Oh, sure, Harold Camping's Rapture didn't come to be. Along with many of you, I got a real kick out of imagining the “end of the world.” I mean, none of us really thought it would happen. But it was fun to pretend, wasn't it?
It's kind of amazing how much we all got into it, too. It kind of took over. Everyone has been talking about it.
I think we all enjoyed Rapture Weekend 2011 for the same reason we like roller coasters: it's fun to remind yourself that death is on the way, but not quite yet.
And that's what interests me: most of us, at some point or another, like to contemplate The End of Days. In fact, I would argue that many stories in the media depend on the idea that The End is near.
It's All Over
In case you haven't heard, the world actually IS still ending. Well, the world in which the United States is first-place is ending. The American Age is ending.
Even nature knows that we've already peaked as a nation. You can't escape the bad news, people.
In the few newspapers still in print, you can read about terrorists, the widening gap between the poor and the rich, the always growing threat of extremism, earthquakes, floods, oil spills, and superstorms destroying our communities. You can read about the enormous cost of the our military actions in Middle East, the tens of thousands killed in the drug war on the US-Mexican border, how fat everybody seems to be getting, and how our bridges and roads are falling apart.
On the internet, you can read about how broke everyone is (except for the people who are so not broke) or that public education is not working and that we should weep for our children. Especially our brown children. You can learn the costs of our unjust health care system and the of unemployment numbers that haven't been seen since the Great D (don't say the whole word; it's bad luck). You can read about the incredible and growing divide between the rich and everyone else.
On the tv, you can get your mind blown about the size of the deficit. You can also learn about how easy it is for kids to find jaw-dropping porn or bomb-making instructions on the web. About how the bees are disappearing and the glaciers are melting.
But that's not the bad news. The bad news is much worse.
I am talking about the sheer number of people who seem to believe that we're in the age of the United States' “Last, Best Days.” Capital letters and quotes. The whole shebang. It's all over, baby. Prepare to be second best in the world. Or maybe third best. The future will be all China. Or India. Or Mexican immigrant. Whatever.
Our greatest national strength has always been optimism. Our greatest strength now appears to be fear. Look at the last thirty or forty years of politics. The biggest thing that seems to get us out to vote (whether it's for Dems or Repubs or Tea Partiers or Rent Is 2 Damn High or whatever) is fear that the other side might win and then ruin everything.
Fear drives our culture. It drives our commerce. Everyone is afraid of getting sick. Of dying. Of getting robbed. Of litigation. Of growing old and ugly. Of becoming unimportant or uncool.
America has always had fear-mongering. It's as old as the Republic itself. Every generation worries that the good ol' days are way better than today and tomorrow. That's not new.
What's new is the open derision of hope-mongering. The strongest message out there seems to be “don't believe it can get better.”
As we all have a laugh about the egg-on-his-face Harold Camping and his ridiculous followers, we may be tempted to be smug. How delicious it is to read about the crestfallen believers who can't comprehend that The End didn't happen. "What a bunch of clowns," we might think. "Fringe nutjobs!"
But I think the popularity of Camping's prediction says more about us all than we like to admit.
For now, you'll have to excuse me. After cleaning up from my awesome Rapture Party (sorry, I really meant to invite you all), I have to figure out how I'm going to pay for my retirement after Social Security is dismantled. I also need a good plan to deal with my massive school loans-- anybody have a suggestion? Oh, and I should probably look for a job; there's no way my teaching job will exist in a few years. I need to sell my car, too-- gas prices are way too high! And does anyone know a reasonable place to move in Canada? I'd like to have health care when I'm elderly.
If I make it that long. Anybody have plans for the October Apocalypse? Or should we all save it up for the Mayan 2012 Fest?