I was born into a world in the process of losing its . . . stuff.
We refer to this period of American history as the Red Scare. We were scared of Stalin -- and then Khrushchev -- over in the Soviet Union. We were scared of Castro in Cuba. We were scared of "infiltrator" Alger Hiss in the State Department.
The beatniks? Commies. Civil-rights "agitators?" Commies. Martin Luther King Jr.? Dangerous commie troublemaker. Race riots? Instigated by . . . commies.
The media were commies, college professors were commies, folk singers were commies, and the labor unions were commie through and through.
We were obsessed by The Bomb -- which we invented and first used -- because the commies had obtained it, too. In their nefarious, murderous Red hands, it was a weapon of mass terror.
In our hands, it was how God kept the world in line . . . and capitalism safe.
In the world of the Red Scare, rock 'n' roll was a communist plot -- the pinko sons of bitches invented the teenager, after all -- and Mick Jagger was the devil. (No, look at the man!)
HERE'S where we stood somewhere around 1963:
TODAY, the Soviet Union is no more. The Iron Curtain has fallen, and capitalism has seized the day. Even in "Red China." Markets are global, and the bankers really do have more money than God.
And the Red Scare is back.
Who is the Red Menace today? Well, I can tell you we seem to be quite concerned -- to put it mildly -- about the president of the United States. Who is a Kenyan Muslim communist tribesman (or something like that).
We likewise worry about the secretary of state, who's a fellow traveler. And the Justice Department. And, of course, we still get lower GI disturbances at the mention of those venerable pinko warhorses of modern history -- Castro, the media and the labor unions.
The Red Menace has been enshrined. It has ascended.
THEY TRIED to tell us in 1947. And 1957. And even 1967.
I guess we didn't listen.
Now it's up to tea-party members and other apoplexy victims like Glenn Beck -- he of the only non-commie TV channel out there, the Fox News Channel -- to lead the resistance. Lead the resistance against the government the commies and their fellow travelers TRICKED us into ELECTING in 2008.
ARE YOU STARTING to think you're seeing déja vu all over again?
Glenn Beck is to the Red Scare what the new Hawaii Five-O is to the old Hawaii Five-O, only with angry conspiracy theorists.
I withdraw that statement. The new Hawaii Five-O, I am told, has new scripts. The producers of the show aren't planning on a word-for-word rehash.
And nobody's trying to elect Dano to the U.S. Senate.
The frightening thing about this new Red Scare is the same frightening thing about the last one. The panicked, angry masses and their cynical zealots-in-chief are ready, willing and able to burn down this entire village in order to "save" it.
In their minds -- or at least in their tea-party rhetoric -- "socialism" is so God-awful that we ought to be willing to burn down the framework of constitutional rule and the civilizing influences of commonweal in order to protect a notion of "God-given" liberty that, in the fever swamp of the angry-mob mindset, comes out more like "Do what thou wilt . . . except what we don't like." And your mileage may vary.
"Communism" is so godless and evil that any extreme action to oppose it is not only justified, but perhaps mandatory. Ask J. Edgar Hoover.
LIKE THE paranoid times of my entry into this mortal coil, this present Red-baiting moment finds angry people making idols of what they see as the opposite of their devil. The "commie" devil.
If "socialism" is bad, doing away with all "government-run" programs and social safety nets must be good. If "welfarism" is bad, a laissez-faire dose of social Darwinism must be virtuous and right -- especially as we languish amid the worst economy since the Great Depression.
Not only that, but the Red Scare becomes cover for all our demons and prejudices. Civil-rights "agitators" were, back in the day, a bunch of America-hating Reds, after all. And kicking a man while he's down can be seen as some sort of virtuous act, because we all know that "social justice" and "social religion" are just snooty names for . . . communism!
Thus, condoning racism can be just another manner of expressing one's innate "Americanism." Ees thees gret country or vhat?
Commies bad. Saying the N-word 11 times straight on nationwide radio good, because you're just combating "political correctness."
Face it, when you're up against the Other, and the Other is a freedom-hating, pinko, commie godless Muslim, and you're fighting for your life -- literally, you've been told by that man on the television -- it's war.
And we all know what they say about love and war.
But that's OK. There are no atheists in foxholes -- especially not in this foxhole -- and the patriot surveys the carnage he has wrought upon civil society and the body politic, and he is at peace in the knowledge that God is on his side.