Happy Samhain, everyone, if that isn't an inherent oxymoron.
For those of you who expected (and were, of course, waiting for with bated breath... what the Hell is bated breath, by the way?) Volume 100 of my weekly Friday Talking Points column, I will begin your Hallowe'en weekend by dashing your hopes on the rocks below (bartender!... another one of these... on the rocks, of course), and by telling you you're going to have to wait another week for this auspicious and historical event... because, of course... it is time for this column's annual celebration of all that is terrifying and horrible -- from both sides of the political chasm!
Because today we offer up (instead of the usual FTP drivel), a bone-shaking nightmare for those of the Left and those of the Right. Complete, of course (it wouldn't be a Hallowe'en column otherwise) with photos of my 2009 pumpkins, carved lovingly with a knife that was previously used to... well, perhaps it's best you not know that part....
[Cue: Shrieking teenager, heavy clanking of chains, and assorted eerie moans and groans...]
So, without further delay [Cue: Witch cackling], we open the crypt door to this year's installment of my attempt to scare the Hell out of everyone. As a special treat, we've also got all my pumpkins for the past few years at the end, to remind everyone of what terrified us all in Hallowe'ens past.
[Cue: Creaking hinges...]
Prologue (with apologies to Ray Bradbury, of course)
While wandering the midway at the traveling carnival which had mysteriously come to town the previous night, I became privy to a rather frightening occurrence, which I now relate to you, dear reader.
I had strolled through the carnival grounds once, and upon my return was drawn to the fortunetelling booth for what I can only describe as inexplicable reasons. The whole "Cooger & Dark's Pandemonium Shadow Show" (as it was grandiosely billed) was a mixture of that return-to-childhood innocence of the end-of-summer carnivals I remembered from my youth, as well as that rather creepy "carnie" overlay which adult eyes see, but a child's eyes do not. Plus, there was a disconcerting extra layer of sinister which seemed to blanket the entire carnival, much like a fog blankets a cemetery on a moonless night.
Maybe it was just because it was Hallowe'en, that could've been it.
In any case, as I approached the fortuneteller's tent, two men appeared in front of me, a few steps before I entered. One came from the right. One from the left. They collided with each other at the opening to the tent, and blocked the entryway. After much mumbling and grumbling, they both managed to squeeze in together. Amused by this display of eagerness to hear their "fortunes" told by a "witch," I followed them through the portal with nowhere near their level of enthusiasm. What was I even doing here? I had no particular wish to hear some fantastically spun story about fame and wealth and love and happiness from some bored carnie woman. But, as I said, something drew me onward.
Inside I found a waiting area with a few dilapidated chairs. I took the only available chair, which (as it happened) was right next to the opening, affording me with the opportunity to eavesdrop. A very pale woman was exiting this opening as I sat, and Mr. Left and Mr. Right (as I had them pegged in my mind now) glared at each other for a frozen moment, before Mr. Left leapt up a fraction of a second before Mr. Right had the chance to move. Beaming triumphantly, he entered the macabre sanctum sanctorum, to be told the following tale by the woman concealed within.
Mr. Left's Terrifying Fortune
Mr. Left asked but a single question: "What does the future hold for Democrats?"
The answer was downright chilling.
"I see..." began the crone's voice, low but strong. "I see... the number 59."
She continued: "I see a very important bill before the Senate. This bill is the one that the entire Democratic Party has staked its hopes upon for the future. It looks like it has been beaten and abused to even get to this point -- like the loser of a barroom fight, being trundled into a waiting ambulance.
"I see many promises being made. I see arms being twisted. I see this process being led by a strange creature -- a jellyfish who has recently grown a spine. This grotesque creature is actually attempting to do his job for once, in fear of his own political life.
"I see a bullwhip reporting to the jellyfish. I see him confidently say '60.' I see a big arena -- a big top tent. I see a center ring. The jellyfish is now the ringleader, and he proudly calls the vote.
"I see the numbers rising... 30... 40... 50...
"But hubris has led to disaster, as one says 'nay' when asked to vote. The number stops at 59. The bill is defeated.
"Because so much time has been wasted, this is the final vote. I see a house of cards falling around the Democrats.
"And next year, I see very angry voters. I see crushing losses at the polls. I see the Democrats taking years to recover. I see the party devastated by the public's rage. I see people saying 'they can't get anything done,' and 'how big a majority do they need to pass a bill?' I see Democrats slinking away from this electoral wreckage, and hiding in dark holes for years.
"And I see death for thousands, because the bill did not pass. Death, death, as far as the mind's eye can see into the future -- death... death... and more death.
"That is your fortune, young man."
Mr. Left came out of the doorway looking like he had seen into his own grave. He shuddered once, then pulled himself together, jammed his hat on his head, and strode out of the tent.
Mr. Right, having heard none of this I am sure (he was sitting quite a distance from the doorway), eagerly jumped up to take his place. I leaned back in my chair, and heard his fortune as related as well.
Mr. Right's Terrifying Fortune
Mr. Right was just as brief in his question to the fortuneteller: "What does the future hold for Republicans?"
"I see..." the voice began again, "I see... Barack Obama signing a national health care bill."
An audible gasp, followed by a groan, was Mr. Right's reaction. The crone continued.
"I see the Democrats passing their bill just before Christmas. I see the public joyful at this Yuletide present. I see the media finally giving Barack Obama some credit.
"I see Republicans weeping and wailing and gnashing their teeth. I see them scream and howl. I see them shriek and gibber. And I am not alone in this -- the public sees it too. This cements in the public mind forevermore the fact that Republicans were against this plan, and that it came about solely from the Democrats.
"I see an opt out option in the final plan. This becomes a lethal trap for the Republican Party. I see this battle being joined at the state level for years to come. I see states opting out in the Deep South, and the upper Mountain West. I see the Plains states and the purple states being more cautious, and adopting a wait-and-see approach.
"I see the residents of the states who have opted out start to become dissatisfied with their state lawmakers for denying them something other Americans have. I see a grassroots movement to kick these state-level Republicans out of office. I see Democrats taking some state legislatures they haven't held in a century.
"But that is not the worst of it for Republicans... oh, no.
"Because in some of these states, I see Republicans splitting in two. I see a great cleft opening -- wider by the second -- between two factions. On one side of this schism, I see frothing at the mouth. I see teabags being worshipped. I see a presidential nominee in lipstick from the far north, you betcha. On the other side of this split I see people begging for change and moderation within the party. But the Pure Republicans on the other side will have none of it. The Big Tent Republicans announce they are for small government and less taxes, but that they simply don't care what people do in their bedrooms or churches. I see the Big Tenters tossing intolerance over the side of their ship, in a desperate effort to stay afloat in modern times. I see the Purists tossing the Big Tenters over the side in response.
"This party divided cannot stand. I see the Purists renaming themselves 'Know Nothings,' and having an absolutely grand time losing election after election, until they are reduced to winning local elections for dogcatcher. I see them smug in their purity, but I also see that same purity guaranteeing their demise on the national scene. Eventually, after suffering rejection after rejection at the polls, the party dissolves due to internal conflicts over purity. The various factions, all demanding purity on their single issues, will wind up tearing the party apart like an unbalanced carousel, spinning wildly out of control. The issue which finally destroys the party is..."
A cackling laugh erupted at this moment, which had the effect of freezing my blood.
"... whether to burn witches at the stake, or merely to humanely execute them. How's that for some Hallowe'en irony, Sonny Boy?
"The Big Tent moderates will cling to the label of 'Republican,' but it will soon become apparent that their tent is shrinking daily, not getting any bigger. The Democrats, riding high on the wave of public approval for the health insurance reform, waltz into office for the next generation to come. Next year, they shock political pundits by picking up 52 seats in the House and nine more seats in the Senate. Together with taking over state governorships and legislatures, this gives the Democrats absolute domination over the levers of government for the next twenty years.
"And, Dearie, one last thing before you go.
"I see the Twenty-Second Amendment being repealed by popular demand. I see Barack Obama serving four terms as President, and going down in history as second only in popularity to Franklin Delano Roosevelt.
"That is your future."
Mr. Right appeared in the doorway looking even worse than Mr. Left, put his hat on his head with a trembling hand, and exited, still dazed.
"It's your turn," said the voice from the darkness and gloom in the next room.
"Sorry... I've changed my mind..." I responded, rising, and putting my own hat back on my head.
"Don't you want to know what the future holds, young man?" the voice cajoled.
I couldn't resist. "You're a fraud -- you just told those two exactly opposite stories. Both can't be true."
"Maybe not in one world's timeline, but rest assured, both of those men will live out the nightmare which awaits them. They may not see it in the same world as you or I; who may live one of those time tracks or the other. The future is a powerful force, about which you know nothing."
"You're right," I agreed, "And I don't want to know another thing about it."
The flap of the door closed behind me as I exited. I hurried away from the tent, from the midway, and from the creepy carnival, which disappeared into the mist gathering behind my footsteps. A wind blew up on my way home, and for a moment I thought I heard a witch's cackling... thin and dry... like dust borne on that wind.
But then it was gone and I was alone, facing the future in the only way I knew how.
-- Chris Weigant
A Trip Down "We've Eaten Your Brains, Now We Know All Your Memories" Lane
[These are my political Jack O'Lanterns from years past, just for the Hell of it. Click on each to see a larger image. And Happy Hallowe'en to all!]
2008 -- I can see Frightening Things from my porch!
2006 -- Ohio-tastically O-horrifying!
2004 -- The Hideous Spectre of the Hanging Chad!
Cross-posted at Democratic Underground
Cross-posted at The Huffington Post