“Livius, if you listen very carefully, you can hear the gods laughing.”
–Commodus, from Fall of the Roman Empire
For some, it is a portal to a horrific world, a black hole that tugs despite all gravitational and grounded forces. But not to me. Nothing beckons less than a #QANON sign at the exit ramp to one’s home. Its two-dimensional darkness does not frighten me in the least; rather, the masses of ignorant fear mongers that support and paid for its placement instigate a concern similar to that of the black protagonist of Night of the Living Dead when faced with zombie hordes banging on doors, clawing at windows, and pulling at house frames.
It is a sign. A fist that twists my guts and pulls them into the base of my stomach, knocking on the spine that is supposed to keep me erect.
Every article that describes these fear mongers seems to reiterate the same perception: these people are bat-shit crazy! They are a loose group of conspiracy theorists with apocalyptic tendencies who believe that most of the world is against Donald Trump, but that Trump, through his infinite wisdom and keenly chosen cohorts, has a master plan that can at any time circumvent those who would take away their freedoms. To put it simply, it is a fringe right-wing conspiracy cult.
The billboards have been seen in Oklahoma and Georgia, but the signs differ respectively. The Oklahoma sign has a white background with the capital Q illustrated largely and within its text is the nation’s flag followed in smaller text with: WHERE WE GO ONE WE GO ALL. In the bottom right hand corner can be read #The Great Awakening with DoUKnowQ.com beneath that. The Georgia signs are much simpler. The sign at my exit, for instance, possesses a black background with #QANON in grey lettering across most of the billboard but the words “Truth is Freedom” to the far right are superimposed directly above a small American flag. To be honest, this kind of subliminal propaganda frightens the hell out of me.
I was transported back to the late Eighties as the billboard cryptically reminded me of “Rowdy” Roddy Piper in They Live, a film about aliens living among us that could only be seen with special sunglasses; Piper’s character also sees that signs and billboards mask subliminal alien agendas. He spends half the movie, it seemed to me, trying to convince his friend of this reality; this convincing takes a violent turn in what was an amazing fight scene, also with his friend, that seemed to last forever. That fiction, for some reason, was more believable than #QANON’s modus operandi or the group’s worldview.
So, since a company owns the billboards, who rented the use of this particular one? There have been articles pointing to nameless individuals whose identities cannot legally be divulged. Cue laughter from the gods… The curious reader, no doubt, will research #QANON for himself or herself and, after all, this essay is not about defining #QANON but, rather, that someone or some people, near my home, actually ordered and paid for the billboard. At the most, #QANON itself, deserves no more than two pages. I can sense that the dominant readership might have enjoyed the prospect of a #QANON piece far more than a jeremiad on the current state of political miasma, but the important thing is #QANON is the bastard offspring of the nepotism found in the outcomes of the electoral process.
As someone who despises the two-party system and would like to have seen Bernie run independent, as did Ralph Nader, I can see its advantage. A two-party system serves the interests and wealth-affirmative aspirations of the one percent, a group of cigar smoking Sith Lords who make up the American oligarchy. These are the true masters.
The candidates, as are the elected, remain apprentices; their wealth, though vast, pales in comparison to that of the mind-warping and soul-sucking oligarchical master class. In fact, there is no competition. Primary winners for either Democrats or Republicans must acquiesce to their donors, their corporate masters; they live to suck the teat of milk and honey, as one could picture the donkey and elephant instead of Romulus and Remus at the teats of the wolf.
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This is our legitimate system, and there is nothing to prevent an aberration such as #QANON from being born. And since nothing changes in the political spectrum, the simple-minded among us must find fanciful explanations that attempt to clarify the stagnation and despair of the average American citizen who may or may not know or believe what is really happening to them. This fear is the root for all unfounded conspiracies. These same citizens circumambulate their way out of reality and out of touch from basic truths and ethics, but they do so, in their minds, for some great ethical purpose. There has to be a person or a group to blame just as much as there has to be a messiah to worship or hope to end their suffering. For many, both rich and poor, Trump is this messiah.
Some years ago when I helped bring Richard Dawkins to speak at Kennesaw State University, I spoke with his personal secretary about the difference between Liberals and Progressives. She was surprised to hear from me that I believed that there was a great disparity between the average liberal democrat and a true progressive; just ask Ralph Nader or any former Green Party affiliate. Nader was blamed for the election of George W. Bush because he took votes from those that could have been counted for Al Gore. Those who wrote in Bernie or voted for Governor Gary Johnson or Dr. Jill Stein were blamed for Trump’s election as well. I have yet to see any Democrat blame them for voting for Hilary Clinton, when they could have voted for Bernie in the primary; studies have shown he would have beaten Trump in the presidential race. My intention is not to tell you whom I voted for or tell you how to vote. I am merely relaying facts. These are the relative belief systems of the average American in conjunction with disparate studies that prove the average American has no clue what is going on or why.
If we consider that all empires and civilizations suffer the same fate, that they overextend their militaries after defunding education and healthcare, then the obvious conclusion is that the United States has not only begun its fall but is midway to the falling point. One need only look at our infant mortality rates, education, and healthcare and, now, fear of vaccinations, compared to other industrialized nations. The promotion of fear and its appropriation of all utility and resources reflect the complicity of America’s citizens with self-destruction. No government in history has ever been hell-bent on self-aggrandizement and wealth conquest while consciously destroying the earth in the process, simply to satiate their greed for a few more measly decades.
Unlike nuclear war, climate change is happening, and effects that are even more drastic are inevitable. This reality should be the source for our greatest fears, not xenophobia, terrorism, the loss of the Confederate Flag, or socialism overtaking our democracy. Necessary fears are displaced or obfuscated, replaced by the other, the marginalized, and the stranger. This has worked for thousands of years, and the Romans perfected it, as have all oligarchical governments and military regimes.
Khalil Elayan is a Senior Lecturer of English at Kennesaw State University, teaching mostly World and African American Literature. His other interests include finishing his book on heroes and spending time in nature on his farm in north Georgia. Khalil’s first poem “Sana’a Sunrise” (https://www.tribes.org/web/2019/1/31/sanas-sunrise) was published in The Gathering of the Tribes magazine, while others such as “Broken Bird” and “Sometimes I Feel Like Darth Vader” have been published in Dime Show Review and About Place Journal, respectively; his latest two poems have been accepted by Hey, I’m Alive Magazine. One of his essays appears in the book Teachers as Avatars: English Studies in the Digital Age published by Hampton Press, Inc. He has also written two journalistic essays covering the Arab Spring.