Ichabod's Kin
A place for politics, pop culture, and social issues


          There’s a saying: “Cheer up, things could be worse; so I cheered up and sure enough—things got worse.’ Bobby McFerrin’s decades-old ditty, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy,” won’t work now, if it ever did.

          There’s plenty of fright left over from Halloween–and in biblical proportions: war, famine, earthquake, pestilence, fires and either too much water or not enough–some called acts of God, i.e., God’s fault (funny that). The rest is our doing, like nuclear weapons and political sadism, like Putin–and our own abuse of all minorities that come to mind or deign to get in our way.

          All mischief was once the work of a very scary Devil, portrayed as such because real evil often appears harmless when it’s really much worse. Salem, MA comes alive (or dead?) this time of year and all in fun, though it was no joke to the targets of social hysteria in 1692. Victims weren’t really witches, but that hardly mattered. Authors ever since have teased readers’ imaginations with whether a real Devil was at work back then—as if that were a serious question.

Marion Starkey’s landmark book, “The Devil in Massachusetts,” set the record straight: it was but the meanness of a gaggle of pubescent girls who cornered a ton of social power and rid their town of anyone they didn’t like, later begging off with the excuse that they had no idea what had gotten into them. Whoever doubts that kind of sway over others need only look at how kids that age now have driven classmates to suicide with another vehicle of hysteria—the internet.

But the same has been used by adults to convince others of big and little lies—and a Big One that plagues our electorate today. Not only does nearly half the population believe any and every glaring deception they hear but, while not coming out and saying so, are willing to forgo democracy for dictatorship.

What knuckleheaded history are they reading? Some twisted fantasy of the Confederacy or a glamorized narrative of slave owners and the human capital they cornered, trapped and cruelly used as chattel? Politically, are Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln not to their liking? All that money spent for more than a century to build new schools and universities—what went wrong? Or is it just the bewitchment of a tone-deaf, ignorant crowd whom soulless politicians will jump in front of once when they see where the mob is going?

It’s a cult with cult leaders. Give us a bit more rope and we can party like ancient Rome where might made right and the most depraved and violent got to be leader of the band. We thought it couldn’t happen in America, but it’s at the door and not at all like the one in our history books. Not that it hasn’t been tried, and luckily failed: a looney-tuned priest, Fr. Charles Coughlin, once championed such nonsense from behind a pulpit in Detroit; it looks like a mere blip of the past now but had it not been for the political mastery of FDR, things would have taken a nasty turn back then.

But the well was poisoned and it’s a direct line from that to Lee Atwater and his “politics of personal destruction,” to the banal journalism of Murdoch and Fox News, to Donald Trump and the evil that now lurks. 

So enjoy your Brain-Eating Living Dead—whatever they are—at your next movie, but there’s worse ahead. The popularity of the old Disaster movies has been explained as our watching someone else’s horror with the perverse satisfaction that it wasn’t us. The next mash-up may well have us in it, and the next act of God be one of the Devil for sure.

Al Capp’s mouthpiece Mammy Yokum said that good is better than evil because it’s nicer. We can lose the next elections not because democracy is nicer but because the alternative is worse than we imagine.  

Cheer up if you will, but after Nov. 8 buckle up, it’s apt to get a lot worse.

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