Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Things Fall Apart

"Things fall apart," William Butler Yeats wrote. "The center cannot hold; mere anarchy is loosed upon the world, the blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere the ceremony of innocence is drowned." He could have been talking about us, about this past week in America, about what happens when madness, greed and fear combine and conspire to show us what it looks like when the gates of Hell crack open.

Two separate incidents took place in two different parts of the country. The least severe of the two was merely an attempted car bombing in New York's Times Square. An alert T-shirt vendor observed a parked SUV with smoke pouring out of it, and raised the alarm. When authorities arrived, they discovered the car was filled with propane tanks, fireworks and fertilizer that were wired to cheap alarm clocks intended to be detonators. Had it gone off, police say, the resulting fireball could have caused considerable death, injury and damage.

Fortunately, the attempt was thwarted, but the consequences of what could have been are daunting to consider. The event raised the specter of Bush-era "Red Alert" and the possible declaration of martial law. For the last decade, a pile of laws and executive orders have been passed and signed making it spectacularly easy for the government to suspend the Constitution in the event of terrorist activity. Had that bomb gone off, we could very well have seen troops in the streets, and the end of the rule of law as we have known it.

The second event has some people talking, quite literally, about the end of the world.

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