Friday, March 16, 2007
Sage is always good. Or maybe lavender. Pine is nice, too. Dried, bundled, tied with string, burned with hot, divine intent. Would it work? Do we have enough to go around? This is the question.
I speak, of course, of ritual. Purging and cleansing and purifying and, truly, burning a nicely dried, blessed smudge stick can be a terrific slice of personal magic, to rid a space (or perhaps even your own body) of negative juju or vicious spirits or just to make way for the new and the moist and the good. You can smudge a room. You can create a divine smoldering cloud and then move through the smoke, invoke change, purge the negative, invite hot licks of yes. It is a thing to do.
But here's the thing: Can you smudge an entire nation? Do we have enough lavender for 300 million? It is, all things considered, a big country. Windy. Rocky, in places. Could be tricky. Not to mention, you know, hazy. From all the smoke. Think of the potential traffic accidents. Coughing.
Important considerations, really, because it is becoming increasingly evident that a great national purifying ritual is just about exactly what we need. We are, after all, almost at that point. The Great Bleakness is nearing its end and you can veritably feel the swarm of uptight BushCo demons and malicious energies swirling around the country like happy karmic leeches, like a giant intellectual rash, like black raindrops of dank sweat from Karl Rove's evil mealy thighs.
To make matters worse, these dark energies, these base spirits were actually invited here by the Powers That Be, by those quivering, shivering, terrified armies of evangelical right-wing neocon bonk jobs and attorneys general and sour Supreme Court justices and scowling defense secretaries lo these past half dozen years, and this means they shall not leave easily, despite how it is quickly coming time for them to be shoved back down into the bowels of fear and shrill egomania whence they came.
We must, therefore, do like the Mayans do. We must follow their divine and entirely appropriate example, set just recently.
Apparently, George W. Bush -- famed warmonger, despoiler of lands, despiser of gays and women and science and earthly resources, hapless fascist-wannabe -- it seems George just visited Guatemala, where he happily trod upon a holy Mayan site or two and shook hands with wary diplomats and blinked a lot and mispronounced a hundred names. You know, same old, same old.
But then something interesting happened. Seems Bush left behind huge steaming piles of banality wherever he went, and therefore the first thing Guatemala's holy guardians of the sacred did as soon as Air Force One's wheels lifted off the ground was to purify the hallowed ground our president's shockingly low, nefarious energy had infected.
It's true. Those Mayan priests rushed in right after George left and cleansed the sacred archaeological site upon which Dubya had trod, shooed away the snickering hordes of bleak spirits that trail behind America's Great Embarrassment like a sickly fog of ignorance and misprision and shockingly humiliating grammar.
Yes, we need a grand American ritual. We are, after all, far more deeply infected than that Mayan site. Does it not seem entirely appropriate? Does it not make perfect sense? Of course it does.
Ah, but maybe you scoff. Maybe you say what those highly regarded Mayan priests did was just quaint tribal nonsense, a little savage, silly, pagan. Truly, most Christians tend to sneer at such things, mock and deride and denounce even as they kneel before giant gruesome crosses and flock to pieces of suspiciously burnt toast and make Mel Gibson insanely wealthy.
Christian rituals, if they exist at all, are largely tepid and bland and might involve, say, a little rosary bead here, a little sip of wine there, maybe a quick bologna sandwich followed by 4,000 Hail Marys and a bunch of blind fervent prayers to some grand unhappy deity because, well, most Christians don't really understand the notion of spirit guides or negative energies unless they look really sexy in red leathery skin and black boots and sharp pointy horns.
I bring this up only because an estimated 75 percent of Americans at least vaguely identify with the Christian faith, and we can safely presume that only a wizened handful know how to burn, smudge, cleanse with anything resembling deep laughter and honest pagan intent and the understanding that Bush has been more toxic to this nation than Adam Sandler and MySpace and cheap domestic beer combined. Would this fact be an obstacle? Can we please try anyway?
We could try water. Sacred baths. Not-so-sacred baths. Any sort of bath, shower, divine scrub-down involving divine intent and maybe some candles and a little dish of salt and some blessed soap and the prayerful idea that you are sloughing off skanky Bush demons and old skin and past loves and idiotic politicians.
Can we bathe each other? Hose each other down? We do, after all, have a lot of water lying around. Bottles and bottles of it stacked to the rooftops of the nation's Costcos and Wal-Warts like wet plastic kindling. Would this be sanitary? Do we have proper drainage? Enough soap? Ah, logistics.
Ah, but wait. There is another fabulous possibility. There is, of course, fire. I love fire. Fire is God's own enema. Fire is the devil's dental floss. It is beautiful and powerful and dangerous and obvious and fun. As purgatives go, it can't be beat. Ritualistically, you can burn it all: incense, candles, locks of hair, photographs, bedsheets, foreign policy documents, Dick Cheney's black charcoal heart, Jenna Bush's beer bong. Fire is good. Fire kicks serious spiritual butt. This is what they say.
Sure, it won't be easy. We will have to get around the law. Skirt the fire marshal's implied edict that we cannot really have, say, a National Day of Fire, a grand torching of the toxic memory that is the miserable years of the Bush administration.
No matter. It's still worth a try. It is, in fact, mandatory. And this being America, we can just keep it simple. Obvious. Keep the metaphor so clear that even celebrities and teenagers and recovering born-again Christians will understand.
Here is what we can do: We shall burn a bush. Ten thousand bushes. Maybe a million. Bushes laced with sage, lavender, pine, incense, with eight years of warmongering and intolerance and those beady, squinty, vacant eyes. We shall gather in parks or street corners or fire pits at the beach sometime next year, and ignite.
We will burn bush. We will burn away Bush. We shall purify and rinse and cleanse the nation of this horrific and banal poison, once and for all, and it shall be Good. And those Mayan priests? Why, they'll simply look over and nod, smile knowingly. They understand completely.
Mark Morford's column appears Wednesdays and Fridays in Datebook and on SFGate.com. E-mail him at email@example.com.