Convoy of the Grotesque
Circling the Beltway as democracy circles the drain.
Washington, DC — As I drove west on the Beltway Sunday afternoon, approaching Connecticut Avenue, traffic came to a standstill. Sunday at 1:30 p.m. Why?
The spires of the Mormon Temple — the Oz of the Middle Atlantic — hadn’t yet peeked over the horizon, so it wasn’t the rubbernecking that sometimes happens on that stretch of roadway. The clue was the overpasses. They were lined with pedestrians leaning expectantly over the railing. These spectators were largely wearing red caps. American flags were displayed, emitting chauvinism like gamma rays. And on the median: police cars. What were they waiting for?
Aha! The Freedom Convoy! It was just behind me. And just beyond them was any semblance of reality. For, like so many other Americans brainwashed by Trump, Fox News and the rest of the Goebbelssphere, in the midst of a killer pandemic, they seem to believe their freedoms are being flattened, as if by an 18-wheeler.
No surprise there; a lot of people don’t like being told what to do. Never mind if they somehow didn’t raise the same stink about those oppressive polio vaccines and the tyrannical right-side of-the-road mandate. Not even the Gazpacho thuggery that abridges their 2nd Amendment right to target practice inside of preschools.
They have brilliantly deduced that the Deep State is depriving them of their God-given right to infect loved ones and total strangers with a virus that has already claimed five million souls, and so they’re going to fill their trucks with $4.49/gallon fuel to show what it looks like when your sacred freedoms are stolen. Not that such a picture is all that hard to locate. It looks like this, actually:
That’s a queue of Ukrainian refugees crossing the ruins of a bridge in order to flee brutal onslaught from actual tyrants, who attacked these civilians as they sought to flee the invading army. They are being bombed and shelled and forced into refuge if it even exists, and you’re worried about public-health mandates? Blast your truck horns all you want, but that’s what losing your liberty looks like, you spoiled fucking brats.
By the way, you want to see a convoy where freedom is actually at stake?
That’s from a 40-mile long procession of murder, courtesy of your cult leader’s BFF, the genius Vladimir Putin — you know, the dictator who interfered in three American elections on Trump’s behalf. Do you also perhaps remember the “perfect phone call,” when Trump was withholding military-aid subsidies from Ukraine to blackmail President Volodymyr Zelensky into conducting political dirty tricks against Biden? That’s your boy, that lying, crooked, narcissistic, election-tampering, Constitution-trampling, pussy-grabbing, Clorox peddling, dictator-stroking cartoon villain who’s been playing you for a flag-waving chump now for seven grotesque years.
Of course, you are in good company. As Putin’s forces terrorized the independent democracy on its border, there was a huge population of skeptics denying that any such invasion was taking place. Namely, Russians — such as the family of a young Kyiv woman named Oleksandra, who told the BBC, “I didn’t want to scare my parents, but I started telling them directly that civilians and children are dying. But even though they worry about me, they still say it probably happens only by accident, that the Russian army would never target civilians. That it’s Ukrainians who’re killing their own people.”
Spoonfed by Putin with the same media diet of lies, incitements and Orwellian doublespeak that MAGA is poisoned with here, they deny the documented horror relayed to them firsthand by their flesh and blood. Even when accompanied by real-time video. “My parents understand that some military action is happening here,” said Oleksandra. “But they say, ‘Russians came to liberate you. They won’t ruin anything, they won’t touch you. They’re only targeting military bases.’ ”
Because that is what the evil nationalists tell them, and because that is what they want to believe. Russian media and Tucker Carlson would have no power if hateful flag-wavers looked past their own prejudice and denial for one honest instant. As the bunko squad cops constantly remind us, you can’t cheat an honest man. (See Hannah Arendt on “the banality of evil.”) Meanwhile, in war zones and intensive care units, the death toll mounts.
So, yeah, if you spent your weekend on a cross-country joyride to rock your MAGA gear and whine about oppression, even if you can’t comprehend the hypocrisy, selfishness and utter irrationality of your grievances, I beg of you this: At least consider the disrespect and cruelty you are perpetrating on the staggeringly victimized and truly oppressed. Here I was going to call you another vile name. Instead, I will pose the Joseph N. Welch question: At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
I inquire because rage and fear and ignorance and gullibility and just plain stupidity — in the face of genuine humanitarian catastrophe — are no longer an excuse. You are not victims. Look at yourselves, goddammit. You are the banality itself.