If God’s plan calls for the Rapture on May 21, how come the Republicans moved the date of their first presidential candidates’ debate from May 2 to Sept. 14?
I was considering having myself dusted with ash and measured for sackcloth last week, so many are the current predictions of impending apocalypse.
There’s the contingent that follows the ancient Mayan calendar and predicts the end of the world on Dec. 21, 2012, some of whom have made bad movies about it. Others believe the Rapture arrives even earlier — next month, in fact, on May 21. You can see their billboards announcing Judgment Day along major U.S. highways and their squadrons of RVs making the rounds of American cities, spreading the news.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the planet’s End of Days has been anticipated. You’ll remember the Y2K hysteria in the months before the year 2000 arrived. An even greater panic — albeit without the stockpiling of batteries and freeze-dried pizza — allegedly consumed Europe prior to the first millennium, in 1000. (One story claims that at the stroke of midnight the entire terrified population of Iceland converted to Christianity. That’s what I call a baptism by fire.)
Here at home, in the 19th century, Baptist preacher William Miller said our collective tickets would be punched on Oct. 22, 1844. Earth’s failure to oblige that day became known as The Great Disappointment.
“A lot of times these prophecies gain traction when difficulties are happening in society,” Loyola University in New Orleans Professor Catherine Wessinger told the Associated Press. “Right now, there’s a lot of insecurity, and this is a promise that says it’s not all random, it’s part of God’s plan.”
So if God’s plan calls for the Rapture on May 21, how come the Republicans moved the date of their first presidential candidates’ debate from May 2 to Sept. 14? Do they know something we don’t? Because otherwise, it sure seems they’re doing their best to speed us on our way to the eve of destruction.
The government shutdown threat was just their latest attempt to send us spiraling further into a morass of inchoate discontent and outright hostility to the plight of those in need, not to mention endangering an economy in fragile recovery. Attaining $38 billion in budget cuts at the expense of the poor and no cost to corporate America, it is, as President Barack Obama himself said, “The biggest annual spending cut in history.”
At the same time we were inflicted with House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan’s “Path to Prosperity,” a long-term budget proposal that would slash $6.2 trillion over the next decade, take money away from education and alternative energy investments, privatize Medicare, cut health care services for seniors and the disabled, radically alter Medicaid, but keep funding a bloated defense industry, subsidies for oil companies and tax breaks for the nation’s richest.
It ignores the fact that millions of Americans can’t find jobs, that hunger is mounting and foreclosures are rising, that we’re engaged in three overseas combat operations (wars!) at the same time and our national infrastructure is crumbling.
And yet, the Democrats go into battle against all of this armed with feather dusters, barely putting up a fight. And all of this takes place as Obama sets out to procure a billion dollars for his re-election campaign. According to The Wall Street Journal, at a meeting in Washington last month his campaign manager “asked 450 donors to raise $350,000 each by the end of 2011.” That money ain’t coming from car washes and bake sales.
Several Democratic and progressive organizations have announced their intention to take advantage of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision allowing massive and frequently anonymous corporate campaign contributions — the decision those same folks attacked so vehemently during the midterm elections and ensuing Republican victories.
Why is there no general outcry, no outrage beyond that of the committed few? That’s the real Great Disappointment. Are we just too busy struggling with our individual lives or have we been lulled into anesthetized, otiose complacency by an overload of Internet stimulus, reality television and the pursuit of happiness via Facebook and consumer goods? Have our shortened attention spans dulled our willingness to engage in any kind of debate?
Meanwhile, a new CNN poll has blow-dried bloviator Donald Trump tied for first place among potential Republican presidential candidates. And The New York Times says Arizonans are painting their front lawns green rather than be fined by homeowner associations for unsightly brown grass. The trend began when Realtors sought to enhance the curb appeal of foreclosed-upon and abandoned properties.
Maybe it’s the End of Days after all.
Michael Winship is senior writing fellow at Demos, former senior writer at “Bill Moyers Journal” on PBS and current president of the Writers Guild of America, East.