorns the porch.
Halloween is one of those two-faced holidays. On the one hand, it’s all corn mazes and cutesy costumes and kids cadging candy. On the other hand, it’s about who can come up with the eeriest haunted house.
Some put them on as fundraisers. The worst of them are “Hell Houses” run by churches that use blood and gore, angst-inducing shock, and unabashed scare tactics to glamorize the devil in hopes of frightening teens into trusting Jesus.
Somehow, they fail to understand that Jesus was not in the fire insurance business.
What they do understand – like the right-wing politicians many fundamentalist church members support – is the power of fear. That’s why American society is so scary these days: those who fear losing their place of dominance create monsters to scare people into propping them up.
That metaphor has helped me get my head around why so many Americans are willing to support so many stupid – and unjust – things.
Consider the Brobdingnagian monster known as Abortion. Note how the fearful Texas legislature has recently outlawed the termination of nearly all pregnancies, no matter what the reason or the health of the mother – and has put a bounty on those who seek medical help as well as those who aid them. They’ve gone so far as to empower public snitches to report them and receive rewards.
How sick is that? And how unconstitutional? Yet the unethically rightward-stacked Supreme Court caved and let it stand by a 5-4 vote.
The fearsome Abortion monster (like the majority of the current Supreme Court) was created by those who fear women: it’s one more way to strip women of rights, make them fearful, and keep them in their place. Don’t think for a minute that the Texas legislature or the political right is dominated by anything other than men.
Describing an anti-abortion stance as “pro-life” is a farce, because the people who want to save all those unwanted babies are mostly unwilling to support them or their mothers after birth, and usually the first to call for the death penalty if one of those disadvantaged children grows up and kills somebody (or is convicted of it, whether guilty or not).
It’s not about the babies. It’s about controlling women.
The alarming Immigration Ogre is another artificial monster. America was built by immigrants, with every wave making the country stronger. Immigrants are the hardest working people I know, the most grateful to be here, and probably the happiest to pay their taxes.
Characterizing Latinx immigrants as rapists and drug dealers, as the previous president did, is akin to Dr. Frankenstein sewing a mismatched head onto a corpse: it’s the creation of an artificial monster.
There is no Frankenstein monster, but claiming it exists will still frighten many.
The most popular artificial bogeyman this year is the fearsome “Voter Fraud Monster,” so threatening that legislatures in virtually every Republican state are enacting measures to suppress voting among Blacks and other people of color.
Why? Not because the Voter Fraud Monster exists, but because people of color tend to vote Democratic and helped defeat Donald Trump, the king of white supremacy and Christian nationalism.
People supporting the political right are afraid that such voters will one day defeat their power-preservation agenda, so they created the Voter Fraud Monster to disenfranchise as many of them as possible.
Perhaps the strangest monster of them all is purely reactionary and even self-harmful. Lest they be seen as supporting the current administration or even medical science, far-right pundits created the specter of the Vile Vaccinator, who threatens victims’ health with poison and implants them with tracking microchips under the guise of protecting them from COVID-19.
Forget science. Forget common sense. Forget all the life-giving vaccinations that have protected people from tetanus, whooping cough, diphtheria, smallpox, pneumonia, and shingles through the years. This one is different.
Despite overwhelming evidence that the vaccines are safe and effective in preventing or ameliorating the disease and halting the spread of COVID-19, it’s supported by Democrats, so it must be bad. The Vaccinator (and his evil sidekick the Masker) must be resisted.
Sure, many thousands of innocent people will die due to conspiracy-fueled fear of the Vaccinator, but inviting death is better than giving in to the monster!
These are not the only monsters, of course. There’s the scary behemoth of Climate Change Preparation, and the even-more perilous Critical Race Theory, such an immediate menace that several southern states are passing legislation to keep it away from the children.
But there is hope. The most imposing monster of all – the one the monster-makers fear – is the unnerving and very real giant of Truth. That one – shudder – must be avoided at all costs.
These are daunting days, but wait. Just wait. Sooner or later, the monsters-of-the-right will turn on their masters, and it won’t be pretty for those who have trusted The Lie in all its manifestations.
Let’s just hope it won’t be too late for the rest of us.