Saturday August 5, 2006
Almost two years ago, Emma Brockes spoke to liberal Britons the morning after George Bush's re-election and found a collective sense of foreboding and depression. Now, she asks, have our worst fears come to pass?
"The surprising thing is that any of this has come as a surprise. The day after George Bush was elected for a second term, all those who had been rooting for the other guy (who was it, again?) predicted that the world as we knew it was shortly to end. It was comforting, in a gothic sort of way, to throw oneself around like Sybil Thorndike and imagine just how bad things were going to get. "The one consolation," a friend of mine emailed at the time, "is that he [Bush] will screw things up so badly in the next four years that the Democrats will move back into favour. That's if we still have a world."
Biblical prophesy sites have been quick to jump on the Israel/Lebanon crisis as a realisation of Thessalonians 5:3 ("While people are saying, 'Peace and safety,' destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape ...") and the Old Testament Book of Ezekiel, chapters 38 and 39. They must be the only people actively enjoying the situation. "Got that dancing feeling on the inside of me," posts one contributor to the Rapture Ready website, an outfit dedicated to scouring world events for signs of the second coming. Its talkboards are in a state of high excitement at the moment. "This is the busiest I've ever seen this website in a few years!" posts one contributor. "I have been having rapture dreams and I can't believe that this is really it! We are on the edge of eternity!!!!!!!"
These are strange times and the fact that everyone claimed to see them coming in 2004 hasn't made them any easier to deal with. It occasionally feels as if magnetic flip is taking place, the process of polar reversal that happens every 300 millennia or so when north becomes south and south north, and birds fly into buildings and people with pacemakers keel over in the street. What can you do? For the past 10 years I have taken William L Shirer's Rise and Fall of the Third Reich on holiday and for the first time, last week, I actually thought about reading it. (I didn't, obviously.) As multiple wars on multiple fronts drag on, you try to initiate a cycle of response that reminds you there are things to be grateful for; the elections in the Democratic Republic of Congo going off without violence, for example, and Mel Gibson self-detonating. You reassure yourself that, as in all cycles of history, this one will come to an end, too. Then you remember that the man in charge of writing the ending is George Bush, and you have to start again."