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by Zoë Cohl

A large convention center, the kind that could be anywhere, with miles of ugly printed carpet and miles of pairs of metal doors that muffle and lend tin to the sounds on the other side. across the enormous three story tall lobby from all those doors are floor to ceiling plate glass windows. The expansive lobby is itself challenging to the notion  that an ever larger space exists on the other side of all those metal doors. This monumental architecture so broad that you see the space and the walls fade into the distance. the idea of walls become just that. An idea that you are indoors and not out. That nature has been tamed for this purpose. Whatever this purpose today may be.

You could be forgiven for thinking when you enter such spaces, that this enormous feat of human endeavor must be one of a kind. But we live in a society that has built such miracles in every town in every state across the nation which can lay claim to enough citizens to fill it even half full. And these are the least of the miracles we live with every day. What a nation of giants we must be.  

We are walking into this event well after it is already under way. We are nearly alone in this great cavern, except for a few souls lost, or trying to be, milling about between skirted folding tables stacked with hats and tshirts and pamphlets and lanyards and paraphernalia for applause.  The occasional bouquet of red white and orange balloons are scattered about as if someone forgot the scale of the room they were trying to make festive and just threw them down in frustration when they realized…allowed to float where they would when they realized the “room” dwarfed any cheer they might otherwise have lent. their presence here only served to imply oppressively ironic loneliness.

As we approach the impressive chain of doorways, our once burdensomely loud footfalls and echoes are increasingly drowned by the muffled, tinny, booming voice of someone pontificating on  a public address system, punctuated by overwrought cheering and hooting and booing and clapping.

It has never ceased to amaze me that the din of thousands of souls cheering and jeering at the top of their lungs could be overtopped by the potent whistle of a single person. the mood of an entire event can be altered  with this singular shrill addition.

The ominous intent of the cheerleader and crowd is palpable through the metal doors. The closer we get, the less welcome we begin to feel. There is a “cheer” that some human crowds are capable of that implies hate and rage.  The primary driver of every single piece of a mob, even as they utter and spank the universal sounds of uproarious, gleeful applause, lends its tone bit by bit to the tenor of the whole. When the intent of so many is dark or hateful, those typically happy sounds can become one of the most frightening noises in nature.  And this crowd we were ambling toward was definitively dark and aggressive.

As we stand before one of the metal clad portals, debating  how wise our move beyond the threshold might be, a gregarious participant and a frazzled volunteer fling open the last profilactic between us and the chaos inside. The full weight of the noise and celebration and violence washes over us with force. The interaction between the supporter and volunteer, so loud in the moments after the doors initially open, is completely obliterated by the sound waves that follow.

Just as must have been witnessed in the coliseums of Ancient Rome, or the youth movements of various twentieth century fascists, there is a way to bring a crowd to their basest impulses and unleash a throngs most animal instincts. It is possible to engage in each soul their most instinctive animalistic tendencies and thralls, and in the crowd as a whole, elicit a herd. There is a way to manage human beings by tribalising their basest excitement and becoming their shepherd. Engaging the leash around the very emotion they believe has been freed in them. Wild each, mastered together.

Just as we begin to acclimate, or something akin to adjustment, the warm up speaker, who had just himself had the crowd in ecstasy, by virtue of a single name uttered, brings the whole of the throng before us to climax. In this moment I believe I finally understand what is meant by “mass hysteria”. The mass of humanity is now at a point which we had not realized was a possibility. We begin, each and all of us, together and as one, trembling from the sheer voluminous, disastrous agitation of what we are witnessing.  

To this, for those not party to the throws of wanton bliss being experienced before us, there is no way to experience that doesn’t feel like voyeurism. You cannot catch up when you join your friends for your first drink when they are on their 5th round. You cannot join in when you walk in the door straightway from work, where you’ve just fought with your boss and the orgy you open the door on an orgy in orgasm. Likewise, you cannot experience what is going on with a crowd in full hysteria when you are not party to the message or the messenger they are aroused to consume.

In a far corner of the back of the room we witness some even more pronounced agitation, and our curiosity lends us a sobering hand yet leads us to attempt some fairly dangerous maneuvers through the wall of writhing worshippers in search of an answer to the catastrophe before us. We lunge over, under, and around in unison, taking advantage of the diminished capacity of the congregation to satisfy or quest: who, what, where, why is this throng so… So… So… ….consumed.

When we finally are able to catch a glimpse, the open window our curiosity sought slams shut before us, as we realize we are completely, utterly confused by the being that has enraptured so completely this colossal crowd.  Him? This? Thing? Really!!

Just as the first flickers of disdain and confusion, revulsion and bemusement cross our faces as we glance each at the other, we are confronted with its worshippers enraged at our lack of awe. They sense our contempt like blood in the water. And in their animal fervor begin to stalk to pounce. We are in trouble.

Not that you can blame us for our response. This monster before us, the very definition of absurdity and yet so evil.  Such a confusion of what makes us condescend and what makes us defend. Derision and disdain. Contempt and contradiction in every way. Worthy of lampoon and harpoon, laughter and tears. Jeers and fears. It is failure and has failed in every way imaginable, but its failures seem only to lead to success. It is falling up. And now has fallen to the very top of the mountain where it can clumsily hurl boulders of disaster down upon us all.

It’s fumbling treachery is matched only by its appearance. With a pale, pasty white hide, a long round belly and tiny little hands and feet at the end of stocky little appendages. A short saggy neck with a basketball shaped head topped with a crazy orange bouffant. It clads itself in ill fitting clothes almost assuredly designed to make us laugh. But in its poochie little mouth are sharp little fangs, it has a piggy little nose under wild, bulging eyes shaded by orange bushes. If it doesn’t open its mouth and show you its evil little teeth or you don’t hear its evil little voice deliver its hateful little words, it is the epitome of

All that is ridiculous.

This monster before us, having taken advantage of the very lack of what we have in its followers to tame its brutish beasts, now, realizing our lack of reverence for his-ness, raises its chubby little hand to conduct its hateful orchestra in a concerto of convoluted, convulsive coercion. And they follow, as if that funny little hand were the hand of the God of maestros. And it may well be, in some oddly capably fumbling way. In the way that it has gained their awe even as it embodies the opposite of everything they claim to believe. It’s acolytes will go to lengths they will not go for the god they claim to serve, break his commandments and defy his will to protect it. It, in every way that matters, the has become their God. Be afraid.

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